Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Peaks and Valleys: Fighting for Equality in the Mormon Church's Backyard

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Peaks and Valleys: Fighting for Equality in the Mormon Church's Backyard

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

FOLLOWING THE BACKLASH over Prop. 8, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asserted November 5 that the church "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches." So a few legislators in Utah seized the apparent olive branch and in January introduced the Common Ground Initiative, five bills designed to secure the rights that the LDS Church claims it doesn't oppose.

"We asked the church, 'Will you support this effort the same way you supported Prop. 8?'" says Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, a gay advocacy group. The answer was an indirect no--the church never revealed its position on Common Ground.

As the bills lacked LDS backing, it's unsurprising that four died in committee and the fifth was withdrawn. To top this off, state senator Chris Buttars used the legislation to sound off on gays, comparing them to "radical" Muslims and calling them "the greatest threat to America." Republican leaders, in response, booted Buttars from his judiciary committee chairmanship.

"Buttars actually helps us," says out Democratic state representative Christine Johnson. "Even though our legislation failed this session, his comments push people away."

Indeed, the initiative won support from Republican governor Jon Huntsman Jr. …

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