Buttars: Gays 'greatest threat to America'
He called the gay-rights movement "probably the greatest threat to America," likened gay activists to Muslim radicals and dubbed same-sex relationships "abominations."
Now Sen. Chris Buttars finds himself in a familiar place: under fire amid demands he step down.
Last year, the NAACP called for Buttars to resign after comments he made on the Senate floor about a complex school-funding bill, saying, "This baby is black . . . It's a dark, ugly thing."
But Buttars kept his seat and won re-election in November.
"It is obvious that he believes he can say and do anything that he wishes without any consequences," said Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch. "His words -- as before -- are despicable."
Buttars' latest remarks come from an interview with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan that aired on ABC 4 this week. Buttars told Cowan the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community doesn't want "equality, they want superiority."
"It's the beginning of the end," the West Jordan Republican said. "Oh, it's worse than that. Sure. Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."
On Wednesday, gay-rights activist Jacob Whipple, founder of the All For One Initiative, called for Buttars' resignation from the Senate, urging supporters of the LGBT community to e-mail Buttars and Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville.
"He basically labeled my community as virtually the devil incarnate," Whipple said. "I don't think that he represents Utah any more. Saying something so hurtful has no place on the Hill."
Rep. Christine Johnson, a Salt Lake City Democrat and a lesbian, also labeled Buttars' statements "hurtful," adding that she expects Senate leadership to address the remarks "in a responsible and timely manner."
But Waddoups defended Buttars, saying the anti-gay comments did not violate any Senate rules. He suggested that Cowan, a former ABC 4 reporter, has a "vendetta" against Buttars.
"It's just unfortunate in my mind that someone wants to continue to [hurt] someone by virtue of a person's position on the issues," Waddoups said.
Cowan, who is openly gay, countered Waddoups' accusation.
"That is a cowardly attempt to direct attention away from what was actually said," the filmmaker and Miami TV anchor said. "I believe the world that is now hearing the words of Senator Buttars will judge it the way they will."
For his part, Buttars used a Senate blog to post his response to the latest outcry, reiterating his belief that "traditional marriage is the foundation of our civilization." He also said he was "disappointed" in the manner Cowan released the interview.
Cowan conducted his interview with Buttars on Jan. 30, days after Buttars helped defeat the initial bill in the Common Ground Initiative, a legislative effort that would have expanded legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns. The Legislature has stopped the initiative for 2009, with a House committee voting down the final bill Wednesday.
Of that first bill, Buttars boasted to Cowan, "It lost 4-2, and I killed it. I've killed every one they've brought for eight years."
Equality Utah, the advocacy group behind Common Ground, did not demand Buttars' resignation Wednesday nor an apology.
"An apology would not rationalize nor take back his hurtful words and disrespectful attitude," said board chairwoman Stephanie Pappas. "I can only ask that reasonable Utahns around the state reject this kind of damaging speech."
Tribune reporters Robert Gehrke and Derek P. Jensen contributed to this story.
If Reed Cowan needed extra buzz to get his documentary, "8: The Mormon Proposition," into the Sundance Film Festival, he found it in Chris Buttars.
But the openly gay former Channel 4 reporter was unprepared for both the Republican lawmaker's "hate-mongering" rhetoric and the interview's ensuing furor.
"I had no idea this would get worldwide reaction," Cowan said Wednesday from the Miami TV station where he now works.
Cowan says he sought out Buttars for the Jan. 30 interview in his Senate office since the Utah senator has long been "the wall" between gay people and legal rights as well as a former LDS bishop who played a role in excommunicating gay Mormons.
"He signed a very cogent release that gave me the right to use this in the promotion of the film and the film," Cowan said, noting that no moviemaker would turn down the opportunity to use the material. "He was on the people's time. He was at the people's desk. He was sitting in the people's building."
In a blog Wednesday, Buttars said Cowan told him he would be able to approve his part of the film before it was released. "I took Reed at his word and am disappointed."
Cowan, who says Buttars "would have had to be under a rock to not know" he is gay, rejects any notion this was a "gotcha interview."
"That couldn't be more incorrect," he said. "It couldn't be more duck and cover, and it's shameful. Any attempt to throw an arrow at me is cheap and cowardly. He said what he said."
Cowan notes the obituary for his son refers to Cowan and his partner, while a Salt Lake City magazine recently chronicled the gay filmmaker's' documentary.
Cowan plans to wrap the project this summer in time for film festivals, including Sundance.
Derek P. Jensen