Short takes on issues
Something special • It's to the credit of Sen. Stephen Urquhart that the Utah Legislature hit a rare high point of tolerance and compassion in passing out of committee a bill aimed at making life easier for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Utahns. Sadly, Urquhart's SB262 stands little chance of passing the Senate and even less of becoming law anytime soon, but its survival through a Senate committee on a 4-3 vote is a testament to Urquhart's eloquent defense of equality. Urquhart, a Republican with 13 years in the Legislature, told his colleagues that all Utahns have a right to be protected against discrimination in housing and employment. He deftly countered arguments that the bill might give LGBT Utahns "special protections," that it might hurt small businesses or that it might advance gay marriage. SB262 would do none of those things. It would simply provide the same protections to LGBT folks that women and other minority groups have long enjoyed. Many local governments have already adopted similar protections, but a statewide law would remove any doubt that such discrimination can be tolerated.
Something paranoid • It is one thing to say that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is important. It is quite another to suggest, as do various bills now before the Utah Legislature, that it is more important than anything else. Bills that are moving through the process include HB317, which makes the penalty for illegally releasing information about concealed carry permits a more serious crime than releasing any other kind of private information. And HB114, which purports to place Utah laws on gun ownership and use above any and all federal laws on the same subject. Even though the bill is not as absurd as it was a few days ago, the House having removed a provision that called for local law enforcement to arrest federal agents seeking to enforce federal law, it is still blatantly unconstitutional.
Something not-so-sexy • Last year, the Utah Legislature unwisely passed a bill gutting sex education programs in Utah public schools. Gov. Gary Herbert wisely vetoed it. This year, some members of the Legislature attempted to pass a bill SB39 that would command state education officials to create an online program to help Utah parents provide sex education in their own homes. It passed the Senate but, Wednesday, the House voted it down. They did so amid no small amount of laughter, appropriate for any suggestion that the Internet somehow needs more sexual information posted on it.