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Short takes on issues

Published July 13, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A new leaf • For the first time, Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch voted for legislation to protect gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination. Hatch was one of just three Republicans to vote with Democrats on a Senate committee that approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, on a 15-7 vote. Hatch made it clear that, while he opposes workplace discrimination, he also opposes gay marriage. That stance is the same as the one taken by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hatch is a Mormon. Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, rightly called it un-American to allow employers to fire, discipline or refuse to hire individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such discrimination is legal in 34 states including Utah, although many local jurisdictions have included gay and transgender people in their anti-discrimination policies. Hatch's more gay-friendly vote reflects the rapidly changing attitude in America and Congress. It is welcome indeed.

Overdue prison rule change • It's about time the visitation rules at the Utah State Prison were brought out of antiquity and into the 21st century. Prison rules — the most archaic in the country — that will expire Aug. 1 required all conversations between inmates and visitors to be in English. It didn't matter that in some cases visitors and sometimes also the inmates did not speak English. And male inmates were prevented from receiving visitors of the opposite sex who were not their wives unless they were chaperoned by the visitor's spouse, the inmate's spouse or the inmate's parents. Unmarried inmates were not allowed to have more than one unmarried person of the opposite gender who is not an immediate family member on his or her approved visitor list. Individuals could not be listed on more than one inmate's approved visitation list, so parents who had two children in prison had to get special approval to visit both. It's unconscionable that these silly rules have existed for so long.

A better system • The Veterans Reintegration Task Force helps veterans who are charged with crimes make their way through the court system and works to reduce suicides. Veterans who suffer untreated mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder and end up in a federal veterans court can stay out of jail or get lesser sentences if they get treatment. This is good for men and women who have served their country. And it makes sense for all people suffering addiction and mental illness.