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Rolly: For Utah officials, animus is in the eye of the beholder


| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 25 2014 05:11 pm • Last Updated Apr 25 2014 05:11 pm

During the legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes found a convenient excuse to bury an anti-discrimination bill that was gaining traction with the public.

After all, publicly considering a bill that would protect gays and lesbians from housing and job discrimination would not sit well with the Republicans’ right-wing base, like the Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Institute, now would it?

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But legislators can’t use that as a reason for killing the bill, now can they? It would make them look like puppets.

So Reyes and Sutherland Institute-approved outside counsel Gene Schaerr met behind closed doors with the Senate Republican caucus last February and convinced the guys (and the two gals) that debate on the bill might lead to comments by legislators that would hurt the state’s lawsuit against same-sex marriage.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the state’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling that Utah’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Reyes and Schaerr argued that debate on bills dealing with same-sex issues could be construed as "animus" by some in the Legislature and may bias the case before the Court of Appeals.

To show how sincere they are about that fear, the lawmakers also decided to withhold debate on the legislation proffered by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, that basically said legalizing same-sex marriage would violate the constitutional rights of Mormons to prevent somebody else from getting married on religious grounds.

Squelching the anti-discrimination bill on the grounds that it could influence the state’s appeal came at a time when polls showed 60 percent of Utahns favor anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians.

So it was interesting earlier this month when Reyes and Schaerr and several legislators joined the Eagle Forum types at a rally at the State Capitol meant to show support for Utah’s ban on gay marriage.

Couldn’t the anti-same-sex-marriage comments at the rally show "animus" while judges on the 10th Circuit are considering the appeal?

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The rally was held the day after Reyes and Schaerr were in Denver for oral arguments on the state’s appeal at the 10th Circuit.

Reyes assured the group "we are not acting out of animus or any sinister motives against individuals or families …(but)…standing up for the laws of Utah."

Later, speaker Cherilyn Eagar told the cheering crowd that same-sex marriage advocates "wish to redefine the institution for their own selfish purposes."

She advocated boycotting the National Day of Silence recognizing LGBT victims of bullying because it stifles gay marriage opponents’ speech.

She said her group, the American Leadership Fund, would seek the removal of any federal judge who finds Utah’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

Hey, no animus there.

So anti-discrimination legislation is killed so as not to show bias while the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the lawsuit, but a public rally to show the right-wing the Utah politicians are with them and all their animus is OK.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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