Quantcast

McEntee: Disagree with the Legislature? Run for office

Published March 26, 2012 2:51 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It only makes sense that a lawmaker includes her life experience in her legislative decisions. At the Utah Legislature, where the vast majority are men who are members of the LDS Church, it's understandable how their experiences and decisions are consistent with their faith and constituencies.

It's also understandable that for those of us who aren't LDS, the weight of their influence can be maddening — and it's why we desperately need more varied representation on the hill.

As Lee Davidson reports in The Salt Lake Tribune, most lawmakers who answered his questionnaire say they haven't personally been lobbied by the church. They also acknowledge that its positions on such things as alcohol, immigration, gambling and gay rights are front and center when it comes time to vote.

In many cases, the church's positions on social issues are less strict than those of very conservative lawmakers, and it acknowledges that.

"Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position," according to its statement on political neutrality.

The faith reserves the right to tell elected officials about its views, it's up to them to make choices based on their best judgment and that of their constituencies.

So, while the LDS Church did not oppose city ordinances that protects gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people from job and housing discrimination, the Legislature rejects any efforts to extend such protections statewide.

On abortion, the church's teachings allow possible exceptions in the case of rape, incest, to protect the health or life of a woman and if a fetus has such severe defects it would not survive birth.

There's no mention of whether it would support a law forcing a woman to wait for three days longer than she should to have the procedure.

My favorite example of conservatism gone mad arose during the 2011 Legislature, was when Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, sponsored legislation that would have enshrined "Nature's God, the Creator and Supreme Judge of the World" into official state policy regarding marriage and traditional families.

That package of bills, thankfully, didn't last a week.

Oh, and abstinence-only sex ed? I still can't get my mind around the rationale for that, even after Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed it.

Now, my state representative is Mormon and my senator is Catholic. Both are intelligent, capable men whose interests mirror mine and whose judgment I trust.

Still, a more diverse representative body would encompass those of us whose views on politics, social justice, the environment (see: federal land grab for energy development) differ from the prevailing view on Capitol Hill.

In January, a coalition of women sponsored a workshop called "Real Women Run." Maybe we should expand our vision and make it "Real Utahns Run," and invite every smart person not only to embrace the politics of inclusion, but personally make it happen.

Imagine that.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at peg-mcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.