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Rolly: Abe Lincoln causes confusion at the Utah Capitol

Published March 13, 2014 5:22 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

From time to time the Utah Legislature entertains local folks who like to dress up in character — former presidents, Founding Fathers, etc. — and address the lawmakers, taking on the traits and speech patterns of their historical character of choice.

It's important for legislators. Now that the Patrick Henry Caucus (a bunch of legislators who liked to run around and pretend they were Patrick Henry) is basically defunct, some distractions are needed to help the lawmakers fulfill their fantasies of being defenders of liberty. It's also a good way to avoid dealing with the serious matters of the day.

Recently, during the just-completed session of the Legislature, Abraham Lincoln addressed the august bodies of the House and the Senate.

He was pretty good, I'm told, getting the character of our 16th president down pat. He even recited the Gettysburg Address.

Near the end of the day, as Abe (aka James Getty) was leaving the Capitol, Sen. John Valentine asked his legislative intern to "get Lincoln" for him because he needed to talk to him.

The intern ran outside as Abe was getting in his car, told him he was being summoned back into the Capitol and escorted him up the steps into the Senate offices to meet with Valentine, who stood gazing, surprised at the guest in his doorway.

It was the wrong Lincoln.

Valentine wanted to meet with Lincoln Shurtz, a lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Needing a new stamp act • A local dentist, like many businesses, uses postcards for reminders to patients of upcoming appointments.

The cost of postcard stamps increased one cent on Jan. 26, so on the 25th, he stopped by the nearest post office to purchase some new 34-cent stamps. Not only did they not have the new, more expensive stamps, the dentist was told, but they wouldn't arrive until Feb. 7. In order to send his postcards, he would have to load up on 1-cent stamps to add to his 33-cent stamps.

He went back to the post office on Feb. 15 to get the new stamps and was told they still had not arrived. Also, they were out of 1 -cent stamps due to the demand that resulted from the delayed delivery.

He found most other branches were out of the 1-cent stamps as well. The alternative is to get some 32-cent stamps along with an equal number of 2-cent stamps, or expect his patients to remember their appointments on their own.

Relying on activist judges • The recent brouhaha over Judge Robert Shelby's decision holding Utah's gay marriage ban unconstitutional is ironic in light of the fact that many opposing the ruling do so on religious grounds.

The biggest foot-in-the-mouth critic of Shelby's decision is Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden. He recently told The Salt Lake Tribune that Utah will have to deal with the issue, because protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns cannot exist alongside religious liberty.

In other words, this town ain't big enough for the both of us.

A duel in front of the town hall, perhaps?

Earlier, Reid penned an op-ed for The Tribune that argued Shelby's decision that gays should be allowed to marry under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause violated the constitutional rights of the religious majority in Utah.

That, of course, would be the Mormons.

But here's an interesting piece of history that I need to credit to Jerry Borrowman, of Salt Lake City, who reminded me of it in an email and later discussed it in a letter to the editor in the Deseret News.

Deep into the 20th century, the Idaho Constitution prohibited anyone from holding public office who believed in or practiced celestial or eternal marriage.

In other words, Mormons.

The constitutional ban was not enforced. As Borrowman pointed out, his LDS stake president in the 1970s was speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives.

Federal courts, as Borrowman noted, had stepped in to protect Mormons, declaring the prohibition unconstitutional.

In other words, those with religious convictions had their First Amendment rights secured by activist judges interfering with states' rights.

prolly@sltrib.com