Friday, February 26, 2016

UT House Rejects Bill to Permit Same-Sex Adoption/Foster

A Utah House panel rejected in a 5-5 tie a bill that would change Utah law language that would explicitly provide equal opportunities for opposite and same sex parents to adopt and foster children. Instead, opposition to the bill stated that it wanted to reserve the right to prefer opposite sex parents when deciding to place children in a home. Rep. Nelson stated that Utah isn't barring same-sex couples from adoption or fostering, just giving the state and groups the ability to give opposite-sex couples preferential treatment. For example, a group could put a same-sex couple on hold until they could find no other opposite sex couple to grant adoption to.

In addition, the Rep. Wheatley of Murray stated that the failed vote was about the "safety of children", purporting that same-sex couples are less safe than their opposite-sex couple counterparts.

Support of the bill stated that the SCOTUS decision last year made it clear that all the rights associated with marriage must be granted to same-sex couples. They warned that if the bills are not passed, litigation will go tot the court again.

The bill would change words in Utah law like "man or woman" to "spouse", "parent", or "partner".

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mormon Church Voices Against Hate Crime Bill

A newly proposed Utah bill, SB107, introduced by UT senators Steve Urquhart and Jim Debakis, raised concern for the Mormons, the greatest influence on Utah legislation and government. The bill adds strong punishments for crimes that are influenced on a belief the criminal held against the victim.
"SB107 would more clearly define a hate crime as an offense against a person or person's property based on a belief or perception about their ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation."
The church stated:
"The Utah Legislature achieved something extraordinary last year in arriving at legislation that protected both religious liberty rights and LGBT rights. Interests from both ends of the political spectrum are attempting to alter that balance. We believe that the careful balance achieved through being fair to all should be maintained."
What is confusing to many is that the bill includes language for both sexual identity/orientation, as well as religion. Many also believe that the influence of the Mormon Church on government is nearly breaching the "Separation of Church and State" clauses of the US Constitution.

It's not unfair to claim that the church has the rights to say what it wants, support or oppose laws, or even speak of politicians. But many, if not most statements publicly announced by the Mormons has little or no factual evidence to support its claims: only fear of unintended consequences.

The fear that the Mormon Church--as well as many other religions--exclaims is often a powerful tool to influence the voices of its members--including those with political power.

The Mormons have also recently opposed a law to expand the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, also warning of the "unintended consequences". Such statements often kill bills in the state senate--truly underlining the strong hold the Mormons have on law.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Utah's Steve Urquhart Proposes Hate-Crime Bill

As a follow up to the monumental Utah bill that compromised anti-discrimination for LGBT people and free-speech protections for the religious, Sen. Steve Urquhart, a St. George Republican, thinks that a bill outlining punishments for crimes committed non-personally to a demographic, especially for religious convictions or being LGBT, should be a logical follow up. Urquhart was a key player in drafting and passing the bill last year that attempted to balance the religious resistance to LGBT acceptance in Utah, and the LGBT protection from that resistance.

Utah Governor Herbert and anti-LGBT institute director Bill Duncan don't believe this legislation is necessary, and even think there should be more language to protect the anti-gay sentiments of religious people.

Neither party is fully happy with the SB296 bill of last year. But when both sides got just a little bit more protection, it was considered a political success. LGBT supporters still believe that speech against their lifestyles is hate-speech. They wish to participate in or patronize businesses or groups of their choosing without the fear of being discriminated for being gay or having to hear words that put them down. Religious activists want to have private businesses that refuse working with customers that are asking for services that appear to "violate the business owner's conscience". They also wish to be protected in public from punishment for expressing their distaste for same-sex couples, gay marriage, or any LGBT person.

The fight for religious tradition vs. equal protection for LGBT people will be a long one, especially in conservative places like Utah.

Utah Bill Drafted to Prefer Heterosexual Adoptions

Republican Kraig Powell of Heber City is drafting a bill that would require judges to prefer placing children in state custody to a heterosexual couple. Basing his bill on "tradition", Powell is deciding whether to push heterosexual couples at the bottom of the waiting list, or ensuring that a hetersexual couple was sought before offering the adoption to a same-sex couple.

Gay rights activists call this a clear violation of equal protection and fully unconstitutional. Most certainly a result of religious convictions, supporters of such legislation claim that there are gender roles that cannot be mutable--that children "deserve the right to a mother and father". But such a "right" was not outlined in the SCOTUS decision that all legally married couples, including same-sex couples, shall have the same rights and privileges without prejudice.

There is no viable evidence to prove that heterosexual couples and parents are better for children. There is history that heterosexuals can both be wonderful and terrible to children. There is not much history of same-sex marriages interacting with society and rearing children to make any blanket statement of one being "better" than another.

What we do know is that both couples are legal in the US and should be treated equally. Same-sex parents often wait great amounts of time and pay large sums to surrogate, foster, or adopt children--often fighting the legal complications before their marriage was legal. With so many hoops to jump through, it is hard to believe that homosexual parents would go to all that effort just to be abusive, neglectful, and not loving to the children. A heterosexual couple can create children without any legal intervention, marriage, preparation, monetary ability, or proof of parental capabilities. Without any of these, it seems much more likely of a poor parenting situation within a heterosexual couple.