Friday, February 20, 2009

Buttars punished for anti-gay statements

Excerpts of Deseret News article Buttars loses chairmanships over remarks  by Lisa Riley Roche

To a packed room of reporters, Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, announced he was stripping Buttars of his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because that's where gay rights bills would be heard.

Buttars had no comment from the Senate floor when asked about the Senate president's actions today. He said he did not know what had been done.

Told that the gay community wanted an apology for his comments, he said, "Well, they ain't gonna get one."

Waddoups stressed during the press conference that Buttars continues to have the support of his Senate colleagues.

"This frees Sen. Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels," the Senate president said, calling Buttars a "stalwart" whose views — or at least some of them — are shared by many senators.

Later, Waddoups told the Deseret News that the decision also means Buttars will lose his chairmanship of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Commission, which decides whether to recommend the full Senate consent to judicial appointments by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

But Waddoups said he did not ask Buttars to resign. Waddoups said he spoke to Buttars before Friday morning's press conference "to assess what his mental attitude was and to express the support of his colleagues," and that the senator did not offer to resign.

"As I spoke to him this morning, he had no inclination whatsoever to do that, and I was not encouraging him to do that," Waddoups said.

Senate Democrats said they would push for new legislation this session to mandate cultural and diversity training for both House and Senate members.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said he wasn't necessarily asserting what Buttars said was hate speech. "Understanding why words matter is an important part of this dialog going forward," Romero said.

Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake, said the action against Buttars seemed to be "a repeat of history."

"This will mar Utah's reputation further," she said.

Regarding Buttars staying on the Rules committee, she said, "Getting to committee is half the battle. Getting out of Rules is half the battle. If Pres. Waddoups felt that way he should have removed him from Rules."

On Thursday evening, after a closed caucus with senators, there were multiple senators who thought that Buttars may resign his seat.

The three-term senator is the focus of criticism for comments he made to a documentary filmmaker, in which he compared gay activists to Muslim terrorists and said they are "the great threat to America." The comments were made public Wednesday night.

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