Democratic state Sen. Scott McCoy will be resigning from office effective the end of this week, he said Tuesday, to focus more time on practicing law.
"If I want to be a partner in my law firm, I need to be a full-time lawyer and not a part-time lawyer and part-time legislator," he said.
McCoy, the state's first openly gay state senator, said he had already decided that he wasn't going to seek re-election when his term is up next year. In addition, he has a two-month-long trial scheduled to start in February, which may be out-of-state, and he thought it would not be fair to leave his constituents without representation.
"It was not an easy choice to make," he said. "I am sad about it because I do love doing it and the service is very rewarding. At the same time, I have to do what's right for my legal career and [partner] Mark and I right now."
McCoy is an attorney with the firm of Howrey, LLP, an international firm with 725 attorneys in 10 offices around the United States and in seven foreign countries.
Delegates will decide on a replacement, but some of those said to be interested in the position include Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's adviser Ben McAdams , Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Weston Clark, and possibly House Minority Leader David Litvack. The party hopes to select McCoy's replacement before Christmas.
McAdams said he has been representing the city's interests at the Legislature and thinks the experience lends itself to service in that body. "It's something that I'm looking at," he said.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who was majority leader during much of McCoy's tenure and clashed with the outspoken Democrat on occasion, said McCoy's departure is "unfortunate."
"I think it will be a loss," he said. "Scott's a very capable legislator. Philosophically, Scott and I came at issues from entirely different points of view, but I found in working with him, he was a man of his word. He demonstrated integrity, courage. ... Even through some of the challenges we've had in the last couple of years, Scott always maintained a very dignified and professional decorum."
McCoy was appointed to the 2nd Senate District seat in 2005 to replace Sen. Paula Julander, who had resigned her post representing predominantly liberal central Salt Lake City neighborhoods.
He unsuccessfully sponsored several pieces of legislation aimed at preventing housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and extending wrongful death benefits to designated partners. He sought to reform the Legislature's ethics process and make revisions to Utah's liquor laws. But he also utilized his legal background to argue against legislation that he opposed.
"We feel Senator McCoy was not just an advocate for the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community, but for Utahns as a whole," said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. She said his service helped to break down stereotypes and the group is confident that whoever replaces him will also represent the LGBT community.
McCoy, who created a stir when he joked recently that he might run against U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson for the Democratic nomination to Utah's 2nd Congressional District, said his resignation is not an end to his political career and he might run for office in the future if the opportunity arises.
He also has been seeking a nomination to the federal bench and said he would still be interested in a judgeship.
"I am still interested in [a judgeship]," he said. "If anything, this will kind of put me back fully into the legal setting and that would help instead of hurt in terms of that."
Democrat, District 2 (Salt Lake City)
Elected by district delegates and took office Feb. 7, 2005
Won general election 2006.
Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations
Senate Rules; Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice; Government Operations, Political Subdivisions
Profession: attorney, Howrey, LLP.
Partner: Mark Barr
Affiliations: Equality Utah, advisory board member