Sen. Chris Buttars and similar homophobes lurking through the Capitol's halls and meeting rooms could, if ultimately successful, cause considerable damage to numerous classes of people in Utah, all in the name of protecting us from their own imagined boogeyman.
Buttars is sponsoring or pushing legislation or amendments in this legislative session that could potentially force people out of their homes while trying to pay for expensive medication for their elderly and infirm parents, and that would reduce the availability of health care for thousands of young women who could face sterility and other serious maladies through untreated sexually transmitted diseases.
And efforts in past years by Buttars and other like-minded legislators arguably could increase school dropout rates and behavioral problems among the most vulnerable high school students.
All in the name of decency.
Buttars, R-West Jordan, fashioned Senate Bill 267 to invalidate any domestic partnership ordinance passed by a city. It was filed in response to Salt Lake City's new ordinance creating a volunteer registry for unmarried couples who could then have a chance to gain health-care coverage and other benefits from businesses for their loved ones.
Buttars has said he fears a "homosexual agenda" and will stamp out any effort that he believes would be a step toward equal rights for that class of people.
Never mind that an estimated 78 percent of those who would benefit from the registry are in heterosexual relationships. Buttars' bill could also affect Salt Lake City's adult-designee ordinance, which allows people to designate housemates other than a husband or wife for health benefits. That includes people who are caring for infirm parents whose medical and pharmaceutical costs would otherwise devastate the family income.
Buttars' amendment to House Bill 15, which would appropriate money to the Utah Department of Health to disseminate information about facilities that test and treat diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, would ban inclusion of private care providers, allowing only public health centers to be listed. That is because Buttars doesn't want Planned Parenthood - which he considers evil - to be listed.
But in at least five counties in southwestern Utah, there are no public health centers that test and treat sexually transmitted diseases. Only private facilities do it. And cutting out Planned Parenthood eliminates listing the organization that currently does most of that preventive work.
Again, never mind that reported cases of chlamydia, which causes sterility in women if untreated, have skyrocketed from 1,563 in 1997 to 5,627 in 2007.
Buttars' past efforts to stop gay-straight alliance clubs in high schools would have eliminated a resource in a protected environment for a class of students who are five times as likely to skip school and who average half a grade lower than their non-gay and less-frequently harassed counterparts. Gay and lesbian teens also are more likely to commit suicide.
In a similar act of paranoia, the Salt Lake City School Board eliminated gay-straight clubs in the 1990s by banning all non-academic clubs in order to get around a federal law sponsored by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, which, intending to protect religious-based clubs, forbade public schools from discriminating against identifiable groups wanting to start a club.
The school board's scorched-earth policy, later repealed, prevented thousands of students from the enriching experience of joining a social club, including students with Down syndrome and other disabilities whose school experience, according to Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, should include joining a club to enhance social interaction.