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The Senate president says it's time to move on from the controversy surrounding Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, and his anti-gay remarks, but Senate Democrats called for more action today in a press conference at the Capitol.
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, says he was offended personally by Sen. Buttars' remarks. "When I come up here and advocate for the gay and transgender families in Itah, I do so because I know that they are good people," he said.
Buttars has been under the microscope for days now after he told a documentary filmmaker that gays are a threat to the United States, lack morals and engage in disgusting sexual practices.
"Having someone with clear views that have been expressed by Senator Buttars undermines the opportunity for that debate and dialogue to proceed in a fair and impartial manner," said Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake.
There were gasps in the room, then applause when Sen. McCoy made this announcement: "I am a member of the rules committee. If Sen. Buttars would step down from the Rules Committee, and that's an issue for people, then I would step down from the Rules Committee as a trade."
But Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said this morning he had already taken his action against Sen. Buttars.
He said, "I made my action a week ago. If there's a feeling that I need to reorganize any of the committees, I can reorganize the Rules Committee too. We haven't had that discussion, but I can reorganize the committee and take everyone off it who has conflicts dealing with any specific issue."
McCoy is asking for a little bit more. "To truly vindicate what is a stain on the institution of the Senate," he said.
The Democrats want Buttars removed, not only from Rules, but also as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said, "By removing Senator Buttars from these key positions, President Waddoups, who has a clear ability to do so, would be sending a clear message to Utahns, Americans, and humankind that we will not tolerate bad behavior in the Utah Senate."
Romero said wanted to make one thing very clear. "We do not stand behind Senator Buttars. We do not stand behind some of his views," he said.
Waddoups said he agrees with Buttars that marriage is the foundation of American society and that he agrees with Democrats that Buttars doesn't speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that senators in general should be held to a higher standard of behavior.
"It's not my responsibility to judge Senator Buttars, as far as his free speech. It's my responsibility to help Senator Buttars function as a senator. And he has made it more difficult to function, but he still has free speech rights," Waddoups said.
Senate Democrats did not go so far as to say Buttars should resign completely.