Common Ground bills to get public hearing



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At the Utah Legislature today, a House panel released two bills aimed at granting rights to same-sex couples. The move insures the bills will get a public hearing and nothing more, but gay-rights groups still see today's development as significant.

The bills we're talking about are the remaining Common Ground initiative bills. Lawmakers said today that the bills deserve a public hearing, but even gay-rights groups admit the bills have a steep climb.

The Common Ground initiative bills have attracted a lot of attention, and lots of people have come to the Capitol to speak to lawmakers personally about them.

The two bills we're talking about would, first, deal with hospital visitation rights for a domestic partner. The other would expand the state's non-discrimination laws when it comes to housing and employment to include gays and transgendered people.

Kim Hackford-Peer supports the Common Ground bills. She said, "Especially when you're considering the economy and the difficulty people are having finding and retaining employment, it seems like common sense to me."

Another bill released today, one that is not part of the Common Ground bills, would expand adoption and foster parent laws to include same sex couples. There is considerable resistance to that bill as well as the Common Ground bills.

Gayle Ruzicka, with the Utah Eagle Forum, said, "They're talking about common ground. We're talking about common sense. Most of the legislation that they have for this year are things they can do anyway, they can just get a notary to sign a piece of paper so they can do it."

Ruzicka says the adoption issue should be reserved for the one-man-one-woman marriage.

All these arguments will get aired at the committee hearings, if they make it that far. Gay-rights groups say it's going to be a battle.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

Richard Piatt

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