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Final common ground bill dies in House committee



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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A legislative committee defeated the last in a group of gay-rights bills presented to Utah lawmakers this year. As was the case with the others, committee members said the bill was not necessary and voiced concern about the law opening the door to gay marriage.

The bottom line is most conservative lawmakers just don't believe any of these bills just address civil rights. Instead, the Common Ground bills were viewed as a "threat" to traditional marriage.

The last Common Ground bill would have affected medical visitation and inheritance. Changing the law could affect people outside the gay community as well. But the focus---and concern---was predominantly centered on gay rights.

Stan Rassmussen, with the Sutherland Institute said, "Each of these has cause to think that there is benefit for those other than homosexuals, clearly. And yet, when they package them together, we took them at their word, they're doing this for a reason. and it's clear what that reason is."

Gayle Ruzicka, with the Utah Eagle Forum, said, "Of course, it's a victory. Any time they don't pass these types of legislation, and this was their Common Ground Initiative, and this is the end of the bills now, and we're glad to see we're done with that for this year."

People involved in this issue acknowledge this won't be the end of this effort.

"It makes me said, really," said Kim Hackford-Peer, a Common Ground supporter. "Sad that there are people who can't see the human consequences of what they're doing."

"These are real people" said Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City. "And they're being impacted in a very real and personal way, and they have every right to come up here and ask this Legislature to support them."

The gay-rights group "Equality Utah" has worked to build relationships with lawmakers to break down misconceptions about gay and lesbian people, and it says work will continue.

"I don't see this as a defeat," said Mike Thompson, with Equality Utah. "I mean, although it certainly feels like a defeat, but we're just breaking ground on the common ground. We realize this is our first real proactive effort to secure basic rights for gay and transgendered Utahns."

In truth, behind the scenes, there were lots of people who saw these bills as a long shot.

But clearly lawmakers are not as open to expanding gay rights, which is an area where they differ from the governor.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com
E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

Richard Piatt
    Randall Jeppesen

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