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The University of Utah hosted a spirited debate Thursday night between Equality Utah and the Sutherland Institute. The two groups have very differing opinions on the issue at hand: gay rights and the Common Ground Initiative.
Four members from each group debated their side on the legislative bills included in the Common Ground Initiative. Those bills were meant to protect and give gays rights regarding employment, medical needs and housing, but all were defeated in this year's legislative session.
"The bills in the Common Ground Initiative are not about giving anybody special rights. They're about taking care of each other. We all want to protect our families. We all want to keep our jobs," said Will Carlson, of Equality Utah.
The legislation did not state anything about legalizing marriage between homosexuals and/or transgenders, but the Sutherland Group argues that is exactly what these bills add up to.
"Your ideas about marriage and family are an illusion. The very nature of your relationships means that you only act out. You play house as only a dysfunctional household structure can allow," said Paul Mero, CEO of the Sutherland Institute.
"The Sutherland Institute claims to protect sacred ground while contradicting Utah's religious leaders," Carlson said.
Each team was given 10 minutes of opening remarks, then each was allowed to ask and answer questions. The public was also invited to ask questions.
Even though the legislature has struck down every bill under the Common Ground Initiative, the purpose of this debate was to bring the discussion to the people.
"For the public to be in the audience, to have the opportunity to hear their responses, and then hear where exactly that actually stands, rather than reading a quote here or a quote there in the newspaper or on television," explained Jeffery Reynolds, with the Sutherland Institute.
This debate is not over just because the 2009 Legislature has killed all the bills under the Common Ground Initiative. Equality Utah has stated they will continue to fight during the 2010 session.