Senator McCoy's Appointment Challenged

Senator McCoy's Appointment Challenged

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two days after being sworn in, Democratic state Sen. Scott McCoy is facing a challenge over his right to serve his Salt Lake City district.

The question raised Wednesday by an unnamed person is whether McCoy has lived in the district long enough to be eligible to serve.

But Senate Democrats say the real issue is McCoy's homosexuality. McCoy, 34, who was installed as a senator on Monday to replace the ailing Sen. Paula Julander, is the first openly gay person to serve in the Senate.

"If you ask me is it because he's gay, I have to say yes," Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price said. "And I think that's unfortunate."

Julander resigned a week ago, after being hospitalized for diverticulitis. McCoy, an attorney and political activist, was elected on Saturday after being selected for the position by Democratic delegates from District 2.

Dmitrich said he understood, but could not prove, that the challenge of McCoy's appointment came from a citizen who worked to help pass Amendment 3, the successful ballot initiative that changed the Utah Constitution to ban same-sex unions.

McCoy ran the Don't Amend Alliance, which lobbied to defeat the amendment. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to Dmitrich, the residency challenge relates to whether McCoy should be required to have been living in the district at the time Julander was elected in 2002, or whether he only needs to meet the minimum residency requirement -- six months -- prior to his election by delegates.

Legislative attorneys who have studied the residency question found that that state law is contradictory and ambiguous, Senate President John Valentine said.

"There is a lack of clarity with regard to residency," Valentine said. "And I feel that if there is some ambiguity and if we can't tell, then I come down on the side of the voters who elected him."

McCoy's appointment could be challenged from within the Senate, Valentine said, but to remove him would require a two-thirds vote from the 29 members of the body.

The Senate's Republican leadership is in agreement that they would not support removing McCoy from office, Valentine said.

"It would require a two-thirds vote and if you count the numbers, when you have four senators in leadership who are going to lock arms against it, you can't win," he said.

Sen. Patrice Arent, D-Murray, said she knew of no senator planning to challenge McCoy's appointment and she doubted any would.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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