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Brandon's Big Gay Blog

Anti-gay Stealth Bill Hits Judiciary Committee Today

by Brandon Burt
- Posted // 2011-02-09 -

A bill seeking to expand government intrusion into Utahns' private agreements is slated for consideration Wednesday, Feb. 9, by the state House Judiciary Committee. [Update: The bill was pulled from the agenda Wednesday morning.]

House Bill 182 ("Voiding Transactions Against Public Policy") should concern libertarians and privacy advocates as well as LGBT organizers. The measure, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, would add the following language to the Utah Code:

An arrangement, agreement, or transaction that is unlawful or violates public policy is void and unenforceable.

On its surface, it seems pretty innocuous, if not actually redundant -- after all, the state already has a means for voiding "unlawful" contracts. It's one of the things the court system has always been pretty good at.

But it's the mention of "public policy" that sounds suspicious, particularly when we consider another bill sponsored by Christensen, House Bill 270 ("Family Policy"), which

  • states, as the public policy of Utah, that a family, consisting of a legally and lawfully married man and woman and their children, is the fundamental unit of society; and
  • requires that publicly funded social programs, government services, laws, and regulations designed to support families be carefully scrutinized to ensure that they promote the family.

Specifically, HB270 would amend state law to include language such as:

The institution of marriage and family, consisting of the legal union of a man and a woman and children conceived and born to, or adopted by, the married couple as father and mother, is the fundamental unit of society and the optimum environment in which to nurture and raise a child.

Marriage and family predate all governments and are supported by and consistent with the Laws of Nature and Nature's God, the Creator and Supreme Judge of the World, affirmed in the nation's founding Declaration of Independence.

Now, invoking the Declaration of Independence as a way of justifying God does seem a little ... well, defensive. (It's as if the authors anticipated that any mention of deity would surely provoke an attack from godless atheists -- because there are so many atheists on Capitol Hill.) Still, the Declaration also affirmed that all men are created equal -- which is good to keep in mind when considering legislation that seeks to marginalize gay and lesbian families.

On its surface, HB270 seems like a lot of philosophical blather. But, when we put it together with HB182, we find that it's a lot of enforceable philosophical blather. Any agreement which fails to uphold the primacy of marriage between a man and a woman becomes void ab initio -- which means the courts could not uphold, say, inheritance or custody agreements between gay or lesbian couples, since, according to state law, God wouldn't like it.

Seems pretty obvious Christensen's aim is to make life more difficult for gay and lesbian families. But, if that's the case, why doesn't he come right out and say it? Perhaps he wishes to dodge a repeat of 2006, when his identical bill was defeated.

If Christensen's wish is to disguise this intent, then, taken together, HB182 and HB270 amount to a complicated anti-gay stealth bill. It almost make me nostalgic for the days when legislators were brave enough to bash gays openly! Things were simpler then.

Of course, by the Law of Unintended Consequences, Christensen's ophidian strategy is bound to have surprising results. What other private contracts might unexpectedly be affected by HB182?

I wasn't sure, so I searched through the Utah Code for mentions of the phrase "public policy." Turns out, Christensen's law could also increase government meddling in agreements relating to labor law, the ski industry, water rights, child welfare, and civic organizations.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

HB182 is up for Judicial Committee consideration Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 4 p.m. Equality Utah has issued an Action Alert.

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Post a comment
Posted // February 9,2011 at 20:18

I just resent morals being legislated by elected representatives like Levar and Buttars whoare cleary the talons of Ruzika's Eagle Forum,
a non-elected body which wields more power over the Legislators than their own constituents. It's frightening to me that the Eagle Forum has any legislative power at all. No one ever voted for them and they can't be voted out.

You also have to wonder about people who obsess so much with other people's "immorality." Are their own morals really so Godly-pure and bland they feel the need to impose them on all of society, or are they really just fighting off some inner-demon that lurks deep within themselves?


Posted // February 11,2011 at 22:42 - Thank you, BlackMamba! Your vividly descriptive impressions of Ruzika and gun-totin' Wimmer almost made me spill my beer with my laughter. You illustrated my point with creative and humorous precision. I like you. You should run for something. You've got my vote!


Posted // February 10,2011 at 09:20 - Look at the bigger picture, David. Why do so many allegedly morally righteous conservatives end up in the country's headlines over sex? Conservatives in Utah are apparently of two stripes when it comes to morals: The dried-up, desolate, skin-cracking, emotionally-void desert of a Ruzicka and naughty, smoking-behind-the-seminary-building boys who have matured into closeted sex fiends. And it's usually cheap, tawdry sex like airport bathrooms and Craigslist hook-ups. Can't we unite in a citizen's group and file a lawsuit against the Eagle Forum for harassment and interfering with a democratically-elected process that we all own? Look at the time management ratio our legislators mangle on conservative "message" bills that produce absolutely nothing. If you look at the pure nonsense that an asshole like Carl Wimmer spits up, that should be an legally actionable offense, or, at the very least, he should be disciplined. How much fucking time and resources has that pasty-faced, half-unemployed, gun permit instructor in a vertical pile of fucking human embarassment wasted trying to promote himself as the new, transgendered Sarah Palin? At the 11th hour before they head back to their jobs running the IFA store in Blanding or "weightlifting," they hurry through the people's real business that actually affects the daily lives of their constituents and we get the high-quality results. Anyone want to form a class action suit? I have myn own "message for our legislators. Any attorneys out there looking for an agrieved party to base a suit on? I'm all in!


Posted // February 9,2011 at 14:42

Katrina, I completely agree. this is bad!


Posted // February 9,2011 at 10:07

I just want to point out that HB 270 goes beyond being an issue for gay or lesbian families.

As a single parent, I resent that this bill declaires myself and my children as "not a family". And here is the thing...

ANYONE can become a single parent. This HB 270 hurts ALL families.