Date: Fri, Apr Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 19, 1996 nn nn
Date: Fri, Apr Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 19, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnnn
#17 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/19/96
UTAH LEGISLATURE ACTS TO BAN GAY, LESBIAN CLUBS ON CAMPUS
Dissenting Senator Charges: "Another Moral Witch Hunt In Our State."
In special session yesterday, the Utah State Legislature enacted a
controversial bill that specifically bans gay and lesbian clubs from public
high schools. This morning's edition of the Salt Lake Tribune called the
legislation "a legal minefield." Even so, the bill passed by a 21-7 vote in
the Senate, and by about midnight cleared the House by a 47-21 vote margin.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Craig Taylor, a religious conservative
Mormon activist; he cited the controversial finding of a medical doctor who
claims that homosexuality is an "illness." The special session was called by
Gov. Mike Leavitt, who supports the anti-gay legislation.
It was a victory for numerous religious groups who had supported the bill.
Much of yesterday's debate involved passionate rhetoric, especially from
Rep. David Bresnahan; he urged passage of the legislation while invoking the
memory of his late brother who died from the AIDS virus. Bresnahan declared
that his brother had been "recruited" into homosexual activites while in the
Boy Scouts, and warned ominously: "They're out there are they're after our
The new legislation is expected to face immediate legal challenges which
could cost the State of Utah over $1 million. Even so, another bill
supporter, Sen. Joseph Hull defended his vote by saying "Let's give the power
to the local school boards to set limits and deny certain behaviors we should
be denying anyway. If it takes a lawsuit, then let's have a lawsuit."
Back Room Maneuvering?
The bill apparently reached many of the lawmakers only hours before the
voting deadline. Some objected that there had not been sufficient public
input on the issue; Rep. Byron Harward of Provo insisted "If this bill
doesn't deserve some kind of public input, there is no time and no bill that
should have such input. His proposal to delay action passed by a 35-2 margin
-- but then, something happened. According to the Tribune, "furious
negotiations ensued" as the Governor and key legislators began applying
Rep. Kelly Atkinson reported "blackmail and threats" in order to "twist
people's minds into voting differently."
By midnight, it was all over, and the Taylor proposal had passed.
During his speech to the Senate, Taylor asked: "Who are the ones who
really care and have compassion? Is it those who encourage youth to follow a
very unhealthy destructive and potentially fatal lifestyle? Or is it those
who point out that they may be headed down the wrong path?"
But Senate Minority Whip George Mantes called the anti-gay legislation
"another moral witch hunt in our state," and compared it efforts to ban
UTAH ANTI-GAY BILL -- AN EXAMPLE OF SELECTIVE ''RELIGIOUS RIGHTS''
Religious groups throughout the country, especially Christian
fundamentalists, have a new catch-all phrase to describe their social agenda
for America -- "Religious Rights." Separation of church and state, even an
official policy of government neutrality toward churches and religious
groups, is interpreted as "hostility" to "people of faith."
But "Religious Rights" seem to have little to do with the more
historically-based liberties found in the Constitution and the Bill of
Rights. "Religious Rights" seems to mean "rights" only for believers, not
for citizens who hold differing views or lifestyles.
Utah is getting to be a case iin point of this selective interpretation of
what rights are all about.
For over a decade, conservative Christian groups tried to find legal ways
which would permit Bible clubs and student prayer groups to meet in public
schools. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch came up with an answer -- the 1984 Equal
Access Law. This legislation was widely interpreted to guarantee ANY group
the right to assemble, including religious clubs.
But now, Hatch says that some groups are a bit more equal than others.
Using the law to justify giving gay and lesbian students the right to meet
on high school campuses is "crazy". He adds: School board authorities can
and should be able to ban homosexual and heterosexual clubs, especially if
they fly in the face of community standards."
Many organizations supported Hatch back in 1984, including the National
Council of Churches and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. Even
the National Education Association and the ACLU signed on, thinking that the
Equal Access Law would make it easier for any group to exercise First
Amendment rights on campus.
But yesterday's legislation aimed at restricting gay and lesbian clubs in
Utah schools is only the latest in a round of efforts to selectively
eliminate , or circumvent disquieting provisions of the 1984 law. It seems
that "equal" applies only to those who agree with certain religious
standards. A University of Utah law professor, Edward Firmage noted: "The
Constitution of the United States guarantees these rights to us as Americans,
not as citizens of the sovereign state of Utah."
Freedom of speech, assembly and other rights, "should travel with citizens
from state to state."
There is other legislation at the state and Federal level promoted as part
of a "Religious Liberty" or "Religious Rights" agenda. The Religious
Freedoms Restoration Act gives churches and religious groups special
privileges, and protects certain behaviors which are considered part of a
religious creed. Two versions of the Religious Equality Amendment challenge
long-standing protections on behalf of state-church separation, permitting
prayer in public schools.
While religious activists often appeal to libertarian notions about
freedom and civil rights, however, interpreting the scope of those rights
often involves a good deal of selectivity -- as in Utah. Legislation which
would prohibit bible-reading clubs, for instance, would be denounced as an
invasion of personal privacy and First Amendment guarantees, including the
right of people to assemble. But with gay and lesbian students, a different
standard is used -- religious creeds, community bigotry and sexual prejudice.
UTAH SENATOR USING PSEUDO-SCIENCE TO JUSTIFY BAN ON GAYS?
Yesterday's special legislative sessions offered a bit of stage
entertainment from Mormon Senator Craig Taylor -- he offered "proof" that gay
and lesbian students are psychological basket cases.
Taylor cited the work of Charles W. Socarides, president of the National
Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, who declared "The
introduction of gay clubs...is a detrimental act."
Socarides is the author of a controversial book titled "Homosexuality: A
Freedom Too Far", which has become a best-seller in religious conservative
circles. In 1973, he tried to promote a membership referendum within the
American Psychicatric Association on behalf of his theories about gays, and
have homosexuality considered a "mental illness." His efforts failed.
Socarides insists that homosexual orientation is the result of "smothering
mothers and abdicating fathers."
His son Richard Socarides, though, is not convinced; he happens to be gay,
and serves as a consultant to the Clinton administration on gay-lesbian
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