Friday, February 13, 2009

Utah governor supports civil unions | News Story on

Utah governor supports civil unions | News Story on

Salt Lake City, Utah) Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) said Tuesday through a spokesperson that he supports civil unions.

Utah has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Although a Republican, a Mormon and the governor of one of the country’s most conservative states, Huntsman has been moving closer to the middle on social issues.

This year, LGBT rights groups unveiled a group of bills called the Common Ground Initiative that includes legislation to begin process of repealing the section of the amendment banning civil unions. Other bills include adding gays in job and housing protections, a domestic partner registry and partner health care rights.

Repealing the civil union ban was abandoned Monday by its sponsor, fearing it was stalling the other measures. A fifth bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to sue for wrongful death damages was defeated in a state Senate committee last month.

Until Tuesday, Huntsman has been silent on the Common Ground bills.

His spokesperson Lisa Roskelley told The Salt Lake City Tribune on Tuesday that in addition to supporting same-sex marriage the governor is in favor of most of the Common Ground Initiative.

“We are very grateful for Gov. Huntsman. We think it’s fantastic. It also highlights that people who feel very differently on marriage can find common ground on areas to agree on,” Will Carlson, public policy director of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah told The Associated Press.

“Utah has been getting an unfair reputation in the national media as being anti-gay because of those actions of a few individuals. This highlights that Utahns have a diversity of thought and that they can follow their religious beliefs and still take care of others.”

Following passage of the constitutional amendment in Utah and criticism over its support for Proposition 8 in California which also bans same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church issued a statement saying it “does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches,”

Since then, Equality Utah has been using the statement to build support for the initiatives.

Last month a poll commissioned by Equality Utah found that 63 percent support gay legal protections including some rights for same-sex couples.

The survey found that 62 percent believe it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay and 57 percent said it should be illegal to deny housing to someone for being gay.

On the issue of partner rights, 73 percent said they would support health insurance coverage for a partner or other designated adult for state employees. Utahans, however, are not ready for same-sex marriage. Only 20 percent said they supported gay marriage.

No comments: