It was only a few years ago that conservatives pressing to mar Utah’s Constitution with a gay-marriage ban promised they weren’t going to take legal protections from homosexuals. Nowadays, it’s crystal clear that the 2004 line was a lie. Gay activists are presenting this year’s Utah Legislature with a list of bills to give elementary legal protections to gays well short of marriage. The first such bill—a proposal to allow unmarried, unrelated people to sue in the case of a partner’s accidental death—couldn’t even get out of Senate committee. Predictably, opponents said the bill would damage “traditional marriages.”
As Utah lawmakers debate an ethics proposal to stop retired lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for a one-year cooling-off period, they’ll have familiar faces to advise them. Greg Curtis, last year’s House Speaker who lost his bid for re-election, appeared on Capitol Hill as a newly minted lobbyist for, among other clients, cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, which is trying to beat back a tobacco-tax hike. Joining Curtis in the Gucci-lined hallways is former legislator and newly registered lobbyist Mark Walker. He’s currently on probation in connection with a plea deal stemming from a House Ethics Committee probe this fall.
Given the opportunity for true liquor-law reform, Utah’s Legislature once again seems bent on making Utah’s drinking laws more ridiculous than ever. In exchange for getting rid of hated “private clubs,” club owners offered to install ID-card readers in bars. They thought that would satisfy concerns that no-membership bars meant no minors getting served. All such card readers do is scan a bar code and tell the doorman if the holder is over 21. But leaders of Utah’s Senate are proposing a system to download bar patrons’ information into a law-enforcement computer. Having to put their names on a list is precisely what frightens tourists about Utah’s current law. Why it would be any better to hand your personal identity information to a government database boggles the mind.