Sunday, December 9, 2007

Incoming Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's Voting Record On Gay Issues In The Utah State House

But before we get to that, here's a brief summary of Ralph Becker's overall agenda, as described in the media today.


As "inauguration day" for Salt Lake City Mayor-elect Ralph Becker (pictured at left) approaches, he continues to set and firm up his agenda for the city. Armed with a 64 percent landslide electoral mandate, he has considerable freedom of maneuver - and plans to exercise it judiciously and vigorously. Full story published December 9th, 2007 in the Deseret Morning News.

Ralph Becker's official campaign website remains active if you want to examine his prospective agenda in greater detail. Click HERE to see previous posts on Ralph Becker.

The 55-year old Washington, D.C. native, an already popular leader who brings to the office the experience of an 11-year member of the Utah House of Representatives and professional planner, said he's anxious to begin a new chapter of his career as mayor of Utah's capital city, a role he says "crystallized" as the right job for him about two years ago while he was trying to decide whether to seek a fifth term in the state House. Becker decided he was tired of merely being a proponent and wanted a job where he could become an actual implementor or executor.

"So many times in the Legislature ... I felt like all I was able to do was to be a voice for those who were underrepresented," Becker said. "As mayor of this city, which is a progressive city, there's a chance and the opportunity to show the benefits of some of those ideas."

Becker presented several of those ideas during his campaign as "blueprints," which he intends to begin implementing after he's sworn in as Salt Lake City's 34th mayor on January 7th, 2007. "We have a very ambitious agenda," he said. "We're going to have a very busy first few years here".

Becker's four major areas of interest are collaboration, education, and environment, and social justice, presented in this post in a different order than in the Deseret News story. The reason for the difference will become quite apparent as you read on.

(1). Collaboration: While Ralph Becker has never seriously panned outgoing Mayor Rocky Anderson's ideas, he's gone out of his way to reassure the community that he will seek to be a uniter and a conciliator rather than a divider. Rocky Anderson's two terms were considered particularly stormy; his penchant for shooting from the lip not only may have knocked Jenny Wilson out of the mayor's race, but may have also killed Proposition 1, which would have provided Salt Lake three new public safety complexes for an admittedly high price tag of $192 million. Despite the cost, it was set to pass until Rocky shot his big yap off at the last moment.

In a small but meaningful gesture, Becker launched his "reconciliation" campaign with a Thanksgiving Day phone call to Republican City Councilman Carlton Christenson, who went so far as to co-chair Dave Buhler's mayoral campaign. And Christenson was suitably impressed, saying that while he expects to have disagreements with Becker from time to time, he's optimistic those can be resolved in a much more civil manner than in the past. So we can conclude that, if nothing else, Ralph Becker is a class act.

Indeed, both Becker and the seven-member City Council are optimistic that the branches of Salt Lake City government will be more united than they have been in recent years in advancing city business. "Ralph is well-known for working toward consensus," Councilman Eric Jergensen said. "I anticipate that Ralph's work with the council will be very positive and collaborative."

(2). Education: Improving public education was Becker's No. 1 priority during his legislative tenure, and that will continue to be a high priority during his mayoral administration. "Public education is probably the most important responsibility we have in providing our children the opportunity to succeed," he said. "It's the greatest source of equalizing our society." [Ed. Note: That's fine, as long as he's thinking "equal opportunity" and not attempting to mandate "equal outcome".]

Becker said he began early in his campaign looking for ways city government could improve or positively influence public education. He sought input from school board members, school administrators, educators and parents, and came up with his blueprint for education. Part of that blueprint calls for the creation of an education coordinator in the mayor's office whose job will be to build partnerships between public education and the city, the business community, universities, colleges and nonprofit groups. Becker plans to announce later this week who will fill that role, as well as other staff positions.

However, Becker does not intend to supersede the school districts. "Public education has not traditionally been a role for city government," Becker said. "I do not see Salt Lake City trying to step in the shoes of public education, whether it's the school board or the school superintendent. I see us trying to help bolster public education." But Becker simply grew tired of seeing the state Legislature shortchange public education year after year, saying the state has hindered teachers' and students' ability to succeed by underfunding education. He believes that even if the state legislature upgrades its attention and support for public education, which is quite likely now that the voucher initiative crashed and burned, the local community should still provide more help (hmmm, does that mean higher property taxes?).

Becker also is proposing a monthly roundtable during which he and city staff can meet with school officials, teachers and parents to evaluate the partnerships and continue to share ideas for improving public education in Salt Lake City.

(3). Environment: Becker has long been a proponent of environmental protection, advocating for the preservation of open space and sharing his ideas on environmental problem solving. And since the Salt Lake Valley, with its bowl shape, is subject to temperature inversions which trap pollutants and create smog, particularly during the wintertime, his interest in this area is not unwelcome.

Becker's "Blueprint for a Green City" addresses protecting Salt Lake City's natural assets — "which are unparalleled," he said — and the issues of air quality and climate change. Becker believes the city needs to continue to protect its critical lands, natural areas and open spaces and make it possible for residents to access them and enjoy them. Becker also has a specific plan for neighborhoods - he's taken the lead in the past against those who haphazardly erect multi-story buildings in residential neighborhoods.

One area on which the mayor-elect wants to place particular emphasis on is the Jordan River, which he says has been "neglected for much too long." The city needs to do its part to complete the Jordan River Parkway, he said, and work to address water-quality issues so the river can be enjoyed as a recreation source. "It should be a gem in the middle of our city," Becker said. "To date, we've had at best sporadic efforts to really take advantage of that and protect that resource."

And Becker paid tribute to Rocky Anderson for being a local and national leader on environmental issues by establishing green standards within city government — from the types of bulbs used in city streetlights and buildings to requiring Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-standard building for government facilities. Becker wants to take that a step further by applying LEED standards to the private sector, suggesting an incentive-based approach in which the city provides a streamlined permitting process for developers who commit to "green" building. Similar programs have been very successful in other cities, he said.

Improving air quality also will be a focus of Becker's administration, he said. Methods for achieving that goal include continuing to improve the city's transit and bikeway systems.

(4). Social justice: You just knew there had to be a catch - and here it is. Becker sees Salt Lake City as leading the way in Utah in areas of social justice, ensuring that people aren't discriminated against based on classifications such as race, religion or sexual orientation.

One example of that, he said, is the ordinance that extends benefits to city employees' domestic partners. The next step, Becker says, is to make it possible for domestic partners of city employees to receive retirement benefits as well. Becker also plans to put forward a nondiscrimination ordinance that he says will go far beyond what the city already has in place. The ordinance will be expanded to cover housing and realty, employment, public accommodation and city activities, he said. And this will also include an "enumerated list of protected classes" according to his Human Rights Initiative, which is bound to arouse resentment amongst those who are not protected. This is where Becker shifts from the "uniter" mode to the "divider" mode.

Becker said he also will call for the creation of a city registry for domestic partnerships in an effort to allow for a clear and efficient mechanism for the city to offer health, retirement and other employee benefits to domestic partners. He plans to issue an executive order requiring that benefits be extended to registered domestic partners by companies that contract with the city and already provide benefits to employees' spouses.

And it's in this last area that Ralph Becker becomes transformed from a relatively moderate left-of-centrist to a full blown radical. Here are the flaws in Becker's social justice scheme:

(1). It will arouse resentment amongst those who are not part of these "protected classes".

(2). The bureaucratic requirements may discourage the creation or location of small businesses within the Salt Lake city limits. Small businesses do grow into large employers.

(3). It will grant official recognition to and divert public funds towards same-sex domestic partnerships, which constitutes the implicit public subsidization of a practice considered an emotional disability at best and an outright perversion at worst. Should Salt Lake residents be required to implicitly subsidize the practice of homosexuality regardless of the dictates of their consciences?

It's one thing for Ralph Becker as mayor to ensure that laws are equitably enforced to ensure that gratuitous violence against gays is prosecuted as vigorously as violence against other citizens. But Becker goes far beyond that - his Human Rights Initiative actively promotes and protects the homosexual lifestyle.

And his track record as a member of the Utah State House supports this contention. The Actwin website is operated by a pro-gay activist who monitors various bodies to track their support of gay issues.

Click HERE to visit the main page of the ACTWIN website.

If you don't live in Utah, click HERE to find out how your state legislators vote on gay issues.

Click HERE to find out how the Utah State Senate voted on gay issues.

Click HERE to find out how the Utah State House voted on gay issues.

Note that the operator of the Actwin website intends to take it down effective January 1st, 2008, so I have decided to replicate Ralph Becker's voting record on gay issues during his House tenure so that the information, in this form, is not lost. Actwin only selected specific issues considered pertinent to the gay-rights cause.

When you look at the table posted on the Utah page of the Actwin website, do NOT get confused. The + and - indicators do NOT mean Yes or No votes. The + symbol is for a pro-gay vote; the - symbol is for an anti-gay vote.

Overall, Ralph Becker was graded "B" by Actwin, which means he is considered to be pro-gay. This is the same grade assigned to the openly-gay Jackie Biskupski, and is a higher grade than the "D" assigned to Utah's other openly-gay representative, Christine Johnson. Here's the individual breakdown of Becker's votes.


VOTES ON HOMOSEXUAL ISSUES


1} SAME-SEX COUPLE ADOPTION BAN
Date: 2-23-00 Bill Number: HB 103 Votes: For=49 Against=19
Vote to ban adoptions to non-married couples, including prospective parents who are homosexual. The state already has rules that prohibit officials from placing children with unmarried couples who are living together. This proposal will make that rule law and extend the ban to private adoption providers as well.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

2} PERFORMING UNLAWFUL MARRIAGES
Date: 2-21-01 Bill Number: SB 146 Votes: For=71 Against=0
Vote to make it a felony to perform unlawful marriages in Utah, including same-sex marriages.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "anti-gay" by Actwin.

3} STUDENT QUESTIONS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
Date: 2-27-01 Bill Number: SB 75 Votes: For=49 Against=19
Vote to approve a bill that will bar teachers from giving “spontaneous” answers to student questions about homosexuality, extramarital sex, or birth control. The bill will also strengthen restrictions banning school materials that advocate birth control and will allow school districts to opt out of the state-approved sex education curriculum.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

4} HATE CRIMES
Date: 2-27-03 Bill Number: HB 85 Votes: For=38 Against=35
Vote to create stiffer penalties for crimes motivated by bias or prejudice against a victim's race, color, gender, disability, age, nationality, ancestry, religion or sexual orientation. This also covers prejudicial crimes against individuals affiliated with a business. This amends a 1992 law that Utah courts have ruled is too broad and unenforceable.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

5} SAME-SEX MARRIAGE/CIVIL UNIONS BAN
Date: 2-18-04 Bill Number: SB 24 Votes: For=62 Against=12
Vote to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in Utah. This bill also prevents state courts from hearing challenges to the law and denies benefits to homosexual couples married or civilly united outside Utah. The vote came despite warnings from some of the state's most experienced legal minds that the wording in the bill was unconstitutional. One of the experts, Michael D. Zimmerman, the former Utah chief justice, told a Senate committee that the bill violated both the open-court and
equal-protection clauses in the state constitution.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

6} CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT/SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Date: 2-24-04 Bill Number: HJR 25 Votes: For=56 Against=16
Vote for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Utah. The constitutional provision, says "marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman."
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

7} CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT/SAME-SEX MARRIAGE (FINAL VOTE)
Date: 3-3-04 Bill Number: HJR 25 Votes: For=58 Against=14
Vote for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Utah. The constitutional provision, says "marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman."
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

8} INTERNET FILTERS THAT BLOCK LGBT SITES
Date: 2-24-05 Bill Number: HB 260 Votes: For=71 Against=0
Vote to require the state's Internet service providers to offer customers a way to block supposed "adult" sites. This legislation is opposed by First Amendment advocates who say it violates the Constitution. This bill is aimed at protecting children from Internet pornography, but could be used to block sites offering sex education and sexual health information. The filters could also prevent LGBT news and information sites like 365Gay.com, or personals and chat sites from reaching homes in the state. The filters could also be used in public institutions such as universities and libraries were some users are under age. It would be up to the attorney general to maintain a database of the porn sites, but the bill gives no clear indication of what constitutes pornography leaving it up to the discretion of civil servants. The AG's office will receive $70,000 a year to keep up the database. In addition, Utah-based websites must post a warning that the site is "harmful to minors." The fine for noncompliance would be 1 year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. ACLU of Utah Director Dani Eyer said legislators are forcing government watchdogs to step in as censors. A spokesperson for the state's internet providers said that they would likely block access to so-called adult Web sites for all users rather than run afoul of Utah's law, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and the Commerce Clause.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "anti-gay" by Actwin.

9} VOID SAME-SEX COUPLE ARRANGEMENTS, AGREEMENTS AND TRANSACTIONS
Date: 2-14-06 Bill Number: HB 304 Votes: For=53 Against=18
Vote for a bill that will nullify agreements that are unlawful or violate public policy. This bill states, "an arrangement, agreement, or transaction that is unlawful or violates public policy is void and unenforceable." This could prevent same-sex couples from forming legal unions and domestic partnerships in Utah.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

10} SEX OFFENDER PUNISHMENT
Date: 2-20-06 Bill Number: HB 161 Votes: For=73 Against=0
Vote to increase the minimum amount of time repeat sexual offenders will serve in prison for having a previous felony sexual offense. This will increase the additional sentencing for previous crimes from three years to five years. This bill also calls for sentencing those who commit sex crimes against a child to the highest of three mandatory sentences if the defendant has a previous criminal record of committing a sex offense against a child.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "anti-gay" by Actwin. Take careful note - Actwin, a gay rights lobby, considers legislation to punish sex offenders more harshly to be "anti-gay". Makes you wonder what the gay rights lobby is really all about, doesn't it?

11} BAN SAME-SEX COUPLE HEALTH CARE BENEFITS
Date: 2-22-06 Bill Number: HB 327 Votes: For=52 Against=16
Vote to limit government subsidized health care benefits to a current legal spouse and children who are either natural, adopted or for whom the employee is a legal guardian. This will ban government subsidized health care benefits for same-sex couples in Utah.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

12} LIFE IN PRISON FOR SEEKING CONSENSUAL SEX OVER THE INTERNET
Date: 1-16-07 Bill Number: HB 5 Votes: For=72 Against=0
Vote to require that sexual predators who use the Internet to find their would-be victims to serve more time. Under current law, enticing a minor over the Internet with the intent to commit a first-degree felony is charged as a second-degree felony, which carries a sentence of one-to-15 years in prison. This bill will make it a first-degree felony, punishable by three years-to-life in prison. This bill also will prohibit state courts from granting probation or shortening or suspending prison sentences when criminal defendants have been previously convicted of specific sex crimes, such as rape, rape of a child, or aggravated sexual assault.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "anti-gay" by Actwin. Take careful note - Once again, Actwin, a gay rights lobby, considers legislation to punish sex offenders more harshly to be "anti-gay".

13} REQUIRE PARENTAL PERMISSION TO JOIN SCHOOL CLUBS
Date: 2-5-07 Bill Number: HB 236 Votes: For=72 Against=3
Vote to require students to get parental permission to join any extracurricular school club. This will require non-curricular clubs to establish a name that is connected with the purpose of the club, create a statement explaining the club's purpose, goals and activities along with parental permission.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin. Note: To their credit, the two openly gay members of the House, Christine Johnson and Jackie Biskupski, voted FOR this bill.

14} MANDATORY LIFE SENTENCE FOR CONSENSUAL SEX
Date: 2-13-07 Bill Number: HB 86 Votes: For=70 Against=2
Vote to increase the penalties for a number of sexual offenses, most notably making it a mandatory life sentence for anyone who is convicted for a second sexual offense against a child.
Ralph Becker voted FOR this bill. His vote rated "anti-gay" by Actwin. Take careful note - Once again, Actwin, a gay rights lobby, considers legislation to punish sex offenders more harshly to be "anti-gay". That's the third time; can you believe it?

15} ALLOW SCHOOLS TO BAN GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE CLUBS
Date: 2-21-07 Bill Number: HB 236 Votes: For=41 Against=29
Vote to allow schools to ban non-curricular school clubs, like the Gay-Straight Alliance. This will also give parents the authority to view material distributed in a club seven days prior to the club meeting and require the school to appoint a faculty adviser to each non-curricular club. It will also require clubs to establish bylaws, a statement of purpose and a name related to that purpose. This legislation also requires the state to cover the costs of lawsuits involving the restrictions of school clubs. This provision is seen as a move to use the power of the state to prevent lawsuits if Gay-Straight Alliances were banned at schools. This bill was passed in the House earlier this month in a watered-down form that would basically only require parental permission for a student to join a non-curricular club — something many districts already require.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin.

16} SEX OFFENDER RESTRICTIONS
Date: 2-23-07 Bill Number: HB 375 sub. Votes: For=60 Against=8
Vote to ban sex offenders from some public areas like public swimming pools, parks, and schools. The penalty for violators will be a class a misdemeanor. Which means police will likely take an offender to jail.
Ralph Becker voted AGAINST this bill. His vote rated "pro-gay" by Actwin. Rather disgusting that Actwin considered this an anti-gay bill. Obviously, they have no objection to queers cruising for sex in our public parks.

The Salt Lake City Council and the community need to take a hard look at Becker's social justice scheme and carefully weight the limited benefits against the unknown risks involved.

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