Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chris Buttars Received Senate Discipline Not For The Reed Cowan Interview, But For Violating December 13th, 2008 "Gag Order" Not To Talk About Gays

Here we go again; another Chris Buttars story. But this one is newsworthy, because according to this Salt Lake Tribune story, and this Deseret News story, Senate leaders did NOT strip Senator Buttars of the chairmanships of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee because of the Reed Cowan interview.

According to Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), who hosts a weekly Red Meat Radio program on Inside Utah Politics, aired on KTKK-AM, Buttars was disciplined for violating a deal with leadership reached back on December 13th, 2008 that he not talk about gay issues. "Most of what Senator Buttars said, I agree with," Sen. Stephenson said on the Saturday program. "We as a Senate caucus had an agreement that because Sen. Buttars had become such a lightning rod on this issue, he would not be the spokesman on this issue, and basically he violated that agreement".

During that day-long caucus back in December, Senate Republicans, including Buttars, reached an agreement that he should not comment on gay issues because he was such a polarizing figure. The agreement included a prohibition on speaking out about the Common Ground bills. Senate President Mike Waddoups did not disclose this during the press conference on Friday February 20th when he announced the disciplining of Buttars. Here's a KSTU Channel 13 news video from late Friday highlighting reaction on Capitol Hill:

Buttars accepted the discipline, but said he would not be deterred from opposing rights for gays and said he would not apologize for any of his comments. He did not answer his cell phone on Saturday and his voice mailbox was full.

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Tribune's hard left columnist Rebecca Walsh fired a cheap shot at Buttars on Saturday. In her February 21st column, she compared Chris Buttars with the old-style George Wallace, and insisted that Buttars holds a "bone-deep, dehumanizing hatred" which is dangerous. Once again, she equivocates disagreement with hatred, like so many gay activists and their allies, thus giving credence to Buttars' charges that the gay activists are "mean buggers". In addition, she played the Matthew Shepard card, citing the 1994 equivalent case in Utah of Douglas Koehler. After a night of drinking, drugs and an attempted kiss, a Nevada cowboy tracked down the 31-year-old Koehler on a Park City street and shot him between the eyes. Judge David Young said Koehler contributed to the circumstances of his death and let his killer off with six years in prison. Of course, this is now 2009, and the punishment would be more severe, but Walsh doesn't tell you that.

The Tribune's Out Of Context political blog added a short piece, mainly to highlight the degree of public interest stirred up by this story. Media outlets were deluged with an unprecedented amount of public comments.

And finally, another Tribune story further explores the seeming "two sides" of Chris Buttars. A number of local notables in his district weighed in. "What distresses me is that it gives the entire community a bad name," said West Jordan City Councilwoman Melissa Johnson. "You can take the same opinion [against same-sex marriage] and express it in a way that doesn't offend someone. … He chose to make comments that were injurious to another group of people".

But many of Buttars' local constituents stand ready to defend him. "My inbox is overflowing with messages from people who support him", said West Jordan resident Julie Dole, who worked on Buttars' 2008 campaign. And in South Jordan, City Councilwoman Aleta Taylor praised Buttars as a "watchdog for the values of, what I believe, are the majority of the citizens of our state. I trust that what he said was probably accurate," she added, "if not very politically correct".

In addition, Buttars gained an unlikely ally, the American Civil Liberties Union, which he described in his explosive interview as having black hearts. "While we disagree vehemently with Senator Buttars' views, we strongly support the Constitution's free-speech protections," the ACLU of Utah said in a statement.

But the most useful counsel was proffered by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who said in an interview Saturday that it is time to move beyond the latest Buttars flap. "I think we've talked enough about Sen. Buttars," he said. "We need to get on to finishing the legislative session. We've only got a couple weeks left."

And I trust this will be my last post on Chris Buttars for a while, so long as nobody major dumps on him. There are other things happening in the Beehive State.

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