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Utah ranks poorly on a list of reproductive, gay right

Published: Thursday, June 1 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Utah ranks poorly, 43rd out of 50, in a list compiled by reproductive rights groups comparing state laws affecting abortions, gay rights and contraception availability.

Ipas, a reproductive rights advocacy group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, unveiled the "Mapping Our Rights" Web site Wednesday, as a tool for people to look at the differences among the states when it comes to 25 different laws from abortion bans to outlawing gay marriages.

Utah earned slot 43 by its tally of "penalty" points assigned by the groups to laws they feel limit an individual's right to choose who to marry, when to have children or access to certain types of health care. The higher number of points the worse the ranking.

While the ranking was lamented by gay rights advocates, it was hailed by those opposed to gay rights and abortion.

Utah received points for state laws mandating counseling before abortion, a waiting period before an abortion and parental involvement in minors' abortions as well as a lack of hate-crime laws for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, a ban on gay marriages, and an abstinence-only education policy in school, among other items.

The Legislature this year passed a hate-crimes law that creates a sentencing consideration for crimes considered a danger to a community at large, regardless of the victim's sexual orientation, race or other factors.

The lower-ranked states provided the least amount of freedom, according to the groups.

"No American should have to shop around for rights in states," said Jason Cianciotto, research director at National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

But Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Eagle Forum, an anti-abortion group in Utah, said of the state's low ranking, "Good for us."

"I am certainly disappointed that we didn't make 50," she said.

Ruzicka said she thinks most Americans support protecting unborn children and would support Utah's laws.

She was not surprised to see a link drawn between reproductive rights and gay rights saying it is the "same liberal people" who "support gay rights that also support the killing of unborn children."

"It is interesting to see them admit it," Ruzicka said. "Those people are going to be in agreement."

The groups behind the rankings said reproductive and gay community rights are "intrinsically linked" because the state laws they studied "restrict individuals' control over their own bodies, including the ability to have same-sex intimate relationships or safeguard their sexual health."

Jane Marquardt, the board chair of Equality Utah, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality group, said it is a "legitimate link" because all the laws deal with 'freedom of choice issues.

Marquardt said while Utah is viewed as a "very Republican state" things are changing for the better. She said as an openly gay person she has seen things change over the last 25 years in the state and believes as more gay people are willing to be open perceptions and myths will decline.

"Coming out of the closet remains to be a very important thing for people to do," she said.

She said two decades ago, talking about domestic-partner benefits would not even have been an option but now Salt Lake City passed a law allowing for city employees to enroll for such benefits. She said there are two gay members of the Legislature.

"I think the whole country will change," she said.

The map can be found online at www.mappingourrights.org.


E-mail: suzanne@desnews.com

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