The U.S. House toasted Utah on Wednesday, so to speak, for being the deciding state to repeal Prohibition 75 years ago and allow resumption of legal alcohol sales nationally.
The House passed by voice vote a resolution sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., to mark the upcoming 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, and "celebrate 75 years of effective state-based alcohol regulation."
The resolution noted that "on Dec. 3, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to approve what became the 21st Amendment to the Constitution" to repeal Prohibition created by the 18th Amendment in 1919.
Utah put the amendment over the top even though Heber J. Grant, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had urged church members not to support repeal, noting for example that highway deaths had decreased greatly during Prohibition.
Despite the official stance of the church, many prominent Utahns argued that repeal was inevitable and a better alternative than the gangsterism, bootlegging, bathtub gin production, speak-easies and other illegal activities that mushroomed under the ban.
The state held a special election on Nov. 7, 1933, to gauge Utah sentiment and set up a ratification process. In it, 99,943 votes were cast for repeal and 62,437 against.
At 3:33 p.m. on Dec. 5, 1933, the 21 members of Utah's Constitutional Convention unanimously endorsed the 21st Amendment setting off what newspapers of the time described as drinking celebrations nationwide.
Coble said the 21st Amendment "permitted each state to adopt laws that reflect the views of its citizens." He said that created a safe and reliable marketplace for alcohol that should be celebrated.
"The benefits may vary by community to community, and while there are sound reasons that alcohol should be regulated, it is clear to me that we should recognize and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition," Coble said.
But Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told a mostly empty House chamber that he had concerns about the resolution and didn't think it was much cause for celebration."When Congress can attest that alcohol is no longer easily accessible to teens, that alcohol no longer contributes to 13,000 (car) accident deaths each year and that alcohol no longer devastates families and individuals, then a resolution celebrating the 'successful distribution' of alcohol might be in order," he said.