On the heels of Salt Lake City's passing of gay-rights ordinances, a state senator said he may consider trying to stop local governments from going any further.
"I've accepted they should be able to have those rights. Period. But if there are unintended consequences, we ought to address those," Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, told the Deseret News Wednesday.
Buttars, a longtime opponent of gay rights, said he will not sponsor legislation to extend the city's housing and employment protections for gay and lesbian residents to all Utahns even though he agrees with the Mormon Church's support for the ordinances.
But Buttars said he isn't sure how to prevent local governments from going beyond those protections.
"There's a lot of questions. I'm not jumping to conclusions. I'm going to stand still and let the dust settle," he said. "I haven't changed my mind about anything, but I do believe people have fundamental human rights. All people do, and that includes the gays. But you've got to do it in a way that doesn't give all those unintended consequences."
Citing his opposition to what he termed "legislative creep," Buttars said he "doesn't want other governments going in a different direction" and extending additional rights to gay residents. That may mean sponsoring legislation putting a halt to additional measures at the local level.
"I accept the verbiage of the church. On housing and on employment, you shouldn't have to worry about your sexual choice. Done. Stop," Buttars said.
In an earlier interview, Buttars predicted legislation providing the same protections for all gay Utahns would easily pass the 2010 Legislature. "Given the church's support of those two pieces, it's a given."
Gay and lesbian advocates are waiting to see what happens next session.
"One of the things that members of the community have been concerned about is a pre-emptive strike by the state Legislature to invalidate Salt Lake City's recently passed ordinances," said James Humphreys, vice president of Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates for gay rights.
"In our view, this is potentially just as difficult as what the state complains about the federal government doing," he said. "The almighty state is going to come in and lay down the law and no one else is allowed to do anything that would be more uniquely suited for their community."
Will Carlson, public policy manager for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered advocacy group Equality Utah, said local governments are already limited in what protections they can provide.
"Access to health care for employees and discrimination like Salt Lake City has addressed," he said. "Beyond that, most of the issues need to be addressed at the state level anyway."
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints surprised many by coming out in support of Salt Lake City's ordinances at a council meeting last week. The pair of ordinances were approved unanimously and signed by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker on Tuesday.
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