Sen. Chris Buttars believes gays and lesbians are "the greatest threat to America going down," comparing members of the LGBT community to radical Muslims.
"I believe they will destroy the foundation of the American society," the West Jordan Republican said in a recent interview with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan. "In my mind, it's the beginning of the end. … Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."
Audio from the hourlong interview aired on ABC Ch. 4 Tuesday night and video of Buttars discussing the "underbelly" of the gay community made its way onto YouTube for a brief time Wednesday.
Buttars' comments prompted concern among Republicans and Democrats alike, and had some gay-rights activists calling for the senator's resignation Wednesday.
"It's extremely offensive and inappropriate, especially for an elected official," said gay-rights activist Jacob Whipple. "It should not be tolerated."
Gay and lesbian lawmakers said they were disappointed — but not shocked — by the remarks. The NAACP called for Buttars' resignation last year for comments he made about a controversial bill. "This baby is black, I'll tell you," he said. "This is a dark and ugly thing."
"An apology is not going to do it at this point," said Sen. Scott McCoy, the only openly gay member of the Senate. "I'm not sure I'd find an apology sincere anyway."
McCoy said several GOP senators had made a point of apologizing for Buttars' comments.
"They're very hurtful statements," added Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake. "I trust (Senate) President (Michael) Waddoups and the Senate leadership to address it."
Asked if he expected any repercussions for his recent statements, Buttars said, "I've been under repercussions my whole life."
Senate Majority Whip Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, however, said he wasn't sure leadership would respond.
"He's got a right to speak his mind and that's what he did," Jenkins said. "I'm not saying we're all happy about it."
As for the effect Buttars' latest flap may have on how the Senate is viewed, Jenkins said the GOP majority is "concerned, not afraid. There's no question we're concerned about that. We're trying very hard to keep things from getting to a fever pitch here."
For his part, Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, told the Deseret News he spoke to Buttars about his remarks Wednesday.
"It caught me totally unawares and I just asked him to explain it," Waddoups said.
Buttars reportedly told colleagues he was quoted out of context and said he had been promised a chance to review the documentary before it was released. Waddoups told Buttars "to stand up for his issues when it is appropriate and when it's not, don't get trapped into something else."
"I know he feels very strongly about issues, the Utah family," Waddoups said. "Issues that are moral for him are things he should stand up for and represent his people. That's why they elected him. He's doing his job."
Buttars' remarks also caught some heat from the governor's office Wednesday.
"These views are hardly representative of the fair-minded people of Utah," said Lisa Roskelley, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. "This is exactly why we need to find the common ground where we can be respectful of everyone."
During the interview, Buttars addressed issues of morality when it comes to gay-rights legislation.
"I believe the whole thing is immoral," Buttars said. "What is the morals of a gay person? You can't answer that, because anything goes. So now you're moving toward a society that has no morals."
Buttars called homosexuality "a perversion" and took credit for killing every gay-rights bill that has come before the Senate over the last eight years.
"They don't want equality," he said. "They want superiority."
In a statement posted on the Senate's blog Wednesday afternoon, Buttars said simply he was "disappointed" with the documentary filmmaker and would continue to support "traditional marriage."
"I believe traditional marriage is the foundation of our civilization and I'll continue to support public policy that strengthens traditional marriage," Buttars wrote. "I will also continue to oppose policy that undermines that foundation."
Cowan said he made no promise to let Buttars screen the interview before the film's release. The former Salt Lake newsman said claims the interview was taken out of context were "diversionary."
"The tape speaks for itself," he said.
At an interfaith service in the Capitol Wednesday, Equality Utah leaders and gay-rights activists said there was no place for retaliation against Buttars.
"We still love him, even if he hates us," Joe Baker-Gorringe said.
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