Inside the Little America Hotel Saturday night, a thousand or more Republicans and their guests mingled in black-tie-party fashion. A pianist played jazz in the lobby as waitresses in strapless dresses carried cocktails on silver platters.
The occasion? The annual Governor's Ball.Outside the hotel, the scene was just as festive but a bit more raucous. Dressed primarily in bluejeans and parkas, about 150 people waved signs and held banners, protesting the state's recently passed abortion law.
Chanting, "Not the church. Not the state. We alone decide our fate" and other battle cries, the protesters' message was simple and straightforward: Gov. Norm Bangerter and the Utah Legislature should repeal the law, which allows abortion only in instances of rape and incest, when the woman's life is in danger or if a fetus is gravely deformed.
Protesters, whose signs said things like "Hanger Norm," "Liberty 1 Bangerter 0" and "Queers for Choice," waved their messages at Governor's Ball guests, roaring their approval when some partygoers indicated they supported the protesters' views. One protester, apparently an animal rights activist, seized the occasion to express his views on furs. "Hey, nice coat!" he said derisively to several women adorned in mink and fox.
The anti-abortion law protest was organized by the Utah Pro-Choice Coalition, which is comprised mainly of the Utah chapters of the National Women's Organization (NOW), the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.
"We're not sad we weren't invited (to the ball)," said Janece Vauk, action coordinator for Utah NOW. "But we want (Bangerter) to know what issues he should be talking about."
Vauk said she hopes the governor will put the abortion bill on the agenda of this Wednesday's special legislative session so that lawmakers can repeal it. If the law is not repealed, promised national NOW President Molly Yard, "This is going to drive a lot of people not to ski in Utah."
Contacted inside the hotel, Bangerter was in far too jolly a mood to discuss abortion, offering only, "We hope they (the protesters) are having as much fun out there as we are."