Minority leaders, political scientists and a state legislator sponsoring an Official English bill joined in a Salt Lake forum Wednesday to debate English as an official language in Utah and throughout the nation.
Rep. Haynes R. Fuller came to the forum to explain his one-line bill "to recognize English as the official language of Utah" and defend it against pleas by Utah minority leaders to withdraw it from consideration. The bill was introduced on the House floor Thursday.Fuller said he would go forward with the bill, which he said was not intended to be discriminatory or designed to legislate English as the only language to be used on official documents in the state.
"I don't want to take taco and amigo out of the dictionary," he told an audience of 50 at the forum, held at Salt Lake Community High School.
Martha Jimenez, Washington, D.C., attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, lashed out at an emerging English Only trend in the country, recently seen in passage of English Only referendums in Arizona, Colorado and Florida.
English Only laws in 16 states amount to "legal discrimination on the basis of language," Jimenez said, describing examples such as the suspension of a Florida employee who asked "Donde esta' George," or "where is George," in Spanish.
But William Christoffersen, Utah lobbyist for the American Legion, said the proliferation of immigrants - some illegal and others here via recent amnesty laws - have little incentive to learn English and join mainstream society.
"The majority rules, and that's what it's all about," he said.
A similar measure was defeated last year.