Saturday, February 21, 2009

Senator Buttars Removed From His Committee Chair

Should Chris Buttars have been forced out of his judicial committee chair for his negative gay comments? Or was this a violation of his first amendment right to free speech?

Utah State Senator Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, told former local television reporter Reed Cowan, an openly gay documentary producer, that gay activists are "probably the greatest threat to America going down."

The comments drew calls for Buttars' resignation in Utah and elsewhere. The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, said that by Friday more than 15,000 e-mails had been sent to Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, demanding that he condemn Buttars' remarks.

Waddoups did not condemn Buttars' statements and said he kicked Buttars off the committee primarily as a way to draw attention away from him. In a brief news conference Friday, Waddoups declined to say what comments — if any — Buttars made that he and other Republicans disagreed with.

"We think he's a senator that represents the point of view of many of his constituents, of many of ours," Waddoups said. "We agree with many of the things he said. We may disagree with some of them, we may disagree with some of the ways he said it."

Senator Buttars has said that he will not issue an apology and in a statement released on his blog, Buttars wrote that he will continue to defend traditional marriage. "I disagree with my removal as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, since my work there is entirely unrelated to my opposition to the homosexual agenda," Buttars wrote. "Still, I'm a grown man and I can take my knocks. When it comes right down to it, I would rather be censured for doing what I think is right, than be honored by my colleagues for bowing to the pressure of a special interest group that has been allowed to act with impunity."

As chairman of the committee, Buttars frequently took pride in killing legislation that would have extended some legal rights to gay couples. He has long complained that gay people lack morals and are trying to indoctrinate others into a gay lifestyle. "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 told Cowan in the January interview, which was about the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage in California and the involvement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In comparing gay activists to Islamic radicals, Buttars said, "Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it's been taken over by the radical side. And the gays are totally taken over by the radical side."

While Buttar's comments are no doubt controversial, is he restricted in saying what he believes to be true just because he is a politician?