With the distractions of summer fun, only masochistic political junkies (like us) are paying attention to the current national and local political machinations. So, for the truly diehard, we review as few headlines relevant to Utahns.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially opposed the federal Equality Act, stating that in its failure to protect religious freedom it is “not balanced” and does not provide "fairness for all." The legislation adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under federal civil rights law. Democratic Congressman Ben McAdams was the only Utah delegation member to support the bill. Does this endanger McAdams’ reelection next year?
Pignanelli: "We will never have true civilization until we learn to recognize the rights of others.” — Will Rogers
Some things never change. Congress continues to excel at obliterating potential resolutions of contentious dilemmas.
The Equality Act is imperative legislation that benefits the entire nation. But legitimate concerns from religious organizations require a deliberative and inclusive process to ensure greater acceptance. (Utah accomplished this in 2015 when passing antidiscrimination amendments.) Instead, Congress weaponized the issue. Democrat leadership arrogantly rushed the bill through the House, thereby guaranteeing no consideration in the Senate. GOP activists pounced, targeting McAdams (a devout member of the church) while claiming supporters were antagonistic to faith.
Republican members of our delegation expressed a desire to accomplish protection for LGBT Americans but were frustrated with the process surrounding the federal legislation. They clearly understand many Utahns do not want the local LGBT community to suffer discrimination. This indicates campaign attacks against McAdams are problematic to message. Further, he will artfully explain to constituents the need for the bill, his concern how it passed and suggestions for improvements. This matter evolves into a nonissue for McAdams.
Another wonderful consistency in Washington again proves the “Utah way” of merging constitutional protections is superior.
Webb: This issue illustrates the tightrope McAdams must walk as he tries to keep conservative voters at home happy while voting on leftist legislation promoted by his party leaders in Washington. He has been a champion of LGBT rights his entire political career, so it’s not a surprise he would vote for the Equality Act.
But with this vote he has handed his opponents a great big club to attack him with.
The church was clear and firm in its opposition to the bill McAdams supported, stating: “While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties.” It called the act “unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict.”
McAdams will face criticism that he voted to force women athletes to compete against men who identify as women, and to allow males who identify as females to enter women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Even some liberal feminists oppose the Equality Act because they believe it will dilute hard-fought progress for women, such as Title IX, which ensures that women have the same opportunities as men in sports.
While McAdams has been careful to qualify his support for the Equality Act and profess his support for religious freedom, the fact is he voted for the bill and was even a co-sponsor of it. He’s going to hear a lot more about the Equality Act in the upcoming election.
In the 2018 election, Utah skyrocketed from 45th to 13th in voter participation, and Democrats won a few key victories. Further, more Utahns are describing themselves as unaffiliated or independent. Some politicos claim that Utah is transitioning to a "purple” state. Is this really true?
Pignanelli: Utah is always "right of center" — even when governed by Democrats. This continues. However, the political realignment occurring nationwide is creating opportunities for candidates of either party. Aspiring politicians who articulate policies that truly concern Utahns, while distancing themselves from the fantasies of high-profile national politicos, can attract votes. Further, traditional electioneering (i.e. television, social wedge issues, etc.) are declining in effectiveness. Over time, various flavors of Republicans and Democrats (and Independents) who understand these dynamics, will be elected.
Webb: Utah remains a heavily Republican state and is in little danger of turning red or even purple. With new party leadership and more unity, the Utah GOP will be more effective in candidate recruitment and campaign support.
Still, much depends on the quality of candidates. In a swing district, or even in a Republican-leaning district, a terrific Democratic candidate will beat a lackluster Republican.
The Utah Supreme Court officially reprimanded a municipal court judge with a six-month suspension without pay, for making disparaging comments about President Donald Trump. Is this an overreaction?
Pignanelli: The court made a terrible mistake — the judge should have been removed permanently. Our democracy depends on the fundamental bulwark of a judiciary free from political subjectivity. This judge, through social media, also labeled Trump a fascist and implied Republicans were Nazis. Judges have First Amendment rights of speech, but wearing the robes constrains how expressed.
Webb: Utah’s Supreme Court is highly circumspect, cautious and erudite. The comments made by the municipal court judge were clearly out of line and the reprimand was justified.