Gov. Signs Gay-Friendly Bills into Law

Gov. John Huntsman has signed three bills into law that local gay rights group Equality Utah supported in the 2008 General Legislative Session.

On March 17, the governor inked HB 23, Child and Family Protections. This bill, sponsored by Orem attorney Lori Fowlke, R-Provo, makes child abandonment a felony and also holds guilty those who coerce parents into kicking out their children, such as leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the past session Fowlke said the bill was aimed solely at the FLDS church and its “Lost Boys” (the name the press has given to the teen boys who are exiled from the FLDS community). However, Equality Utah has said that the bill was written broadly enough to protect all abandoned children, including those kicked out of their homes for being gay or transgender.

On the same day, the governor also signed HB 15, Control and Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases by Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake City, and SHB 327, Bullying and Hazing, by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City.

Riesen’s controversial bill sought to appropriate $350,000 to steep up efforts to education and prevention efforts for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of Utah’s fastest growing sexually transmitted diseases. Legislators amended several times before it passed both houses. The version the governor signed asked for only $175,000 and forbade such material from being distributed in public schools.

Legislators also amended Moss’ bill before it passed, citing concerns that its definition of bullying was too broad and the minimum, uniform anti-bullying policies it asked school districts to write gave the state too much control over individual schools. Before it passed, language was also removed that encouraged parents and students who witness bullying to file a report with school officials. Equality Utah wrote the bill’s first draft.

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