HB 160, the final bill in Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative died today in the House Judiciary Committee. None of the four bills, all targeted at getting more rights for Utah’s gay and transgender citizens, will make it onto the Senate or House floors for debate.
Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, HB 160 sought to allow two unmarried adults living together — whether a gay or straight romantic couple or two unmarried adults with commingled assets — to apply for an Adult Joint Support Declaration that would give them inheritance rights and the right to make medical decisions for a partner if she or he is incapacitated.
In her opening remarks, Seelig mentioned that the bill was not just for gay couples, but for a number of other individuals, particularly those who need more protection in the current chilly economic climate.
“People are needing each other more and more to survive, to stay in their homes,” she said.
As in the case of all other Equality Utah bills heard this session on Capitol Hill, HB 160 received extensive public testimony both in favor of and against its passage. Those who testified for it included Equality Utah’s Manager of Public Policy Will Carlson and out lesbian Kim Hackford-Peer (partner of QSaltLake columnist Ruth Hackford-Peer). Stan Rassmussen of conservative and self-described pro-family think tank the Sutherland Institute, former Rep. LaVar Christensen and Sandra Rodrigues of America Forever, the anti-gay organization behind a controversial advertisement against the Common Ground Initiative in last Sunday’s edition of the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News, testified against the bill.
Rodrigues cautioned committee members that passing HB 160 would encourage children to embrace homosexuality, and thus eventually “vote down Amendment 3,” the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Utah.
“If you pass this bill, you endorse homosexuality, and children will understand they can do this [be gay] when they grow,” she said.
The bill failed to go to the House floor for debate on a vote of 4-7, with Rep. Mark Wheatly, Rep. Brian King and openly lesbian Reps. Jackie biskupski and Christine Johnson voting in its favor.