A local group calling itself Patriots for a Moral Utah held a press conference today calling on Lt. Gov. Greg Bell to submit what it calls the “Fair Solution Initiative” to referendum vote this November.
Later, the group behind the press conference was revealed as a hoax perpetrated by a few local activists.
According to the bill’s text, published this morning on the group’s Facebook page, the initiative seeks to change state law to provide for “the involuntary redistribution and relocation of homosexuals to municipalities outside state boundaries or, to their rehabilitation in state sanctioned facilities.”
To do this, the bill would create an office of relocation and rehabilitation, a volunteer board of Utah residents to assist with the process, and public transportation options for homosexuals who will willingly leave the state. It also outlines guidelines to prosecute “delinquent homosexuals” or those who harbor them.
The bill’s statement of intent says that the bill is necessary to “heal the divides in this state currently afflicted on us by the homosexual population and give them the compassionate choice to either leave the state or conform to the moral standards of society and uphold the values of family and traditional marriage.”
The bill justifies itself by citing the passage of Amendment 3 in 2004 by a majority of Utah voters. This amendment changed Utah’s constitution to illegalize same-sex marriage, a practice which state law already prohibited.
“Since that time, the homosexual community in Utah has continued to grow and exhibit offensive behavior while relentlessly bombarding our children with carefully placed messages in the media,” the bill continued. “This statute, if enacted, would offer a final solution to afford our children protection from the expanding influence of homosexuals and strengthen our cultural mores at a time when society’s moral anchors are being displaced with reckless abandon.”
It also cites efforts against California’s Proposition 8 in which it accused gay and lesbian Americans of “[seeking] to denigrate and disparage religious communities and others who support the natural family.”
“They have attacked our sacred institutions and any attempts to reconcile with the deviants are followed by thuggish and brutish behavior including vandalism, defamation, trespassing and violence,” the bill reads. “Even now, the homosexuals are mounting a federal lawsuit that attempts to override state’s [sic] rights regarding traditional marriage.”
The bill defines rehabilitation programs as those that the board of Utah volunteers would deem qualified in “assist[ing] homosexuals in reasserting their moral heterosexual nature and transition out of a gay identity and lifestyle.” It would also give members of the board the right to subpoena gays and lesbians, mandate that gays and lesbians disclose their sexual orientation to law enforcement officers, and force testimony from witnesses to an individual’s sexual practices if an individual invokes his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Additionally, protests against the law would be made illegal.
“Any person, association, or corporation engaging in boycotts, picketing, protests, rallies, or other conduct, a purpose of which is to denounce or violate, or encourage others to denounce or violate any provision of this chapter, shall be guilty of illegal conduct contrary to public policy,” the bill reads.
Patriots for a Moral Utah held a press conference to announce the initiative today at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. A prominent member of the group is Paul Jackson, whose Facebook page describes him as a 1992 graduate of Provo High School, a supporter of “traditional marriage” and a Tea Party enthusiast. Currently, he is the sole member of the Patriots for a Moral Utah’s Facebook page. There is no organization registered with the state under the name.
Before the press conference was held, some wondered if the initiative and the group behind it was a joke.
“Bogus Facebook profile and a bogus group. Even the founder’s information doesn’t pass a basic fact check and the photo is stockphotography [sic],” said commenter “Wrench” on a City Weekly blog post about the bill. The post’s author, journalist Jesse Fruhwirth also wrote that he “[didn’t know] how seriously to take [the bill.]”
Others, however, thought the bill was serious.
“[I]t’s the most stupid idea I have ever heard besides Hitler’s blonde haired/blue eyes obsession. This group is Hitler 2.0,” wrote commenter “Camille.”
Further, the press conference did not reveal whether Patriots for a Moral Utah was real or a joke on the news media. Jackson was present in the rotunda along with the group’s president Nora Young, who described herself as a “professional homemaker living in Murray.” In her remarks, Young blasted Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, for being a surrogate mother to a gay male couple and accused local gays of violent behavior.
“We come together in love to denounce lifestyle choices that are inconsistent with the spiritual values of this great state,” said Young. “When we look out the eyes of love we see very clearly that our freedoms are being forcibly taken from us. Our religious liberty is being threatened. Many in this state call ‘good’ ‘evil’ and ‘evil’ ‘good.’ Many would all ‘love’ ‘hate’ and ‘hate’ ‘love.’ But it is in love that we stand for freedom and the Constitution.”
Young gave a number of ambiguous statements to the media, many of which could be taken as farcical. For example, when Young was asked by one reporter about her thoughts on the Utah media’s coverage of gay issues, she said: “They seem to cover a lot of gay issues. We hear them talk about gay issues quite a lot. I don’t hate gays. I have a cousin who’s gay. My hairdresser is gay. But I love this country more than I love my hairdresser.”
“We must not allow the federal government to tell us who we can love and can’t love. It is not the job of the federal government to mandate that we can’t love morality,” she also said. Later, she noted that Utah’s gay and lesbian population “[would] all be happier” in “homosexual havens” such as San Francisco and New York City.
The Lieutenant Governor’s office said that it had not seen the bill or heard anything about the group sponsoring it.
“We have not received any paperwork that’s anything like that, nor have we communicated with any groups like this,” said Mark Thomas, Office Administrator for the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
A few hours after the press conference, Fruhwirth posted to City Weekly‘s news blog saying that he recognized two members of Patriots for a Moral Utah as local activists Ashley Anderson and Dillon Hase, both of whom he said were members of Peaceful Uprising, a local nonviolent progressive group which is seeking to raise awareness about environmental damage and climate change. Jackson, said Fruwirth, was actually Hase dressed in a suit with his hair slicked back.
Shortly after the post went live, Hase commented on the blog, confirming that he and Anderson were behind the hoax, and that the bogus bill and press conference were not Peaceful Uprising actions, but his and Anderson’s idea.
“[T]he fact is that there are people who do feel and act in the way that we were portraying,” Hase wrote. “This was satire. It was meant to be ironic. Anyone who was paying close attention would eventually get it. It is a sad fact that we live in a state that something as blatantly prejudice and unconstitutional as this ‘initiative’ would, even for a moment, be considered as truth.”
“My apologies to anyone who was offended by this. Know that we had only the best of intentions,” he concluded.
The story and the fake bill were reposted on several Facebook accounts belonging to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns, many of whom believed it to be real. Several were angry when the hoax was revealed.
Johnson posted that she did not “find amusement in intentional deceit of the LGBT community BY the LGBT community.”
Others, however, saw some good in the hoax.
“I have since learned that this was a hoax, and yes I was fooled for quite a while due to how elaborate it was and how, unfortunately, believable something like this is in Utah,” wrote activist Jacob Whipple. “I do hope, however, that it is a good wake up call for our legislators and Utahns in general.”
‘[I]f this is political theatre.. [sic] AWESOME hahahahahaha,” wrote activist Eric Ethington on his blog, PRIDE in Utah. “Utah has been rampant with ugly and pointless message bills this session and it’s about time someone stood up and made a farce of it.”
The complete text of the bill is available at tinyurl.com/y8b4qpo.