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2010 Utah State Legislature Session Wrapup

While 13 bills which would have affected gay Utahns failed at the Utah Legislature adjournment deadline on March 11, six bills which some say would help gay citizens passed. The six bills are awaiting the signature of state Gov. Gary R. Herbert.

The measures which passed include a bill and two resolutions which oppose any federal health-insurance reform which might be adopted. Gay political leaders, including Washington-based GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, have said that the reform would especially harm citizens who are gay or lesbian by prohibiting under the federal Defense of Marriage Act the extension of domestic-partner health-insurance benefits in the states, counties and cities that already offer such benefits.

The passed bills include also three resolutions which reaffirm the protections of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America. While each state may enjoy the amendment provisions differently, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed the pending federal lawsuit Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 1:2009cv11156 (D. Mass. July 8, 2009) which argues that the commonwealth’s authority to marry same-sex couples is protected by the amendment and that the couples are therefore eligible to receive federal benefits despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

One passed bill, H.B. 74 — Adoption and Child Custody Amendments (Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful), had included provisions that a court may grant custody or visitation rights to an individual unrelated to a child under certain conditions. But Allen amended the bill on Feb. 8 to delete the provisions.

One failed bill, H.B. 432 — Hate Crime Amendments (Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem), would have provided that an offense committed on state public property may not be transferred to the federal government for prosecution under the federal hate-crime law that is known as the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” But, Sandstrom told QSaltLake on Feb. 26 that he was no longer pursuing the bill and that it was a states’ rights issue and “was in no way an attempt to eliminate hate crime statutes or to change them.”

Another failed bill, S.B. 155 — Enhanced Penalties for HIV Positive Offender Amendments (Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton), would have eased requirements to enhance penalties against certain sex offenders who are HIV-positive. It also provided that an individual who is under prosecution for a sex offense and tests positive for HIV infection shall be notified of the infection in person only by a worker or authorized representative of certain state- or local-government agencies including law-enforcement agencies, whereas the current law requires the notification to include a worker of the state or local health department. The bill would have also required the “signature of the HIV positive individual, indicating receipt of the notice” during the prosecution of related offenses which some said would violate the 5th Amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America.

Other failed bills would have affected discrimination, health and insurance, marriage and family, and military service.

CRIME

H.B. 432 — Hate Crime Amendments (Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem) FAILED
This bill would have forbidden transferring the prosecution of hate crimes to the federal government if the crime was committed on state property.

DISCRIMINATION

H.B. 128Antidiscrimination Study Related to Employment and Housing (Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Holladay) FAILED
This bill would have created a legislative interim committee to study public policy related to discrimination in employment and housing, and publish a written report.

H.B. 305Antidiscrimination Amendments (Rep. Christine Johnson, R-Holladay) FAILED
This bill would have prohibited discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

HEALTH AND INSURANCE

H.B. 67 SubstituteHealth System Amendments (Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman) PASSED
This bill opts Utah out of federal health-care reform The federal reform could harm gays and lesbians by prohibiting the extension of domestic-partner health-insurance benefits in the counties and cities that already offer such benefits.

H.B. 127 SubstituteReproductive Health Education Amendments (Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City) FAILED
The bill on teaching contraception in schools would have helped students learn about preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

H.B. 177Public Employees’ Health Care (Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City) FAILED
This bill would have allowed state-government employees to name an “adult designee” for health-insurance purposes.

S.B. 54 Health Education Amendments (Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George) FAILED
The bill on teaching contraception in schools would have helped students learn about preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

S.B. 155 Enhanced Penalties for HIV Positive Offender Amendments (Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton) FAILED
This bill would ease prosecution requirements to enhance penalties for certain sexual offenses if a person is HIV-positive. It also allowed for test results to be delivered by only a police officer, against federal HIV testing guidelines and forced a person with a positive test result to sign a form acknowledging the result, which would be kept by law enforcement officials who are not bound by federal confidentiality requirements.

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY

H.B. 74 Adoption and Child Custody Amendments (Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful) PASSED
The amendments of Feb. 8 to this bill deleted provisions that an individual who is unrelated to a child may qualify for a court grant of custody of or visitation with the child under certain conditions.

H.B. 296 Substitute Choice of Law in Utah Courts (Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman) FAILED
Bill would have held Utah and federal law above any foreign law in Utah courts, specifically noting marriage in its text.

H.B. 300 — Adoption Revisions (Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City) FAILED
Would have allowed cohabiting couples to adopt if one is the biological parent.

H.C.R. 2 Substitute — Concurrent Resolution on States’ Rights (Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights) PASSED
H.R. 2 — Resolution Regarding the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan) FAILED
S.C.R. 3 — State Sovereignty Concurrent Resolution (Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton) PASSED
S.J.R. 4 — State Sovereignty Joint Resolution (Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City) FAILED
S.J.R. 6 — Joint Resolution – State Sovereignty and Tenth Amendment (Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper) PASSED
These bills would assert the rights of a state to determine its public policy. In Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the commonwealth argues its authority to marry same-sex couples is protected by the 10th Amendment and that the couples are therefore eligible to receive federal benefits despite the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

S.B. 146 — Wrongful Death Amendments (Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City) FAILED
This bill would have allowed an individual to may name a person to be his or her “wrongful-death designee” for inheritance purposes.

MILITARY SERVICE

H.J.R. 4 — Joint Resolution Urging an End to the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy (Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Holladay) FAILED
This resolution would have declared that gay and lesbian Americans should be able to choose to serve as members of the U.S. military.

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