Gay Utah lawmaker talks unfinished business

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Rep. Brian Doughty, D-Salt Lake City, is Utah’s only openly gay lawmaker currently serving on Capitol Hill. He was selected by representatives in his district to replace Utah’s first openly gay legislator, Jackie Biskupski, who resigned last summer. However, the district he represented was combined with a neighboring area. Rep. David Litvack stepped down and Doughty is now facing an intraparty challenge from Angela Romero for the Democratic nomination. QSaltLake asked Doughty how his first session went and what he hopes to accomplish if elected in November to represent House District 26.

How was your first session? Was it what you thought it would be?

My first session was fun and frustrating at the same time.  It’s great to be part of the process and represent my constituents and the LGBT community.  At the same time it’s frustrating to watch good legislation that has solid public support rejected.  The session was, as I had expected, fast paced and furious at times.

 What were the biggest challenges you faced?

One of the challenges I faced was time.  Making sure your legislation is ready to go and getting it to a committee hearing early is the best way for success.  Even though I had two of my bills ready to go on the first day of the session, getting them to a committee hearing seemed to be my biggest challenge. 

 Why did you decide to run again?

I feel I can be an effective voice for the constituents of House District 26.  During my first session I was able to reach across the aisle and build some relationships and friendships with several Republican legislators.  Any progressive legislation that is passed will require Democrat and Republican votes.  I also feel it is important to have an elected representative or senator from the LGBT community that can speak from personal experience when those issues come up for debate.  Discussing family life and attending legislative functions with spouses and partners helps some representatives and senators realize we are just like many Utah families.  Having an elected LGBT person brings a perspective that our straight allies can’t bring to the debate.

What bills and issues are you going to push next session?

If given the opportunity to serve my district, I would like to continue to pursue the legislation I began this past session: Give state employees the ability to insure an adult designee if they are not using the benefit for a spouse; remove the requirement that county clerks put a straight party ticket vote on the election ballots; and create a task force to examine after-school programs and how they can help to close the achievement gap in our Hispanic and white students in public education.

Your adult designee benefits for state employees bill received a hearing. Did you consider that a success?

HB64 was given a hearing on the last day the committee met and was the last bill on the agenda.  Having the bill heard in committee was a success in my eyes.  I had to convince the committee chair to put it on the agenda.  While I knew it was a long shot this year I wanted to have the discussion.  Legislation such as HB64 generally takes a few years to get through the process.  This past year gave me the ability to hear concerns from the committee chair, the committee and PEHP.  Going forward I can either adjust the legislation or find facts to alleviate their concerns.

 What issues do you think will be the biggest overall next session?

It’s hard to say what issues will come forward this far in advance.  Many contentious issues are not known until the bill is released mid-session.  HB116 (Immigration Guest Worker Program) will be coming online in 2013, so there could be attempts to revoke this legislation or amend the legislation.  I hope that whatever issues come up for 2013, they will address the real issues facing Utahns and not be wasteful of time and energy on message bills.

Do you think next year might be the year for a statewide nondiscrimination bill?

It could be.  I feel it depends on the manner in which it is presented.  I think the nondiscrimination legislation needs to begin in the House next year.  It’s important that it be presented to a committee that will be willing to hear the debate and make a decision on the facts.  I had discussions with several moderate house Republicans this past session and I think many are willing to vote in favor of nondiscrimination.

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