Dead bills on the Hill

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S.B. 126 Gestational Agreements Revisions

Senator Lyle Hillyard presented S.B. 126 to the committee on Feb. 7; the bill repeals legal protections for surrogacy participants. Hillyard says he’s rescinding the bill — he had sponsored in 2005 — because he promised lawmakers to keep the legislation within traditional marriages. “Gay marriage was not an issue when the law was passed,” Sen. Hillyard said.

Hillyard’s bill comes on the heels of a case currently before the Utah Supreme Court. The facts of the case stem from a Washington County judge denying a Southern Utah gay couple a surrogacy agreement in 2016. The couple is testing the requirement for ‘mothers’ to prove they are medically unable to bear a child. The couple’s lawyers argue that this discriminates against couples where neither member is female, which “violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the uniform operation of law clause in the Utah Constitution,” according to court papers.

Many surrogacy advocates attended the bill’s hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. All the speakers except Hillyard want the current legislation to remain, and many wanted to see it be amended to be more inclusive.

Abby Cox, who acted as a surrogate for her sister-in-law, told the committee, “Families have gone through more than we can imagine getting to the point of contemplating surrogacy. To not allow them that protection, to be able to have that going forward, I think would be a huge mistake.”

In a striking turn of events, Hillyard withdrew the bill on Friday, Feb. 9, which essentially means it is dead.

“Together, we were able to prevent Senator Hillyard’s harmful surrogacy bill from moving out of committee,” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. “Hillyard was the author of Utah’s original surrogacy statute. He confessed that he never imagined that it might one day be used to benefit same-sex couples. His bill would have repealed essential legal protections for both straight and gay parents. Thankfully, saner heads prevailed.”

“The committee room was packed to overflowing for emotionally moving testimony. Several parents with bouncy babies and beautiful family photos shared the joy that surrogates provided their families,” Williams reflected. “They discussed the importance of gestation agreements to protect the rights of both intended parents, surrogates and their children. It took incredible courage to share personal hardships in a public forum, and they inspired us all.”

S.B. 86 Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements

Bryan Schott, the managing editor at UtahPolicy.com, posted to the site Feb. 8:

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser says a bill to provide enhanced penalties for crimes that target people because of their sexual orientation or personal characteristics is dead for the 2018 session.

“It just doesn’t have enough support,” said Niederhauser when asked why SB86 has been sitting in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee since the opening day of the 2018 session.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, says his bill allows for enhancement of a criminal penalty for those already convicted of a crime if it can be proven that the perpetrator targeted the victim because of a laundry list of factors, including gender, ethnicity, disability, the victim’s ancestry or sexual orientation.

The bill was a long shot coming into the 2018 session. Thatcher pushed the same bill last year with no success as he was unable to get it out of the Senate Rules Committee. This year it went one step further, being assigned to a standing committee. However, UtahPolicy.com is told that the bill will not be put on an agenda for a hearing this year, meaning it’s as good as dead.

Thatcher was able to rally support for the bill from many cities and counties who expressed support for his legislation. Additionally, nearly every faith-based community in Utah signed on to back the bill, except for the LDS Church.

Thatcher acknowledges the prognosis for his bill is bleak, but he says he’ll keep pushing.

“It’s one thing to have your colleagues tell you they would give you their vote. It’s another to actually get the 16 votes you need to pass it out of the Senate,” he said. “I’ll keep pushing to get those votes. It’s a longshot, but we still have about a month left in the session.”

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