Amy Roberts: When voters speak, who listens?
A few years ago, in what I can only assume was an altered state of consciousness, I agreed to let my then-boyfriend move in with me. I distinctly remember feeling like my intestines were tying themselves in knots as I watched him unpack boxes of his bachelor-pad belongings — nothing he owned complemented my interior design choices. “That will look great in the closet,” I offered more than once. His décor preferences were Goodwill circa 1992.
It bothered him immensely that we were cohabitating, yet everything on display was mine. “Because it’s my house,” was the easy retort. But in an attempt to compromise and alleviate his feelings of decorating inadequacy, I offered a solution. The living room needed a fresh coat of paint, I would let him choose the color, within my pre-approved palette, which included eggplant, expressive plum, bruised grape, or mulberry wine. Essentially, his selection was limited to the various shades of deep purple I found acceptable.
No doubt I was playing a mind game. But I had presented the situation in a way that made him feel like he had some control. Which is pretty much what happened at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake conference in South Jordan last month. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, two days before the November election, stake president and chief lobbyist for the LDS Church Marty Stephens was recorded telling his congregation, “Follow the prophet.”
This was in reference to Proposition 2, the initiative to legalize the sale and use of medical marijuana, which the church strongly opposed. Stephens went on to say, “He counsels, then we have our agency to choose.”
Which is a lot like saying, “Here are four variations of dark purple I’ve pre-approved. The choice is completely yours!”
By the time this newspaper hits driveways on Wednesday, Utah lawmakers will have already met in a special session (which happens Monday), to rewrite the medical marijuana law voters passed on Election Day. As the church’s primary lobbyist, Stephens was a key player in negotiating the alternative to Prop 2, which did receive the church’s blessing.
Before Prop 2 was even voted on, Republican lawmakers, joined by leaders in the LDS Church, announced they intended to draft another version of the law after the election, regardless of the outcome.
This new “compromise” bill limits the list of illnesses that qualify for medical marijuana use and further restricts its distribution. Add to that, it was crafted largely in private, with only one public hearing and without input from patient advocates.
There is certainly an unbridled arrogance, if not utter absurdity, in this situation. Utah voters went to the polls. They voted in favor of Proposition 2. And now lawmakers, at the urging of the LDS Church, intend to circumvent the will of the people, proceeding with a “we know what is best for you,” mindset.
I wholeheartedly believe the voters have spoken and the Legislature has no business overriding our votes, but to some degree I can understand why those in power assume we don’t know what is best for us. After all, they would not get elected if we really made the wisest choices each November.
While the line separating church and state has long been blurred in Utah, this seems to be a clear attempt at erasing it altogether. Gov. Gary Herbert defended the LDS Church’s influence at a press conference on the matter, saying: “I think certainly the LDS Church has influence because most of the people of Utah, the majority, happen to be members of that church.”
So apparently majority rules, unless the majority votes in an unapproved manner.
The truth is, it was never a fair fight for proponents of medical marijuana. The voters had a choice in the same way my ex had a choice in paint colors. The difference is, I had the right to influence this decision — I pay the taxes, and there’s nothing in the Constitution about color schemes.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter.