Amy Roberts: Elevated embarrassment
January 15, 2014
Whenever my friends and family who don’t live in Utah ask me how I can call a state that refuses to allow a happy hour out of fear alcohol is harmful, yet practically sells semi-automatic rifles in vending machines, "home" I just shrug my shoulders and say "Park City is in Utah, but not of Utah."
But considering the embarrassing international attention our state has called upon itself recently, I’m not sure my nonchalant explanation is going to work much longer.
After what Governor Hebert and other state leaders pulled last week, with their vow to fight same-sex marriage as if the size of their future mansions on Kolob depend on it, our state’s tourism motto might as well change from "Utah! Life Elevated" to "Utah! Proud supporters of Putin and the Taliban!"
The way leaders in our state reacted vowing to fight to "defend traditional marriage" to the news that a federal judge ruled prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional was painful to watch.
In the brief time they were forced to acknowledge homosexuals are people too, I don’t recall news of a mad-rush of heterosexual divorces. No one attempted to marry their dog. Kolob did not combust and fall from the sky and collide with Earth. There wasn’t even a hurricane on the Great Salt Lake. In fact, life didn’t dramatically change for anyone, except for the few hundred loving couples who, for a brief moment in time, were allowed to sign a piece of paper and say, "I do."
Two words our new attorney general, Sean Reyes, apparently found to be horrifying. And well worth a couple million dollars to deny certain people the right to say.
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"We’re willing to spend whatever it takes…" he said about the cost of defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Ironically, he said this on the same day Utah was making other national press, for having perhaps the very worst air pollution in the country. Hebert and his underlings won’t devote the necessary resources to keeping millions of people from breathing in toxic air, but the estimated $2 million they’ll spend in hopes of denying a small group of people their rights? Money well spent in their minds.
The past month has been exceptionally bad on the inversion front. The skies over Salt Lake might as well be raining asbestos, but Reyes and Hebert had to focus on more important things — like protecting the sanctity of Kim Kardashian’s next marriage.
Where are all those fiscal Republicans when you need them? Why is no one screaming about wasting $2 million on hate-filled, fear-based legislation destined to fail?
Can you imagine a Utah led by politicians who would finish that sentence, "We’re willing to spend whatever it takes…" with something, anything, that would actually positively impact this state? Perhaps ,"to make sure each child receives a good education." Or, "to make sure no family goes hungry." Or, "to help our military veterans find jobs."
Instead, Utah lawmakers end their sentences vowing to waste taxpayer dollars to support inequality and bolster the world’s stereotype that we are a bunch of backwards zealots. Except, possibly, for Putin, the Taliban and the Westboro Baptist Church. They probably still like us.
And while Hebert and his cronies can argue all they want this is about the federal government over-stepping its authority, and this is a state’s issue, the fact is, states don’t get to deny people rights just because there’s a majority vote in favor of it.
If, during the next election, there was a vote to decide whether women should be allowed to drive in this state, or a ban on having a cat, or a measure prohibiting black people from living within 20 miles of a temple, even if the voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of those ridiculous ballot measures, it wouldn’t matter. Rights can’t be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.
When will Utah figure that out? In the meantime, all I can do is wonder if there’s a small town somewhere in Afghanistan where the locals feel the same way I do. Like every time a woman is stoned to death for wearing makeup, and their friends and families call from Kuwait and say "WHAT is wrong with your country?!" These isolated, progressive people just say, "Hey man, we might live in Afghanistan, but you know, our village isn’t really of Afghanistan."
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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