A bill sponsored
by the ailing Utah senator Chris Buttars to ban
gay-straight clubs in Utah public schools may be replaced by
one sponsored by Rep. Aaron Tilton if health problems
prevent Buttars from returning. Undisclosed health
problems have limited Buttars's time in the
legislature, said senate president John Valentine. No
senators were stepping up to carry Buttars's Senate
Bill 97, which leaves questions about its fate if
Buttars would not return.
"This is not an issue we're really anxious to
take up at this time unless Senator Buttars is here to
do it," Valentine said. "There are certain pieces of
legislation that come before [lawmakers] when the
sponsor of that legislation is the best person...to do
it justice," he said. "I don't think there is anyone
here who could do it justice. He should do it."
Sen. Curt Bramble, a Republican from Provo, is
prepared to carry Buttars's other
bills, including the Origins of Life measure,
leaders say, if the West Jordan Republican does not return.
While Bramble said he opposes gay clubs, he will not
be running Buttars's GSA bill. "I don't have the
background," he said. "[It] takes a fairly significant
commitment to understand the nuances" of court rulings on
clubs at a time when he's focused on tax reform legislation.
Tilton, a Republican from Springville, says his
House Bill 393, Public Education Club Amendments, is
close to public release and will look "virtually
identical" to SB97. "I will probably be more
aggressive in my bill" and require parental notification of
some kind, Tilton said. The bill also "may or may not"
set up a rating system, such as those for movies, that
the school district could apply "so a parent would be
made aware...of the [club's] nature that might
conflict with a value they might hold."
The rating might be included in a parental
permission slip, he said. "It will restrict clubs, in
my opinion, that...don't adhere to community
standards," Tilton said of the bill.
SB97 directs schools to disallow clubs if they
encourage criminal conduct, promote bigotry, or
involve human sexuality, which it said includes
"promoting or encouraging self-labeling by students in terms
of sexual orientation" and "disclosing attitudes or personal
conduct of students or members of their families regarding
sexual orientation, attitudes, or beliefs."
Clubs also could be denied if the school deems
it necessary to protect the "physical, emotional,
psychological, or moral well-being of students and
faculty," maintain order, protect parent and student
rights, maintain "boundaries of socially appropriate
behavior," or ensure compliance with all applicable
laws and policies.
The first Gay-Straight Alliance club in Utah was
started in 1995 at East High School, and there are now
about 14 such clubs in Utah public schools. Supporters
of the clubs contend they are protected by the federal
Equal Access Act, which was cosponsored by Utah U.S. senator
Orrin Hatch, and requires any public secondary school
accepting federal funds to allow all school clubs
equal access to its facilities. It was aimed at
protecting student religious activities.
Martin Bates, Granite School District attorney
and assistant to the superintendent, questions whether
the anti-club bill would affect formation of
gay-straight alliances if they do not talk about sex. A
number of principals have said the clubs do not discuss sex.