Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars has been stripped of his chairmanship of a Senate judicial committee following statements he made to documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan were released.
Senate President Michael Waddoups announced the decision to remove Buttars from the Judicial Standing Committee in a press conference behind Senate chambers this morning. Buttars will retain his seat on the Senate Rules Committee, the committee all bills must go through to be discussed in committees or the Senate floor.
Waddoups said that this decision was not a punishment for what Buttars said. He said that the decision “frees Sen. Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels without feeling like he’s speaking on behalf of his committee or the legislature.”
“There has been a lot of discussion on this issue,” Waddoups continued. “I can’t express how distracting it has been to the legislative process in the last 24 hours.”
“We want the citizens of Utah to know that the Utah Senate stands behind Sen. Buttars’ right to speak. That we stand behind him as one of our colleagues and his right to serve in this state. We think he’s a stalwart. We think he’s a Senator that represents the point of view of many of his constituents and many of ours,” Waddoups said. “We agree with many of the things he said. We may disagree with some of them. We may disagree with some of the ways he said it. But we stand four-square behind his right to say what he feels he wants to say and needs to say.”
Waddoups hesitated on calling the decision a punishment, and said that those who feel the Senate did not go far enough, others feel they went too far.
As Waddoups was trying to leave the press conference after just six minutes on the floor, KRCL producer and QSaltLake columnist Troy Williams shouted a question, asking Waddoups to “respond to the gay community who feels like they have been hurt and maligned by Sen. Buttars and what role do we have as citizens of this state, working for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Do we have the same equal rights that you have?”
“I believe all citizens are guaranteed under the Constitution certain rights. And if someone is a citizen of this state and this country then they have equal rights,” Waddoups said before being whisked out of the room even as a question was being asked about a gay teenager’s fears over Buttars’ statements.
Buttars chaired the morning meeting of the Judiciary Standing Committee, pushing through a bill he sponsored on Judicial oversight.
Sen. Pat Jones took to the stand, yet refused to answer whether she believed the Senate President’s actions were enough. She did say that not all senators were “foursquare” behind Buttars.
Sen. Ross Romero announced that he will make a floor motion to make a joint rule change requiring sensitivity and diversity training for all legislators, similar to programs in corporations across the state.
Before the Senate session began, Buttars was approached by media. One reporter said that the gay community was asking for an apology.
“Well, they ain’t gonna get one,” was his reply.
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