Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, announced his immediate retirement from the Utah Legislature early Friday morning.
Buttars made the announcement from the Senate floor shortly after the gavel fell and the 2011 session closed. He has had a variety of health issues in the recent past, and so has his wife.
“I believe freedom must always be defended on every front, as there are people and ideologies that seek to undermine, devalue, and outright destroy our Constitutional freedoms,” Buttars said in his retirement announcement. “”I only hope the next person fills this chair has the same fire of freedom in their belly.”
Buttars sponsored many bills throughout his tenure as a legislator. However, one of his most well-known efforts, and victories, was when he helped Rep. La Var Christensen, R-Sandy, to sponsor Amendment 3, which defined marriage in the Utah constitution between one man and one woman.
Perhaps Buttars’ most famous comments came in 2009 when he was being interviewed for a documentary about the Mormon Church’s involvement with Proposition 8 in California. He referred to gays as, “the meanest buggers I have ever seen,” and said they are “Probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”
Before making the comments against the gay community, he also received criticism when he referred to a bill he didn’t like as this “baby is black, it is a dark and ugly thing,” Many critics saw his comments as racist and offensive.
Buttars acknowledged that he has taken a tough approach to governance where he would tell his constituents where he stood on the issues, but he did not want to hear other people’s opinions.
“It served me well, but I’ve been in a hell of a lot of trouble,” Buttars said.
A close friend of Buttars and president of the Utah Eagle Forum defended Buttars’ legacy to the Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s one of the kindest people, but he took on the hard issues and when you stand that strong for what you believe in, he’s a very righteous man, so he’s a target,” Ruzicka told the Tribune. “He just always stood strong for moral values.”
Republican delegates from his district will meet to select Buttars’ replacement. The selection will have to be approved by the governor. However, it is very unlikely that the Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, would oppose the chosen replacement.