Anti-LGBT former senator Chris Buttars died Monday at the age of 76, according to a social media post by his daughter, Angie Patterson. He has been reportedly in hospice care for the past few months, according to a report by UtahPolicy.com.
“Saying goodbye to this great hero is touch. I am happy for you dad, because you are free…Love you!” Patterson wrote.
Buttars was co-author, alongside Utah Rep. LaVar Christensen, of Utah’s Amendment 3, which amended the state constitution to say marriage was solely between a man and a woman. The amendment was later declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby.
Buttars did an interview with Reed Cowan ABC 4 News, where he compared gays to radical Muslims and said, “They’re probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.” He further called the gay community “immoral,” “taken over by the radical side,” “diseased,” an “abomination” and “the meanest buggers he’s ever seen.”
In response, activist Jacob Whipple called for his resignation. Senate leaders also sent Buttars home the day the interview was made public and held a press conference. He was not ousted from the Senate, but he was stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Judicial Committee.
Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement, distancing the church from his comments, saying, “From the outset, the Church’s position has always been to engage in civil and respectful dialogue on this issue. Senator Buttars does not speak for the Church.”
Buttars also sought to kill Salt Lake City’s domestic partner registry in 2008, calling it an attempt to “get around Amendment 3.” The bill received a hearing but did not pass.
Former Utah senator Scott McCoy often butted heads with Buttars in his years on the hill. When one person was talking to Buttars about McCoy, Buttars clarified with, “The gay?” McCoy proceeded to replace his car license plate with “The Gay” and Salt Lake Acting Company branded Saturday’s Voyeur with it.
Buttars also worked to keep Planned Parenthood from schools to teach about STDs, safer sex and STD testing.
The senator 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, including the NAACP, which demanded his removal from office.
Buttars sponsored a bill that would allow instructors to teach Utah public school students “Intelligent Design,” an anti-Darwin, anti-evolution theory of creationism. He used the words “Divine Design,” but changed the title when that appeared too controversial. The bill actually passed the Utah Senate, but failed in the House.
Service organization Pride in Your Community, run by activist Eric Ethington, chose Buttars as the first monthly service event, bringing him and his neighbors pumpkin bread and shoveling their driveways. Buttars surprised the group by inviting them in and talking with them for 45 minutes.
“Senator Buttars made it clear that, while he is by no mean pro same-sex marriage or many other gay rights, he is definitely opposed to those two kinds of discrimination,” Ethington said at the time.
At the end of the 2011 Legislative Session, Buttars announced he would retire from his seat.
Close friend and president of the Utah Eagle Forum, Gayle Ruzicka, defended Buttars’ legacy, telling 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 … He just always stood strong for moral values.”
Buttars was succeeded by Republican Sen. Aaron Osmond, who focused more on ending compulsory education, and resigned in 2015. Utah Senate District 10 is now represented by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore.