LGBT students react to committee rejection of Common Ground bill

By By Alex Cragun, Staff Writer

By Alex Cragun, Staff Writer

Members of the Queer Student Union who attended a Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon were frustrated but not surprised that a bill to give more rights to gay couples was shot down.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, would have allowed a person in a “mutually supportive and dependant relationship” to claim insurance money or money sought in a wrongful death suit in the case of an unexpected death.

Senate Bill 32, a wrongful death amendment that is part of a series of bills called the Common Ground Initiative, was rejected at the meeting Tuesday.

“I’m a little angry that people can be so intolerant,” said Nate Bassett, a senior in finance at the U who attended the meeting.

Bassett said about half the people who showed up to voice their opinions were members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including U students.

“The particularly right conservatives went (to the meeting) today and rejected the bill,” Bassett said. “We’ll just have to find more creative ways to spread the message.”

McCoy, who is one of three openly gay members of the Utah Legislature, said the bill “isn’t about gay marriage” at all, but is for people in an economic relationship.

McCoy said that in the mid 1950s, Utah drew a circle that included those who can claim suit money in a wrongful death.

“All I’m suggesting (is) to redraw the circle a little bit larger,” McCoy said.

Dave Alder, president of QSU, said he was hoping the bill would move out of committee, but that this isn’t a shock.

“It doesn’t really surprise me with (Chris) Buttars involved,” Alder said, referring to Sen. Buttars, R-west Jordan, who chairs the committee. “Pumpkin bread only goes so far.”

Members of QSU and Pride in the Community gave pumpkin bread to Utah legislators during the holidays as part of a series of efforts to reach out and let the community know they exist.

More students are becoming involved in politics, especially after the controversy surrounding Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The proposition drew interest from Utahns because it received financial support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jacob Whipple, a recent U graduate and QSU member, said he wasn’t really interested in politics until it affected him.

Whipple said he met the love of his life and they wanted to get married in California, but that came to a halt after Proposition 8.

QSU meets every Monday to discuss activities, but this week they put usual activities aside to focus on becoming more socially active.

“(Gay marriage) wasn’t an issue to me until it ruined my plans,” Whipple said. “It took me by surprise. I then decided to get involved.”

Other students are becoming more interested in gay rights legislation.

Nicholas Critchlow, a senior in mass communication, said the recent senate bill could have a large effect on gay rights.

“It’s a very important piece of legislation that should be passed here in Utah to give equal rights to same-sex couples here in Utah,” Critchlow said.

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