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‘Angels’ block anti-LGBTQ+ hate at Utah back-to-school event

Attendees were shielded with the same type of wings that blocked the Westboro Baptist Church during 1999 trial for Matthew Shepard’s killers

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Angel Action Wings action in Provo, Utah (Screenshot/Salt Lake Tribune)

PROVO, Ut. – For the second year in a row, the Back to School Pride Night, hosted by the RaYnbow Collective, a Provo-based nonprofit organization with the mission of creating and identifying safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff at Brigham Young University was held Kiwanis Park.

This year, however, a group of around 100 protestors gathered shouting homophobic epithets, holding up anti-LGBTQ+ signs, many quoting the Book of Mormon at the LGBTQ+ attendees. The protestors according to the Salt Lake Tribune were blocked by a group of ‘angels’ who stood hand in hand, forming a shield between the 100 people rallying in front of them and the LGBTQ students, alumni and friends from BYU who gathered off campus to find and show support for each other Saturday night.

The angel’s wings, made of white sheets draped over PVC pipe that extended 3 feet above their shoulders, blocked most of the posters at the “Back to School Pride Night” many who were shouting “pedophile” and “groomer” the Tribune noted adding: “You’re going against God,” one man spat. Another told them to “stop protecting the homos” at Brigham Young University.

The RaYnbow Collective told local Provo newspaper, the Daily Herald, prior to the Saturday event that its goal for this particular event was to connect LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, students, and community members. The event drew attention last week when BYU, after originally agreeing to hand out pamphlets containing LGBTQ+ resources to incoming freshman, opted instead to trash the pamphlets.

“It’s really inclusive, so we encourage Provo community members to come join, anyone who is queer is welcome, anyone who has family members who are queer, or if anyone’s just curious to come check it out,” said Maddison Tenney, founder and executive director of the RaYnbow Collective. “We worked really hard to make sure it’s safe with Provo police, and that it’s really family friendly.”

Back to School Pride Night also featured a family-friendly drag show with performances from 12 drag queens. According to Tenney, the stage names of the performers, as well as the show’s music, have been adjusted to make this event appropriate for all ages.

In the past year, countless protests against similar “family-friendly drag shows” have touched off elements of far-right groups opposed to LGBTQ+ equality and people, most of which have been spurred on by the infamous Libs of TikTok account targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

The Tribune reported that Provo Police which provided a buffer zone during the event had warned Tenney prior to the back-to-school gathering there was going to be pushback.

Angel Project Provo, Utah (Screenshot/Salt Lake Tribune)

That’s when she told the Tribune her group decided to use angel costumes — a strategy famously used by the friends of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1999, when the two men accused of killing him went on trial. Shepard, 21, was beaten, tortured and left hanging from a wooden prairie fence in October 1998 after being attacked for his being gay. Shepard died six days later.

The Angel Action Wings Project blocked signs held by members of the Westboro Baptist Church led by Fred Phelps who protested outside the Albany County courtroom in Laramie, Wyoming with signs that said “God hates fags.”

Several groups have since replicated the display, including at the funerals for the victims of the Orlando, Florida mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016.

“Religion has been weaponized against the queer community for a long time,” Tenney told the Tribune Saturday. “But that needs to end. I believe there’s nothing more divine than who I am as a queer child of God.”

Utah

Attacker in Sandy Utah gay teen bashing case gets probation

Judge follows the recommendation from probation department & terminates home detention & electronic monitoring- orders probation

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Christian Peacock sitting between sister Jocelynn Peacock and boyfriend Jacob Metcalf (Photo by Stefanie Peacock)

SANDY, Ut. – A juvenile who attacked Christian Peacock and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf on July 30 outside Peacock’s home in Sandy, an upscale suburb of Salt Lake City, was sentenced to probation by a Salt Lake County Third Judicial District juvenile court judge.

Fox News affiliate KTSU 13 reported during Wednesday’s hearing, the judge reviewed recommendations from prosecutors and the Third Judicial District juvenile probation office to determine the next steps in the case. He ruled the teen to be low risk to the community.

“I appreciate the good report from home detention, it’s an excellent report,” said the judge. “So I am going to follow the recommendation from probation and terminate you from home detention and electronic monitoring. You’re still going to be on probation.”

The judge also ordered the minor to serve additional community service hours volunteering with LGBTQ+ groups, taking an empathy class, writing an apology letter to the victim who is now 18, and paying restitution for the material damages.

“The consequences of your actions – that’s what we deal with a lot in juvenile court is kids learning how to take responsibility for their actions and learning to think before they act,” added the judge.

The judge also ordered a December 30 review of the case with a written report from the probation office to monitor the offender’s progress and to make further determinations in the case.

Speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse after the sentence was handed down, Peacock’s mother Stefanie said; “It makes me sad that still today in 2022, kids are still going through this kind of thing. That anyone is going through anything like this, and especially that it happened to my son.”

“It has always been a very safe neighborhood,” said Kyle Peacock, Peacock’s father. “Then to have something like this happen at your home, where you’re supposed to feel safe, it just, it really riled a lot of different emotions that you didn’t know you had inside of you.”

“Be kind to others and don’t punch somebody because you don’t agree with who they are, that’s just not okay. I think it’s really important that we all keep standing up and saying this is not okay,” Stefanie Peacock added. “That we are people and everyone should be loved and accepted.”

Peacock and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf were attacked on July 30 outside the Peacock family home

A carload of men shouting anti-gay slurs drove by as 17-year-old Christian and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf hugged each other goodnight at the end of Christian’s driveway in Sandy, an upscale suburb of Salt Lake City. Somebody in the car shouted, “We don’t want faggots in our street.” The boys were shocked, so Jacob stayed to talk instead of going right home as planned.

The car returned about 40 minutes later, and two people jumped out. 19-year-old Hayden Stowell made lewd sexual gestures, grabbing his genitals and asking if he was making Jacob and Christian sexually aroused.

Christian told me three other people stayed in the car shouting anti-gay slurs and “hyping up” the two who jumped out.

Christian told me he was afraid they would hit Jacob, so he stepped in front of him to protect him. A 17-year-old boy (name withheld due to his age) took a half step back and punched Christian’s head, knocking him senseless and eventually landing him in the hospital with brain swelling.

Christian’s sister Jocelynn heard the commotion and ran outside. She quickly captured photo evidence, snapping the car’s license plate as it roared off. Jacob filmed part of the attack, including an admission that it was motivated by hatred of gay people.

RELATED: Gay-bashed Utah teen & Mom seek safety from polygamy cult

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New survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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Mayor of Salt Lake, Erin Mendenhall, raises Pride Flag, June 1 2021 (Photo/Twitter)

SALT LAKE CITY – The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Utah law triggers investigation into whether student athlete is transgender

Unhappy over 2nd/3rd place in a statewide competition parents of two high school student athletes asked if girl who claimed 1st is trans 

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David Spatafore, the UHSAA's legislative liaison (Screenshot/YouTube)

MIDVALE, Ut. – Dissatisfied with their second and third place finishes in a statewide athletics competition last year, the parents of two high school student athletes suspected that the girl who claimed the top slot is transgender. 

Records dating back to kindergarten reveal the winning athlete’s gender is and was always listed as female – this, following an investigation conducted by her school at the request of those parents and at the behest of the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA). 

An official with the organization conceded on Wednesday that the directive to launch the inquiry was made pursuant to the Utah legislature’s passage of HB11, which prohibits transgender girls from competing in girls’ school sports teams. 

The UHSAA representative said they have received numerous other complaints, many alleging that certain female athletes “don’t look feminine enough.” The association took “every one of those complaints seriously,” following up with the school and school system, he added. 

Opponents of HB11 and similar bills across the country have long feared that state legislatures, by passing these measures, would facilitate such intrusive, invasive investigations based on warrantless speculation and inuendo over student athletes’ gender identities. 

That aside, notwithstanding the consensus of mainstream scientific and medical opinion, bills like HB11 incorrectly treat gender as a fixed and immutable biological trait. 

As Utah House Minority Leader Brian King (D-House District 28) said, “Things are not simply black and white, in terms of gender orientation, sexual orientation, gender identification. It’s definitely not accurate to say that girls are girls and boys are boys.”

King delivered those comments when voting against his Republican colleagues who successfully overrode Gov. Cox’s veto of HB11 in March. The law’s fate may now be tied to the outcome of a lawsuit filed by advocacy groups including the ACLU of Utah, who argue it is discriminatory and unconstitutional. 

The ACLU tracks state bills that aim to exclude transgender youth from athletics, versions of which have been introduced in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming, in addition to Utah.

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Prosecutors announce hate crime charges in attack on gay teenage couple

A 17-year-old was charged with assault, the 19-year-old was charged with criminal mischief & both youths with hate crime enhancements

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Christian Peacock (L) and Jacob Metcalf (Screenshot via KUTV 2 CBS Salt Lake City

SANDY, Ut. – Christian Peacock and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf were standing at the end of Peacock’s driveway in this suburban Salt Lake City town hugging and quietly chatting in “a long goodbye for the night,” two weeks ago when a Nissan-Infinity sedan with five young male occupants rolled by slowing down and one of them yelled “Fuck you, faggots.”

Minutes later the Infinity returned and one of the young males got out and continued act aggressively using homophobic epithets and then when Christian Peacock stepped in to protect his boyfriend, he was punched sending him to hospital that left him with a mild concussion and brain swelling.

Earlier this week the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that a 17-year-old boy has been charged with allegedly punching Peacock sending him to hospital.

Sgt. Greg Moffitt with the Sandy Police Department told media outlets that the 17-year-old suspect’s friend, Hayden Perry Stowell, 19, also faces charges, after he went back and allegedly vandalized the LGBTQ Pride flags displayed in front of the Peacock home in retaliation for his friend’s arrest.

Prosecutors have added hate crime enhancements added to both of their other court charges.

The Tribune reported that the 17-year-old was charged in juvenile court with assault, a third-degree felony; and initiating a riot, a second-degree felony.

Stowell has been charged in 3rd District Court with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.

The charging documents for the 17-year-old say he told police he approached the couple and “clearly targeted” them due to their sexual orientation, the Tribune reported.

He allegedly also told officers that he didn’t like that Peacock and Metcalf were displaying physical affection openly in their driveway. The 17-year-old refused to identify anyone who was in the car with him at the time of the attack, the charges state.

A witness later identified Stowell as also one of the occupants of the car during the attack on Peacock.

Peacock’s boyfriend had recorded portions of the incident which was later posted to social media. According to the Tribune, Jocelynn, 19, Peacock’s sister grabbed her phone and started taking pictures of the alleged assailant and the others in the car. She also chased the car down the street and captured the license plate number. She then shared both on her Instagram and Snapchat pages.

One of her friends recognized the car and knew the person who drove it and gave Jocelynn the kid’s address. Jocelynn went there and spoke to the mother of that boy.

“Do you know what your son has done?” she asked, according to Peacock and Metcalf, who went with her.

The Salt Lake Tribune and other media outlets in the Salt Lake region generally do not identify minors who have been charged with crimes, unless they have been charged and bound over for trial in adult court.

The case could become a test of the state’s new hate crime law, which hasn’t been used extensively since it was put in place in 2019 after a Latino father and son were attacked at their tire shop, the Tribune noted.

A community group had put up Pride flags to show support for Peacock and his boyfriend Metcalf in their neighborhood but surveillance footage taken two weeks after the attack — shows Stowell, the suspected vandal, outside the victim’s home, according to the Sandy Police Department.

Stowell allegedly pulled out the flags, which were found “strewn about” the front yard and the street, police said, and at least one flagpole was broken, the Tribune reported adding that Stowell allegedly “ripped down the pride flags” 12 hours after his 17-year-old friend was booked into juvenile detention in connection with the July 30 assault, charging documents state, noting that the suspected vandal’s “only clear purpose” was to “further intimidate and harass” the victim’s family.

Both the teenage victim and his sister have been “struggling with anxiety and fear since the assault on July 30, 2022,” charging documents note, “and with the continued intimidation they felt by the damage to their flags.”

An attorney for the Peacock and Metcalf families sent KUTV 2News a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“There can be no place in Utah for hate crimes. We appreciate the swift and continuing efforts of the Sandy Police Department, Sim Gill, and the District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute the hate crimes that targeted our family. We also thank our friends and neighbors in Sandy, including Mayor Monica Zoltanski, for standing by us and making clear that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Sandy.”

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“We don’t like seeing gay people on our street,” Utah teen couple attacked

The hate crime enhancement makes the crime a class A misdemeanor, which could include jail time police explained to media outlets

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Courtesy of the Sandy, Utah Police Department/Facebook

SANDY Ut, – A young teenaged couple was attacked by a group of young males using homophobic epithets and then one of the couple stepped in to protect his boyfriend and was punched sending him to hospital that left him with a mild concussion and brain swelling.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that last Friday, Christian Peacock and his boyfriend Jacob Metcalf were standing at the end of Peacock’s driveway in this suburban Salt Lake City town hugging and quietly chatting in “a long goodbye for the night.” A dark sedan, later identified as an Infinity with five young male occupants rolled past slowly and revved the engine, as one of the group allegedly hissed out the window, “Fuck you, faggots.”

According to a Sandy police department report of the incident, the vehicle returned after about 45 minutes and two of the occupants got out and advanced on Peacock and his boyfriend.

“We don’t like seeing gay people on our street,” one said, according to what Peacock and Metcalf recalled to the Salt Lake Tribune reporter Wednesday, and walked toward them. Metcalf remembers the individual taking off his shirt and trying to taunt the couple. “Do we turn you on?” he asked, flexing his chest.

Three others in the car laughed as they filmed their friend outside. The young man then walked up and pushed Metcalf in the shoulder, Metcalf recounted.

Peacock said he jumped in front of his boyfriend and told the young man not to touch him. “Just get out of here,” Peacock said. “You’re repressed. That’s why you’re acting this way,” Peacock said he shouted at him. “You’re probably also gay and acting out because of it.”

It was at this point the shirtless youth threw a hard punch which landed on Peacock’s jaw and then the car left. Paramedics and police responded and Peacock was taken to the local Emergency Room with what was termed a probably concussion.

Salt Lake City’s NBC affiliate, KSL 5 reported that Peacock’s sister tracked the 17-year-old assailant down and confronted him. He was later arrested by Sandy police officers a day after the incident.

Sgt. Greg Moffitt with the Sandy Police Department told KSL NBC 5 the case will be handled by the juvenile justice system. The hate crime enhancement makes the crime a class A misdemeanor, which could include jail time, he explained.

“This actually fits in as a hate crime. When you’re targeting someone’s sexual preference, their religion, the color of their skin or ethnic background, those all can be considered a hate crime, Moffitt said.

If charged, the case could become a test of the state’s new hate crime law, which hasn’t been used extensively since it was put in place in 2019 after a Latino father and son were attacked at their tire shop, the Tribune noted.

“We want people to know that there’s no room for this in Sandy,” said Moffitt. “If you attack somebody, based on solely existing for who they are as a human, we’re going to pursue that as the hate crime that it is.”

The sergeant said some hate crimes go unreported, but he stressed his department’s commitment to the victims.

Peacock’s sister Jocelynn, 19 had recorded portions of the incident which was later posted to social media. According to the Tribune, Peacock grabbed her phone and started taking pictures of the alleged assailant and the others in the car. She also chased the car down the street and captured the license plate number. She then shared both on her Instagram and Snapchat pages.

One of her friends recognized the car and knew the person who drove it and gave Jocelynn the kid’s address. Jocelynn went there and spoke to the mother of that boy.

“Do you know what your son has done?” she asked, according to Peacock and Metcalf, who went with her.

The mother denied her son threw the punch. But she agreed to give Jocelynn’s phone number to the mother of boy who allegedly did, and she ended up calling Jocelynn.

Jocelynn invited that family to their house later Saturday afternoon to talk about what had happened. But she called police first and had officers waiting around the corner.

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Two families sue Utah over anti-trans youth sports law

By singling out trans girls- the children and their families allege, HB 11 violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution

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Matheson Courthouse: Home of the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, & the 3rd Judicial District (Photo by Ken Lund)

SALT LAKE CITY – Two Utah families filed a legal challenge in Utah state court Thursday against House Bill 11, which prohibits transgender girls from competing in school sports.

The law, which the Legislature enacted over Governor Spencer Cox’s veto, singles out transgender girls in order to exclude them from girls’ sports. It bars every transgender girl from competing on a girls’ team regardless of her medical care or individual circumstances.

The students included in the challenge are transgender girls who are current public-school students, love sports, and want to participate in sports with other girls. The families of these children are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They include Jenny Roe, a 16-year-old junior in High School who wants to play volleyball her senior year and Jane Noe, a 13-year-old swimmer. If HB 11 is allowed to go into effect, these children will be barred from playing the sports they love.

“My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life. I loved my teammates, felt part of something bigger than myself, and finally had a way to socialize with friends after being cooped up during the pandemic, Jenny Roe said. “This law devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid.”

“It feels like an attack on our family,” Jenny’s mother, Debbie Roe added. “Parents want their kids to be happy and to be surrounded by people who love and nurture them. This law does the opposite—it tells my daughter that she doesn’t belong and that she is unworthy of having the same opportunities as other students at her school.”

“As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy,” said Jean Noe, mother of 13-year-old Jane Noe. “My husband and I love Utah and our children have benefited from living here. This law changes all of that and we are having serious conversations, for the first time, about whether we can stay here. It is deeply unsettling that the state would want to strip our child of the love and support she has received from her teammates, coaches, and entire sports community.”

“This law bans transgender girls from competing with other girls in every sport, at every grade level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” said Justice Christine Durham, former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and senior of counsel at Wilson Sonsini. “It cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children.”

By singling out transgender girls for disfavored treatment, the children and their families allege, HB 11 violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution.

HB 11 is one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2022. Health care organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have opposed such legislation, as has the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education.

Prior to the passage of HB 11, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) had guidelines governing the participation of transgender students in school sports. UHSAA provided information during the legislative session that only four transgender students had even used their process and that they had not had any complaints from students, families, or school administrators.

Of the 75,000 students who play high school sports in Utah, only four are transgender and only one had played on a girls’ team.

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Suspect named in murder of lesbian newlyweds had committed suicide

The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the McDonald’s in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz

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Kylen Carrol Schulte, 24, and Crystal Michelle Turner, 38, also known as Crystal Beck (Facebook)

MOAB, Ut. – The Grand County, Utah Sheriff’s Office released a statement that a suspect was identified in the double homicide last August of a newlywed lesbian couple Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Beck Turner, 38. The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the local McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz, 45.

The women’s bodies were discovered August 18, 2021 at their campsite in the South Mesa area of the La Sal Loop Road in Grand County located less than 50 miles from the Colorado-Utah state line.

Grand County Sheriff Steven White said that he had asked for the assistance of agents from the Salt Lake City field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with law enforcement agents from the Utah State Bureau of Investigation, as the investigation into the shooting deaths of the women.

Investigators with the Grand County Sheriff’s office say that Pinkusiewicz allegedly told an unidentified source that he “killed two women in Utah and provided specific details that were known only to investigators.” According to the Sheriff’s office he had been camping at the same time as the two women and then left Utah shortly after the bodies were found. He later committed suicide although details are not being released due to an active ongoing investigation.

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Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch dies at 88, spotty record on LGBTQ+ rights

The year he retired he expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community & drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth

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Screenshot/FOX 13 News Salt Lake City, Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who spent over 40 years representing the state of Utah in the Senate, died at the age of 88. The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation announced that he passed away Saturday at 5:30 p.m. surrounded by his family. No specific cause of death was given.

Hatch’s Senate career spanned from 1977 to 2019, longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history. 

The Senator was best known for his efforts to get the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed in the Senate and signed into law. He was also known for his committed political philosophy as a fiscal moderate on Capitol Hill within the Republican Party.

The Salt Lake City Tribune noted Sunday reporting on his career:

“In his early years in the Senate, Hatch was seen as a right-wing brawler, fighting for a balanced-budget amendment and laws undermining labor unions. He didn’t earn his deal-making reputation until he struck up a friendship with a liberal lion, late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. Known as the “Odd Couple” in Washington, they teamed to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the first research bill on AIDS and the Americans with Disability Act.”

During a speech on June 17, 1987, then President Ronald Reagan wryly noted in reference to Hatch and the Federal budget; “Let me just say that if every Member of the Senate were like Orrin Hatch, we’d be arguing over how to deal with a Federal surplus. And that’s why I like to think of Orrin as “Mr. Balanced Budget.”

His stance on hot button political/cultural issues was extremely conservative. Hatch was strongly opposed to abortion and was the author of the Hatch Amendment to the Constitution that failed to get Senate approval, which stated that there is no constitutional right to abortion and empowered the states to restrict abortion as they saw fit.

On immigration, the Senator embraced tougher enforcement immigration policy including expanding the number of Border Patrol officers at the Southern Border with Mexico. But he partnered with Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin introducing the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the United States.

Thus far the legislation has languished even after being reintroduced several times, but has not been approved by majorities in either house of Congress.

On LGBTQ+ rights Hatch initially took the Republican Party and conservative stance on the issues of equality. At the start of his political rise in Republican politics as a newly elected U.S. Senator in 1977, he told students from the University of Utah; “I wouldn’t want to see homosexuals teaching school anymore than I’d want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school.

Nine years later in 1996 he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hatch also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which expanded federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed against people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. During Senate debate over the legislation, he questioned whether it was necessary, suggesting that anti-gay violence was not “a major problem.”

As the country moved towards wider acceptance of same-sex marriage, in 2012, the Senator voted to confirm U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to the Federal Bench in Utah, who then President Barack Obama had nominated.

Judge Shelby on December 20, 2013, struck down Amendment 3 of Utah’s State Constitution, which defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, opening the way for same-sex marriage in the state.

Shelby ruled that Amendment 3 was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection. As a result Shelby’s ruling set off a series of other district court decisions that overturned bans in several other states.

His ruling was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 2014. On October 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the review the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah.

The ruling by Shelby and the effect on the effort to legalize same-sex marriage was noted by Hatch on a Salt Lake City Utah radio show in 2014 saying that, even though he may not like it, legal gay marriage is inevitable:

“Lets face it. Anybody that does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” he said on KSL NewsRadio’s “Doug Wright Show.”
“The trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world.”

Prior to his statements to KSL, in April of 2013, Hatch stated publicly that he viewed same-sex marriage as “undermining the very basis of marital law”, but declined to support a Federal Marriage Amendment and endorsed same-sex couples’ right to form a civil union, stating that the law should “give gay people the same rights as married people”

Between January 2012 and February 2014, plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee filed federal district court cases that culminated in Obergefell v. Hodges.

After all district courts ruled for the plaintiffs, the rulings were appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In November 2014, following a series of appeals court rulings that year from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and found such bans to be constitutional. This created a split between circuits and led to a Supreme Court review.

On June 26, 2015, Obergefell overturned Baker and required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

Also in 2013 he was one of only 10 Republican senators who voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation/gender orientation for those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. On November 7, 2013, the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 64–32. President Obama supported the bill’s passage, but the House Rules Committee voted against it.

It appeared to political observers and others that as time moved on, the Senator was becoming more progressive in his viewpoints regarding LGBTQ+ people.

In July 2017, after President Donald Trump’s announcement that he ordered a ban on military service for transgender Americans the senator said; “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone, transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”

In June of 2018, the year he retired from the Senate, Hatch gave a speech on the Senate floor expressing his support for the LGBTQ+ community and drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth.

“No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Hatch said. “LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is far better off because of them. These young people need us—and we desperately need them.”

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Statement by President Joe Biden on the Passing of Former Senator Orrin Hatch
Jill and I and the entire Biden family are saddened to learn of the passing of Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senator in Utah’s history, and the longest-serving Republican Senator in our nation’s history.

Orrin Hatch once shared in an interview that he had a soft side, and he had a tough side. To serve with Orrin, as I did for over three decades, was to see—and appreciate—both.

He was the fighter who carried with him the memory of his humble upbringing near Pittsburgh, who never humored a bully, or shied from a challenge. The young man who, upon receiving his degree from Brigham Young University, was the first in his family to graduate college; the young lawyer who built a successful law practice; and the Senator who sprinted from meeting to meeting because there was so much to do—indeed, when Senator Hatch retired, he had sponsored or co-sponsored more legislation than any Senator at the time.

I saw that energetic, sharp-elbowed Orrin in the many battles we had over tax policy, the right of workers to join a union, and many others.

At the same time, Senator Hatch was also a man of deep faith; a gentle soul who wrote songs and poems, and shared them with friends, colleagues, and the world. This was the Orrin who looked out for the people who often didn’t have a voice in our laws and our country. I saw this in his efforts to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

When I first launched the Cancer Moonshot as Vice President, one of the first visits I made was to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, at Orrin’s request. We both saw speeding the pace of cancer research as an issue that transcended political divisions.

When I cast my 10,000th vote in the Senate, Orrin came to the Senate floor and we had a chance to speak. I said that the greatest perk one has as a Senator was access to people with serious minds, a serious sense of purpose, and who cared about something. That was Orrin.

He was, quite simply, an American original.

Jill and I send our deepest sympathies to Elaine, and all of the Hatch children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Former senator Orrin Hatch passes away at 88:

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Utah

Utah House overrides Governor Cox veto of Anti-Trans youth sports bill

The legislation prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students”

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Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY – In a 56-18 vote in favor, the Utah Republican-majority held House overrode Republican Governor Spencer Cox’s veto earlier this week of  House Bill 11 — anti-transgender legislation that would ban Trans youth from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that State Reps. Robert Spendlove and Mike Winder were the sole House Republicans to vote against an override joining with the Democrats. During the override session, the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, said, “I truly believe we’re here to uphold Title IX, to preserve the integrity of women’s sports and to do so in a way unlike other states.”

The legislation prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students” and defines “sex” as “biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland specifies that a Trans athlete would upload their birth certificate and select the sport they want to play. “If the gender on their birth certificate does not match the sport they want to play, a commission with a doctor, sports physiologist, university level athletic trainer, coach and other experts would decide whether they can play on that team.”

In a letter addressed to Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson, Cox defended his decision to veto the proposed legislation.

“I know both of you are committed to these same ideals and that we have worked very hard together to resolve the many issues surrounding transgender student participation in sports. Unfortunately, HB11 has several fundamental flaws and should be reconsidered,” Cox wrote.

In the Senate, lawmakers voted 21-8 to override the veto. The Democrats were joined by Republican Sens. Todd Weiller of Woods Cross and Daniel Thatcher of West Valley City.

The Tribune also noted that House Minority Leader Brian King said the issue is more complicated than how conservatives have portrayed it.

“Things are not simply black and white, in terms of gender orientation, sexual orientation, gender identification. It’s definitely not accurate to say that girls are girls and boys are boys,” he said, a comment which drew moans from the public. “Our public education students deserve better than that from us.”

“Governor Spencer Cox was the second Republican this week who vetoed a bill attacking transgender youth. Through tears, he explained that his choice was a result of meeting these young people face-to-face and listening to their stories. But today — without allowing any public hearings or debates, and without having the courage to look trans youth in the eye — the legislature voted to override that act of courage and compassion,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project.

“This bill focuses on a problem of ‘fairness’ in school sports that simply does not exist — but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth are very real. These youth already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide risk, and bills like this one will only make matters worse. To the young people watching tonight, the young people who report they are following these debates over their existence and suffering because of it: you are stronger than they know. We will continue to fight for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

On Thursday in a joint statement, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council, said passing the legislation would harm the state’s transgender youth.

“Transgender youth are at a much higher risk of mental health problems including suicide and this bill will tragically and unnecessarily add to those statistics,” according to the statement. “Denying transgender youth the right to participate in sports is further ostracizing and harming them. However, we, the Mayor and City Council of Utah’s capital city, want you to know that you are welcome here, you have a place.”

Legal experts expect the law to be challenged in Federal court which could potentially hold up its implementation while a court battle ensues.

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Utah

Utah Governor vetoes anti-Trans bill, legislative leaders plan override vote

“If you have not spent time with transgender youth, then I would encourage you to pause on this issue,” Cox said

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Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox vetoed  House Bill 11 — anti-transgender legislation that would ban Trans youth from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

The legislation prohibits “a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students” and defines “sex” as “biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland specifies that a Trans athlete would upload their birth certificate and select the sport they want to play. “If the gender on their birth certificate does not match the sport they want to play, a commission with a doctor, sports physiologist, university level athletic trainer, coach and other experts would decide whether they can play on that team.”

The Salt Lake Tribune reported; In a letter addressed to Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson, Cox defended his decision to veto the proposed legislation.

“I know both of you are committed to these same ideals and that we have worked very hard together to resolve the many issues surrounding transgender student participation in sports. Unfortunately, HB11 has several fundamental flaws and should be reconsidered,” Cox wrote.

Utah legislative leaders on Tuesday announced their plan to meet this Friday for an override session minutes after Cox vetoed the bill, The Salt Lake Tribune noted.

Cox was the second Republican Governor in twenty-four hours to veto anti-trans youth sports legislative measures.

Indiana Republican Governor Eric Holcomb vetoed HB 1041 Thursday, similar legislation that had he signed it into law would have banned transgender girls from competing on girls’ K-12 sports teams.

Cox had made headlines in March after his statement on House Bill 302, a bill that targeted the state’s Trans youth from participating in high school and collegiate sports.

“If you have not spent time with transgender youth, then I would encourage you to pause on this issue,” Cox said. “We have so many people who are in a very difficult spot right now. And we have very few if any transgender girls participating in sports.”

“These kids are, they are just trying to stay alive. You know, there is a reason none of them are playing sports,” says the Governor. “And so, I just think there is a better way, and I hope that there will be enough grace in our state to find a better solution.”

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