Dallas LGBT activist Phyllis Guest has apparently been trying to get in touch with Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups all day. Why would a gay activist from Dallas want to talk to a legislator from Utah? Well, because of this. According to the Mormon church-owned Deseret News, Waddoups and other legislators are protesting health care reform by refusing to sign off on a federal grant that provides care for Utahns who are extremely or terminally ill with HIV/AIDS:
An annual post-session review of federal grants that require approval of the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee took an unexpected turn and got political in tone when Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and other top GOP leaders started asking about a routine federal grant that provides “life and death” drugs to Utahns who have HIV/AIDS-related health problems.
The grant program is named after Ryan White, a teenage hemophiliac who died from AIDS complications in the 1980s after contracting the HIV virus during a transfusion to treat the blood disorder.
“Doesn’t Obamacare pay for this?” asked Waddoups, referring to the new health insurance reform package passed by Democrats in Congress and signed two weeks ago by President Barack Obama without a single Republican vote.
Although the grant has never been questioned before, Waddoups says he won’t vote for it until all his questions are answered, and the committee doesn’t meet again until May. That means the state’s health department, already strapped for cash, will have to take $420,000 from other areas to cover the cost of providing the services through April.
Five years ago, I covered the Utah Legislature for one hellish session, and if I remember correctly, Waddoups was one of the legislators that year who backed a patently unconstitutional bill that would have banned Gay Straight Alliances at Utah high schools. More recently, Waddoups proposed a moratorium on new anti-discrimination protections in Utah. From The Salt Lake Tribune in February:
The Senate president said he has a “message” for all Utahns.
“Our citizens shouldn’t be doing things that are discriminatory. If they are — and if that’s the information we gather during the next year — that will push legislation to deal with that in that direction,” Waddoups said. “If the LGBT community are doing offensive activities in a public setting, that will push legislation in the other direction.”
When asked what he considered to be “offensive activities,” Waddoups said, “I don’t know, anything that would draw us into drafting legislation [against the LGBT community].”
Jacob Whipple, a gay activist who has led gay-rights rallies in Salt Lake City, said Waddoups shouldn’t expect LGBT Utahns to be quiet.
“In other words, he wants us to shut up and sit down and quit rocking the boat,” Whipple said. “The LGBT community should be as loud and as visible as necessary so that all of our stories and our hurts and our needs can be displayed for the people of Utah so the proper legislation will be enacted.”
Guest, who’s been sharing e-mail updates under the subject line “Murder by Politics,” says she’s gotten nothing but an answering machine so far. But if you want to give her a hand, here are two numbers for Waddoups: (801)538-1035 and (801)326-1475.