Senate president hasn’t condemned Buttars’ comments, says removing chairmainship wasn’t a punishment
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah state senator on Friday, Feb. 20 was kicked off a judicial committee he chaired after he drew criticism for comparing gay activists to radical Muslims in an interview aired this week.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, also told former local television reporter Reed Cowan, an openly gay documentary producer who now works at a Miami station, that gay activists are "probably the greatest threat to America going down."
The comments drew calls for Buttars’ resignation in Utah and elsewhere. The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, said that by Friday more than 15,000 e-mails had been sent to Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, demanding that he condemn Buttars’ remarks.
Waddoups did not condemn Buttars’ statements and said he kicked Buttars off the committee primarily as a way to draw attention away from him. In a brief news conference Friday, Waddoups declined to say what comments — if any — Buttars made that he and other Republicans disagreed with.
"We think he’s a senator that represents the point of view of many of his constituents, of many of ours," Waddoups said. "We agree with many of the things he said. We may disagree with some of them, we may disagree with some of the ways he said it."
Buttars declined to comment to The Associated Press, but said Friday he would not be issuing an apology.
In a statement released on the Senate Republicans’ blog, Buttars wrote that he will continue to defend traditional marriage.
"I disagree with my removal as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, since my work there is entirely unrelated to my opposition to the homosexual agenda," Buttars wrote. "Still, I’m a grown man and I can take my knocks. When it comes right down to it, I would rather be censured for doing what I think is right, than be honored by my colleagues for bowing to the pressure of a special interest group that has been allowed to act with impunity."
As chairman of the committee, Buttars frequently took pride in killing legislation that would have extended some legal rights to gay couples. He has long complained that gay people lack morals and are trying to indoctrinate others into a gay lifestyle.
"What is the morals of a gay person? You can’t answer that, because anything goes. So now you’re moving toward a society that has no morals," Buttars told Cowan in the January interview, which was about the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage in California and the involvement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In comparing gay activists to Islamic radicals, Buttars said, "Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it’s been taken over by the radical side. And the gays are totally taken over by the radical side."
Buttars’ comments first aired this week on the Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX, where Cowan once worked, and a copyrighted audio clip is posted on its Web site. Cowan is now a reporter at WSVN in Miami.
Republican leaders didn’t plan on addressing Buttars’ comments publicly until they were urged to do so by Democrats who said they would force the issue on the Senate floor if necessary.
Last year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People demanded that Buttars resign after he disparaged a bill by saying, "This baby is black, I’ll tell you. It’s a dark, ugly thing."
Buttars brushed aside his critics and won re-election in November.
On the Net: KTVX: www.abc4.com
Utah Senate Republicans: www.senatesite.com