By Brock Vergakis Associated Press

Republican Senate president has already removed Buttars from committee chairmanship, but said it wasn’t punishment

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Feb. 24 called for the ouster of a GOP lawmaker from two additional key committee posts because of his anti-gay comments.

In recent comments to a documentary filmmaker, state Sen. Chris Buttars compared gay activists to radical Muslims and said they are "probably the greatest threat to America going down." He also said gay people lack morals.

In response, Senate President Michael Waddoups last week removed Buttars from a judiciary committee that Buttars also chaired. Waddoups said Tuesday that Buttars’ other assignments won’t be changed.

Buttars frequently took pride in using his position on the committee to kill gay-rights bills.

Democrats — outnumbered by Republicans 21 to 8 in the Senate — called Tuesday for additional sanctions, including removal of Buttars from the rules committee, of which he is vice chairman. The rules committee is one of the most powerful in the Legislature because it decides which bills lawmakers will debate.

Democrats also requested that Buttars lose his chairmanship on the health and human services committee, although they didn’t propose he be removed from that panel entirely.

"By removing Sen. Buttars from these key positions, President Waddoups, who has the sole responsibility to do so, would be sending a clear message to Utahns, Americans and humankind that we do not tolerate bad behavior in the Utah Senate," said Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones.

Waddoups has said Senate Republicans agree with many of the things Buttars told former local television reporter and documentary producer Reed Cowan. But Waddoups has repeatedly refused to say which comments he or other Republicans agree with.

Waddoups said removing Buttars from the judiciary post wasn’t a punishment, but instead an effort to remove a distraction that had drawn unwanted attention to the Senate.

On Monday, the Senate stopped working for about two hours while Republicans met privately to discuss Buttars’ comments. Not a single bill was debated on the Senate floor Monday morning, increasing the backlog of bills that may never become law simply because lawmakers will run out of time to approve them before the 45-day session ends.

Lawmakers’ last day of business is set for March 12.

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