Updated: 11/19/2008 12:31:37 PM MST
A bill pushed by gay-rights advocates that would enable heirs - besides spouses, children and parents - to sue in the event of a wrongful death passed the Utah Senate's Interim Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
But only after a tense debate over whether the measure, which also would protect gays and transgender people who lose a partner, violates Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In the end, the committee voted 11-4 to give the bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, a favorable recommendation after language was added that explicitly states the protection "cannot be construed" as treating a same-sex relationship as a marriage or a civil union.
Proponents of traditional marriage protested the measure, which is part of a collection of legislation aimed at bolstering gay rights. That effort, launched by Equality Utah, has been dubbed the Common Ground Initiative.
"Maybe on their own, by themselves, [these bills] seem harmless enough," said Gayle Ruzicka of Utah's Eagle Forum, but she noted, "they add up."
Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights and a committee co-chairman, disagreed with the "slippery-slope" argument, even though he considers himself a culture-war "soldier" who helped to pass Utah's same-sex marriage ban in 2004.
Bell voted to recommend McCoy's bill.
"So long as we do not undermine traditional marriage," Bell said, "there are relationships in our society that do warrant some governmental protections."
Listening to Gayle Ruzicka is a slippery slope into madness. I'm sure that Chris Buttars was a normal, sane, person before Gayle entered his life.