Utah Bill to Protect LGBT From Getting Kicked Out of Homes Stalls
A proposal that would have precluded parents from defending themselves against child endangerment charges if they kick a kid out for being LGBTQ stalled in a committee hearing on Monday.
Lawmakers in a House judiciary committee meeting highlighted a wide array of concerns they had with the bill, including that it would push government regulation on families and that the legislation isn't needed.
Bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Weight said she introduced the plan after learning from a Utah Division of Child and Family Services worker about the problem of LGBTQ youth in Utah getting kicked out of their homes.
Kristen Mitchell, who runs Youth Futures, one of the only youth homeless shelters in Utah, said about 35 percent of her shelter's residents are LGBTQ. But she said the reasons for them being homeless aren't always related to sexual orientation.
The majority of Utah residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is among many conservative faith groups that are upholding theological opposition to same-sex relationships while attempting to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.
The church created a revamped website on the topic last fall that told gay and lesbian members that attraction to people of the same sex is not a sin or a measure of their faithfulness and may never go away. But the church reminded them that having sex violates fundamental doctrinal beliefs that will not change. The website is designed to encourage compassion and acceptance for LGBT people and strike a softer tone on an issue that has led to criticism for the religion.
In addition to the LGBTQ community, Weight's bill also specified that parents couldn't use their kids' drug or alcohol use, friend groups and religious beliefs as defenses for kicking their child out of the house.
Despite widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers, it was Democratic Rep. Brian King who requested that the bill not get a vote. He said he recognized that it was not going to pass. He said he wanted to help the bill avoid getting "thrashed" by its opponents in order to encourage the sponsor to keep working on it.
"I think we need to make sure the parents know you can't just push a 15- or a 16-year-old child out of the nest and think that your responsibilities to them as their parent, in terms of support, financial responsibility, is over," King said.
Weight said LGBTQ can be a "red-flag word" in this conservative state, but she plans to reintroduce the proposal next year.
"This seems to me like language that is very much needed to help protect LGBT children," said Neca Allgood, a Mormon from Syracuse who has a transgender child. "Homelessness is a particular problem for LGBT young people, and this language is part of what we need to do to help address that problem," she said.