Trading down

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Utah Governor Gary HerbertFormer Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert, now Governor Gary Herbert, (due to the resignation of former Governor, current Chinese Ambassador, and all-around awesome dude Jon Huntsman) was supposed to attend a panel discussion on our campus last Friday in lieu of Senator Orrin Hatch, who had been requested to deliver a eulogy for Ted Kennedy and who expressed regret at having to bow out at the last minute. However, Herbert too bowed out early after only a few minutes before the students. We were stood up.  As of this writing, an official reason for Herbert’s ditching his state’s newest university for heaven knows what has yet to be issued.

 Should we, as students and constituents (unwilling though some of us may be), take offense to his slight? Should we storm the steps of the capitol and demand an apology and a long-winded speech about the benefits and/or perils of unregulated capitalism? Maybe we should take it as a compliment.

Governor Herbert has come under fire for having said that gay, lesbian and transgendered people should not be considered a protected class. As reported by the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE article “Herbert: No ‘protected class’ status based on sexual orientation,” on Aug. 28, “Asked specifically if he thought people should be afforded legal protection based on sexual orientation, Herbert responded, ‘No.’”

He also gave us the delightfully absurd and ill-conceived notion that doing so would set a negative precedent: “Where do you stop?” Herbert asked. “That’s the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we’re going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes.”

So let’s check the scoreboard. Herbert bailed on us like we were an ugly prom date. Discrimination based on sexual orientation should be legal and protecting people is a “slippery road.” As a matter of fact there ARE laws that protect blue-eyed blondes, just as they protect brown-eyed redheads, green-eyed blacks, hazel-eyed Latinos, etc., from workplace discrimination.

I’m a huge supporter of former governor Jon Huntsman. Not only does he seem to be a decent man, but he also relaxed Utah’s draconian, puritanical liquor laws, supports civil unions for gay couples, and played piano with REO Speedwagon for two songs when they came to the Utah State Fair in 2006. I’m glad Huntsman was given such a great opportunity to serve his whole country rather than just our humble state in the international political forum, but his accepting of the ambassadorship did his home state a great disservice by allowing Herbert the occasion to get new business cards.

I don’t personally know Governor Herbert, and I don’t know if I can go so far as to say that his expressing a refusal to help protect an oft-persecuted minority keep jobs that they have and continue to earn and deserve makes him a bigot, per se; in the same way, I can’t call someone a mugger just because they failed to stop a mugging.

Whatever Herbert thinks about existing discrimination legislation, it is clear that we need more laws simply because people clearly DON’T do the right thing when they ought to; it seems we traded down when Herbert took office.