Monday, November 27, 2006
Is Brad Pitt Promoting Polygamy?
I live in southern Utah, only a few miles from Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. Recently I thought I heard shouts of joy coming from the direction of these two polygamist communities. It sounded something like “Hosanna! Praise the Lord! And thank God for Brad Pitt.”
I wasn’t surprised to hear praise for the Lord. Polygamists in general are very religious folks. However, I didn’t understand why Brad Pitt was suddenly worthy of polygamist praise. In fact, I was surprised they knew anything about Mr. Pitt. I thought his movies were probably on the list of sinful things that good polygamists avoid. But when I found the latest news concerning Pitt and Angelina Joile’s relationship, I fully understood why polygamists would embrace Brad Pitt.
I found that Pitt had this to say in a recent Esquire magazine interview:
"Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able."
Unfortunately for my neighbors, I don’t think Brad really meant “everyone.” I think he meant to say that he supports the extension of marriage rights to only one minority—the gay minority.
I could be wrong. If I am, I hope Pitt will publicly correct my error. Perhaps he could visit Colorado City to demonstrate his support for another marriage-deprived minority—the polygamist minority.
I doubt Brad will accept the challenge. I have yet to meet anyone who supports legal recognition of both gay marriage and polygamy, despite the fact that it should be clear to everyone that an argument for gay marriage is also an argument for polygamy.
Perhaps the best evidence of this linkage is found in the wording of the decision issued by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 2003 when it determined that gay marriage could not be prohibited in Massachusetts:
“The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”
I think there is no getting around the fact that when a court of law uses the legal terminology “equality of all individuals” and “forbids the creation of second-class citizens,” the court is establishing law that applies to all Americans, not just heterosexual and gay couples.
You might think that laws could be written to restrict marriage only to heterosexual or gay couples. But remember, courts are not writing marriage law. They are only determining if marriage law is consistent with a state constitution, or ultimately with the Constitution of the United States. I’m not going to belabor the point. But it seems incomprehensible to me that polygamy, or any other form of marriage between consenting adults, could be banned if marriage must pass an “equality of all individuals” test.
So, is Brad Pitt promoting polygamy? I don’t think so. In fact, most advocates for gay marriage go out of their way to condemn polygamy. I agree with them. Polygamy should not be legal in America.
If you agree that polygamy or other forms of multi-partner marriage between consenting adults should not be legal, I hope you recognize that it would be illogical and hypocritical to conversely support legal recognition of gay marriage. Though it’s difficult to predict the unintended consequences of most decisions, in the case of gay marriage, the unintended consequences that would follow legalization are obvious.
I hope Brad and Angie have a change of heart about “tying the knot.” Traditional marriage has been the bedrock of civil society for thousands of years. And it’s best we keep it that way. Let’s not tweak it and mess it up beyond repair.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Whose Interests Are Served By The Washington County Land Bill?
Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Jim Matheson are working overtime to sneak the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act through the current lame-duck session of Congress. If their efforts go unrewarded, the bill will almost certainly die in committee when Democrats take control in January.
The architects of the bill — the Washington County Commission of James Eardley, Alan Gardner and Jay Ence — are hoping for quick passage. It’s the only way to get some relief from the firestorm of local opposition ignited by the bill.
The chief concern is a provision that paves the way — pun intended — to quickly shift 4,300 acres of public land to private ownership. It also specifies that an additional 20,000 acres of public land eventually would be sold to private interests at a later date. That’s enough land to easily accommodate 80,000 new homes. With average home prices exceeding $325,000 in Washington County, the bill represents a bonanza of many billions of dollars for land investors, developers and home builders. For those who oppose the potential land-grab, it represents traffic jams, urban sprawl and serious degradation in the quality of their lives.
The commissioners have been their own worst enemies in this debate. Consider what Commissioner Eardley said about the bill in a Los Angeles Times article:
"One of the problems in the West is that the federal government owns most of the land. I say 'He who owns the land, holds the power.' "
To many, Eardley seems out of touch. Many long-time residents abhor federal land ownership, but a more diverse population of newcomers is more concerned with quality of life than who holds the power.
The career choices of commissioners Ence and Gardner are even more problematic. Ence co-founded Ence Homes, the largest-volume homebuilder in southern Utah. He retired and turned the business over to three nephews before running for office. But retirement doesn’t shield Mr. Ence from the fact that his extended family derives great financial benefit from development within the county.
Profiting from growth is also a family affair for Commissioner Gardner. He and his brother, Larry, are managers in three companies with significant land holdings in a beautiful area east of Snow Canyon State Park known as the Ledges. In 2001, the St. George City Council — with Larry Gardner a member — voted to annex the Ledges. Three years later, the same council voted to rezone more than 1,000 acres of Ledges property, converting it from low-value grazing land to high-value real estate.
The city council decisions had a stunning financial impact on Ledges land. According to Washington County property records, the several hundred acres owned or partly owned by the Gardner-related business entities increased in value by many millions of dollars.
Such entanglements make it difficult to determine if the land bill is good for the county, the commissioners, or both.
For example, the bill clears the way for a potential east-west highway north of St. George. The highway would connect I-15 with State Road 18 either very close to the Ledges or, at most, a few miles away. Direct access from the freeway — thereby avoiding the perpetual traffic jam through St. George — would further enhance the value of the Ledges. One can only speculate how many of the 24,300 acres of public land liberated by the bill might end up in the Gardner land portfolio.
To their credit, Ence and the Gardners seem to have scrupulously followed Utah law concerning conflicts of interest while in public service. They’ve certainly done some good as public servants and undoubtedly feel that election to office is a mandate for their pro-growth agenda.
But voters have not had the opportunity to make truly informed choices. Campaigns in Washington County consist of street signs adorned with short slogans and sparsely attended candidate forums. When it comes time to vote, most of us don’t know much beyond the candidates’ party affiliations. (Washington County votes about 70 percent Republican.) This has created a serious disconnect between elected officials and public sentiment on the issue of growth.
Despite persistent and intense lobbying by Gardner and Eardley, only 36 percent of the city councils in the county voted in favor of a resolution to support the bill. The magnitude of that repudiation should give pause to Bennett and Matheson. And their characterization of the opposition as outside interference from extreme environmentalists is either disingenuous or uninformed. The strong opposition primarily concerns quality-of-life issues, not hugging trees and protecting turtles.
Bennett and Matheson should withdraw the bill and await the outcome of the citizen-based planning process that is belatedly under way. It’s the only way to ensure that the public interest — not private or special interests — is served.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Author Interview - KVNU Talk Radio
Book Interview: Disarming the Culture War
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign
KVNU's For The People
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Author Interview on Inside Utah Program
Author Bruce Wilson was recently interviewed by award winning journalist Jennifer Napier-Pearce who produces the program Inside Utah. Click on the speaker icon to hear the discussion of Disarming the Culture War. It lasts approximately 10 minutes.