|Rep. Mike E. Noel|
|Sen. Kevin Van Tassell|
HOW SAUSAGE IS MADE ................
Rep. Noel:- Kevin, we have only four days left in the legislative session. What are we going to do to get this anti-polygamy bill pushed through?
Sen. Van Tassell:- Hey, Mike, I'm doing everything I can, but it's YOUR bill, and I'm getting a lot of blow-back. Did you think this was gonna be easier than last year?
Rep. Noel:- Look, I'm up here every day threatening the other Senators with every weapon I've got. Don't you have some influence with leadership?
Sen. Van Tassell:- Yes, but they've got dozens of polygamists up here every day beating their doors down in opposition to this bill. Haven't you seen the thousands of emails we're getting from polygamous families protesting the problems with HB-99? Plus, I'm sure the Minority Caucus is voting as a bloc against it, so you're wasting your time with them. This could come down to a very close vote. Do you even want to risk losing on the floor? It's out of Rules now, so do you seriously want me to run it if we don't have the votes?
Rep. Noel:- I don't understand what your reluctance is. Aren't you still angry about what that polygamist group did to your daughter?
Sen. Van Tassell:- Yes, but I don't see what the connection is between her experience and what you've got in this bill. How's this gonna help her?
Rep. Noel:- What do you mean?
Sen. Van Tassell:- I mean that this amendment focuses on all of the polygamists who cohabitate and say they are "married". Doesn't that blanket all of the 30,000 or so polygamists in Utah? How is that going to help my daughter? Are you willing to build 30 new prisons to put them all in? And what about all the kids left behind to burden the state with public assistance costs? I don't think your buddy Parker has any intention of arresting even one of them. What is Sean Reyes trying to achieve with this thing? How come you are so driven by it? You're like a man possessed! Plus, you guys can't even get your story straight. First you say it makes prosecution harder; now you say it makes prosecution easier. Which is it?
Rep. Noel:- Well, I've got the Church breathing down my neck. This is my "swan song". I'm not running again, so I feel obligated to the Church to do what it's asking me to do. I almost got it done last year, so they are pushing hard. They even told me to kill it if there is any hint of it being reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Sen. Van Tassell:- So why are they so worked up about it?
Rep. Noel:- They're having a public relations problem. They're out there trying to convert people, and the first question people ask the missionaries is "how many wives do you have?". People can't seem to draw a distinction between the damned polygamists and the TRUE church. We need to be able to keep up the story that these polygamists are apostates and criminals, and we haven't been like them since my grandfather's time. He was a good polygamist.
Sen. Van Tassell:- Yeah, but do you think it's our role as a legislature to fix the Mormon Church's P.R. problems around the globe? Polygamy is already a felony, isn't it?
Rep. Noel:- Well, yeah, but Judge Waddoups struck it down because we can't go after simple cohabitation any more, so we have to change the "OR" to an "AND", and tighten up the definition so it won't be subject to a constitutional challenge.
Sen. Van Tassell:- Mike, do you seriously think that singling out just the polygamists is going to shield this thing from a challenge? I think Parker's game is to avoid a challenge simply by NEVER using it to go after anyone. Look at Kody Brown! They twisted themselves in knots trying to get out of prosecuting him. If he had been arrested, the bigamy statute would have been overturned (along with Reynolds for that matter). You guys are walking a very fine line here!
Rep. Noel:- Look, the Church is very determined on this. They told me that they didn't care how it was written, it just absolutely MUST stay a felony. I'm just doing what I'm told, and I think the change we got from Snow gives this thing more teeth to get the real bad guys.
Sen. Van Tassell:- Yeah, but look - you've got articles now coming out in the paper pretty much saying the Church is the one pushing for the bill, and then you and Stratton get up there on the house floor with all your "apostates", and "hijack-my-religion" lingo. How is anyone supposed to think that the Church isn't all over this and isn't trying to tell us what to do? I don't like being bullied like this, Mike.
Rep. Noel:- Can't you just be loyal to me and the Church? Just having these people in Utah is offensive to you and me and our religion. I did take a page from Diedre's book and I put safe harbor language in there, so at least now we can sell it as a gesture of compassion.
Sen. Van Tassell:- I think you're going one bridge too far. My daughter had a really bad experience, but I don't think having a purely symbolic law in place that demonizes thousands of innocent families - but is completely unenforceable - is gonna do anything to make her life better. In fact, it seems like it will just force the bad guys to go deeper into hiding. Where's the compassion in that? Who really benefits from this?
Rep. Noel:- You're forgetting that we have a duty to uphold the constitution's Enabling Act and forbid these polygamist marriages.
Sen. Van Tassell:- Oh, come on, Mike, you know better than that. You heard Representative Nelson. These people don't get multiple marriages - that's precluded by 30-1-2. The constitution says nothing about plural "relationships". Don't these people have civil rights or whatever? You know - like freedom of association, freedom of speech, equal protection, et cetera? Their relationships are a private lifestyle decision, and we can't go after that any more. Wasn't Holm the last polygamy prosecution in 2001?
Rep. Noel:- Well, Parker told the Judiciary Committee that he's gonna start again once this passes.
Sen. Van Tassell:- Yeah, and you told the Judiciary Committee that there's a bunch of people sitting in prison for polygamy right now. If you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you. No, Mike, I think we should kill this bill, and if you won't kill it, then I think you should expect a bloodbath when it hits the Senate floor, AND you should think about the many unintended consequences if it does pass. This thing is likely to turn into Utah's version of Prop 8, and you'll go down in history as the guy that got Reynolds overturned and ruined the Church's chances of escaping from past AND future polygamy.
Rep. Noel:- Damn! You're no help!
Sen. Van Tassell:- Look, I've got a better idea. Let's talk to these Church lobbyists of yours and arrange to have a round table meeting with this Joe Darger guy. He seems to have contacts in all the fundamentalist communities. If we get everyone to the table, we can maybe hammer out some sort of compromise. If that can't work, then I think we see the writing on the wall. If this is your last gasp, you may be wasting bullets. Remember Governor Pyle.