Legislature opens on holiday…some say it’s disrespectful



    While Utah schools and businesses take the day off on Monday to celebrate Human Rights Day, the Utah State Legislature will convene for the beginning of a 45-day session.The Utah State Legislature has traditionally had its opening on Human Rights Day.

    Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, said the Utah Constitution requires the Legislature to begin its session on the third Monday of January. When Utah voted in 1986 to declare that same Monday as Human Rights Day, the legislative session date was never changed.

    Some Utahns believe that this is an affront to the holiday, which is nationally celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

    Jim Slaughter, Multicultural Programming Coordinator at BYU, said he thinks there is no reason the Utah State Legislature should meet on Monday.

    “I think it shows disrespect to the memories of not only Dr. King, but of other civil rights leaders,” Slaughter said.

    Tanner said he disagrees. He believes that the Utah Legislature’s opening session always appropriately recognizes Human Rights Day.

    “As part of the ceremony, special commemorative remarks will be given, and usually someone from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will read a proclamation regarding Human Rights Day,” Tanner said.

    Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, D-Salt Lake, the only black member of the Utah Legislature, said that it would be nice if the Legislative Session did not meet on Human Rights Day.

    “I think it sends the wrong message to people,” Bourdeaux said.

    Sen. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake, is sponsoring a bill that would change the Utah Legislature’s opening day so that it would not fall on Human Rights Day.

    A representative, who asked not to be named, is optimistic that the bill will be passed, saying Speaker of the House Martin R. Stephens, R-Farr West, would support the legislation.

    But the bill would be difficult to pass. It would need to be approved by both the House and the Senate, and then voted on by Utah citizens. Tanner said, “I myself wouldn’t think that the legislation would pass.

    See related stories: Legislator proposes renaming holiday and Students and teachers creatively commemorate Martin Luther King Day

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email