Last edited: January 01, 2005

Ruzicka Chastises Lesbian Candidate for ‘Illegal Lifestyle’

Salt Lake Tribune, September 16, 1998

By Patty Henetz, The Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Eagle Forum has decided to make sex an issue in a Salt Lake City district legislative race -- but only for one candidate.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah County-based ultraconservative political organization, said she will inform voters that House District 30 Democratic candidate Jackie Biskupski is a lesbian in an effort to defeat her.

"She is living an illegal lifestyle," Ruzicka said. "In Utah, sodomy is against the law."

Ruzicka will not, however, examine Republican candidate Bryan Irving’s sexuality. "He is living a moral lifestyle and is not flaunting anything," Ruzicka said. "I am not going to go to people who are legally and lawfully married and ask them their sexual practices."

The distinction is important. Under Utah law, fornication and sodomy (oral or anal sex) are illegal. While married couples are exempted from the sodomy statutes, fornication is by definition a crime of the unmarried. Unmarried people who have sex are outlaws, and gay people cannot marry.

Ruzicka said she would not poll legislators or candidates on their sexual activities. "I don’t go on a witch hunt," she said. On the other hand, "if someone suddenly came to me and said [Irving] was living with a woman he wasn’t married to, we would look into that. People have a right to know."

That may sound like a fringe attitude, but new polls show fallout from the Clinton scandal is pushing public concern about private matters to new heights. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force cites a 1998 poll that shows 14 percent of Americans rank moral values as the most important issue facing the country today -- the same ranking as crime and drugs. The survey also showed 22 percent of Americans say moral values should be Congress’ top priority.

While more openly gay candidates are running for Congress this year than ever before, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and others have attacked homosexuality as a sin. Reparative therapy, which purports to convert gays to straights, is gaining attention.

It’s no surprise, then, the question of sexual illegality came up in District 30, said Salt Lake City social worker and activist Lynnette Malmstrom.

"I heard someone say, `We don’t have the Russians to hate anymore. What do we have?’ " Malmstrom said. "We have abortion and homosexuality. If we give people the idea there is a ‘them’ and an ‘us,’ it creates power."

And that is why Ruzicka is intervening in the Biskupski-Irving race, said Joe Hatch, Salt Lake County Democratic chairman.

"She wants to titillate her political base and raise money for other races," Hatch said. "If she is so interested in family values, why is she silent on polygamy?"

Indeed, polygamy laws are enforced about as often as sodomy and fornication statutes -- that is, never. But as long as unmarried sex is illegal, conservatives can raise the specter of "illegal activity" when they ban school clubs, sue gay and lesbian teachers and influence elections.

"It gives them a leg to stand on," said Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s teacher Doug Wortham, co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee.

University of Utah law professor Terry Kogan observed that since there are far more heterosexuals than homosexuals, and since sex research shows most heterosexuals have engaged in oral sex, it follows that heterosexual sodomy is far more prevalent than homosexual.

"Anyone who says, ‘I am a heterosexual,’ in effect is admitting they are probably part of the population that commits sodomy," Kogan said. "How that can be a test of anything is not clear."

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