Can you provide a source for this quotation about Utah bestiality?
September 25, 2014 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Several times over the last 10 years a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune has claimed that a representative in the Utah House voted down a bill outlawing bestiality, saying "Rep. Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on the farm in rural Utah." Is there any truth to this claim?

Paul Rolly has made this claim a few times over the years, though the wording of the quotation changes slightly from time to time:

January 16, 2006: So in that spirit, here is a list of possible bills that will never pass the Utah State Legislature... A bill specifically making it illegal to have sex with animals on the farm. (Former Rep. Frank Pignanelli sponsored such a bill several years ago and the House soundly defeated it. One legislator commented that Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on ranchers in rural Utah).

March 9, 2008: In the early 1990s, former Rep. Frank Pignanelli sponsored a bill making it illegal to have sex with animals. The House voted it down. One legislator lamented during the debate: "Rep. Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on the farm in rural Utah."

February 13, 2012: I am reminded of a bill introduced in the House several years ago by former Democratic Rep. Frank Pignanelli.

That bill made it explicitly illegal to have sex with animals.

It was voted down in the House, with one representative stating, "Rep. Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on the farm in rural Utah."


Frankly I'm a little skeptical, especially since he doesn't provide a name for this representative. It is true that Pignanelli introduced bills in 1992 and 1993 outlawing bestiality, which had inadvertently been legalized in the 70s, but the articles I can find on Proquest about those bills don't include this juicy detail. Can anyone do better?
posted by crazy with stars to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
I am dubious as well. Google gives literally four results for "Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on the farm "

This is the top one. The others are columns from the SL Trib as you note, and the fourth is someone making a FOAF mention of the quote in a forum on Mormonism.

It seems certain to me that, had someone actually said that on the floor of the legislature, someone would have reported it at the time, maybe followed up a bit. It does seem to invite that...
posted by Naberius at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2014

Best answer: Probably the only way to find out is to contact Rolly - his contact info is at the end of each of his columns, like this one.

Having listened to many hours of debate in state legislatures, I can say that it is really far more possible than you might think, that something like this really was said on the floor of the House during debate on Pignanelli's bill. It might be somewhat taken out of context or whatever, but Reps spend literally hours jawboning about this and that, having 'colloquies' with a friendly ally about different aspects of different bills, giving speeches and generally rambling on about various things of concern to them--oftentimes quite literally just filling time on the floor.

And, as the saying goes, reps say the damndest things . . .

Like in this case, I can quite imagine this is a perfectly good bill that no one really opposes in principle but because the sponsor is a D (in heavily R-controlled Utah) it must be brought up for a vote but then killed for political reasons. The fix is in already but you have to hold some debate to make everything look right.

So you have a couple of Reps yammering for a lengthy period of time and trying to come up with rational-sounding reasons to oppose the bill when really there aren't any.

And not all reps are the sharpest tools in the kit and plus when you've been up and talking to constituents, then a running a committee hearing, then talking on the floor for say 30 minutes, rambling on about something you really don't know all that much about to start with--well, maybe not every sentence that comes out of your mouth is a perfect gem of irrefutable logic.

So you get on a jag about how difficult things are for your rural constituency (which is not really that closely related to this bill specifically, but this would be one of your stock stump speech topics, and the general thrust of the argument would be that we don't need to pile onto poor picked on rural Utahns by sending the Sex Police out to thoroughly investigate every sheep herd and barnyard in the state) and out comes this gem.

Meanwhile, debate on the floor of the House isn't recorded in any way (probably not even as tapes or the like, certainly not by a stenographer or the like) and the only way something gets reported is if some member of the press happens to be listening to debate at that moment and considers it particularly relevant enough to write a story on.

It's just possible this is an item from Rolly's own files, or via a reporter who was there who Rolly knows personally. And again, it could VERY easily be slightly to greatly taken out of context or misinterpreted. But it very easily could have happened, been heard or recorded by someone, and still not really be verifiable by other than that one source at this distant remove of time. But asking Rolly himself would be the only way to know for sure.
posted by flug at 11:52 AM on September 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Audio recordings of floor debates in the Utah House are available online. They seem to have every general legislative session from 1990 forward. If you can figure out what days the bill was debated in 92 and 93 (either from the articles you have already found or using tools described here), you can listen to the recordings and find out for yourself. Of course, Rolly could claim the remark was made in Committee or not during formal debate, but the March 9, 2008 column specifically refers to the comments being made during the debate.
posted by Area Man at 12:08 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hmm, here is a quote that is just similar enough in substance and structure that I wonder whether it couldn't be the basis of the Rolly quote:
"It is obviously an attempt by animal rights people and pet lovers who have no idea whatsoever of the realities faced by the livestock industry in this state," added Rep. Bill Wright, R-Elberta.
Source: Animal Bills Draw Howls from Rural Lawmakers, by Jerry Spangler, Deseret News, 5 Feb 1991. The quote is Rep. Wright's response to a bill introduced by Pignanelli.

If this is the ultimate source, obviously it has been somewhat distorted along the way.
posted by flug at 12:08 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did find the bill. It is H.B. 236 from 1992. You can go to this search page, put in HB 236 and Pignanelli in the appropriate search boxes, and pull it up. This may help you in going through the audio.
posted by JanetLand at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

FYI this Salt Lake Tribune search shows a few articles dealing with Pignanelli's bills, and one of those might include quotes from bill opponents (and since they are from the Tribune, those articles are more likely to be Rolly's source than the Deseret News).

You have to pay for archive access, so I didn't look at the actual articles, but if you're really curious it might be worth a try.
posted by flug at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2014

I just searched through the audio archives that Area Man linked. HB236 is only discussed once, on the House floor, and it is passed and sent to the Senate. I can't find out what happened to it there. It's possible, of course, that the remark was made outside of the chambers.
posted by JanetLand at 12:31 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like flug has it, and the bill included outlawing bestiality among a host of other 'animal cruelty' regulations, and the other regulations were what the rep in question was complaining about.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Flug probably has it, but the miscommunication began early. Backdated to 1993!

A Polly column from Jan. 11, 1993 reads in part:

BAAAAA. House Minority Leader Frank Pignanelli will try again this year to get a bestiality bill enacted by the Utah Legislature. He can't believe his bill making it illegal to have sex with animals was defeated last year.

The bill died in the Senate, with some rural legislators telling Pignanelli, "You just don't understand rural Utah. You're a city boy."

Pignanelli's retort: "It's OK to molest your horses {in Utah}; you just can't bet on them."
posted by crazy with stars at 8:40 PM on September 25, 2014

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