Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Prohibiting travel, superdelegates and the race for governor

The national political circus continues to entertain. The New York primary battles are demanding answers to important questions: correct use of the subway, do Big Apple residents have proper values, should Donald Trump have sent a birthday card to Bill Clinton, and how pizza is properly eaten (Frank has a strong opinion on this). But Utahns are chewing on more sensible political issues.

Last week, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupskiprohibited official city business travel to Mississippi and North Carolina because of anti-LGBT legislation passed in those states. Utah's capital joins a host of other cities with similar bans. Is this just grandstanding, or a legitimate expression of protest?

Pignanelli: "The truth is that all political and social change is friction." — Nick Hanauer

North Carolina now prohibits anti-discrimination ordinances based on sexual orientation. Mississippi allows businesses, for “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” to refuse service to gay, lesbian and unmarried couples. Most Americans are opposed to these actions.

The retail marketplace illustrates the American mindset. Television commercials for everyday products now highlight same-sex couples, because businesses want to appear in touch with the sentiment of consumers in this country. Employees and customers are fostering the many corporate protests against these two states.

Americans have the natural entitlement to believe in, and say, whatever they desire. But these privileges cannot be used to deprive others of fundamental rights. A business open to the public is just that. To deny service — even for religious reasons — to a potential customer because of race, creed, ethnic origin or sexual orientation is corrosive to the core of this nation. Those who promote such behavior risk protests and boycotts.

Victims of state-sanctioned discrimination founded Utah. So their 21st-century descendents should articulate strong objections to intolerance. Hooray for the mayor and the City Council. Hooray for the Legislature and the governor for not wading into this national controversy.

Webb: Salt Lake City is one of the most liberal cities in the country, so joining other liberal cities in a travel ban doesn’t surprise me. I don’t know the nuances of the Mississippi and North Carolina laws, so I’m not ready to condemn or endorse them.

I do believe that, as a general rule, the LGBT community must have protection against discrimination. At the same time, religious freedom must be protected. This creates a dilemma. Reasonable people on both sides must compromise and exhibit tolerance, as we have done in Utah.

For example, a large business that broadly deals with the general public ought to serve same-sex couples. That’s obvious. However, if a small, mom-and-pop shop is owned by people who devoutly believe that supporting same-sex marriage would be sinful, in a location where plenty of other businesses are providing the same services, why not let them follow their principles? Why force them to do something that violates their sincere religious beliefs?

I reject the assertion that such discrimination is the moral equivalent of refusing service to someone on the basis of race, religion or gender. I don’t know of any mainstream religion that supports such discrimination. But some mainstream religions do not condone same-sex marriage. The legality has certainly been settled by the courts, but legitimate religious concerns still exist.

Personally, despite my unease about same-sex marriage and the long-term impact on children and families, I would not have a problem serving a same-sex couple if I was a cake baker, a jeweler or a florist. But if someone else holds fervent beliefs otherwise, they should be allowed to follow their convictions.

As my church leaders have stated, what’s needed is common sense, compromise and tolerance on both sides. It is a fine line, no doubt, but I think people of good will can find that line. Intolerant people on both sides will just want to fight.

Local supporters of Bernie Sanders are demanding that Utah Democratic superdelegates abandon their commitment to Hillary Clinton and reflect the overwhelming support the Vermont senator captured in Utah’s presidential preference poll. Will or should this happen?

Pignanelli: The historical precedent in this country is that parties can choose a president through whatever means they choose. Superdelegates are either elected officials, or party bigwigs chosen by delegates. Therefore they have connections to a constituent base. The superdelegate system was developed to allow these individuals to nominate whomever they think best. So leave them alone.

Webb: Rules are rules. Superdelegates can support anyone they desire. If Democrats don’t like it, they should do as Republicans did and eliminate superdelegates. Personally, I think superdelegates are fine. Those who have worked hard for the party deserve the perk. But in Utah, some far-right grass-roots activists have the attitude that you’re a pretty smart person until you get elected to something. Then you automatically become an idiot and an enemy, undeserving of a delegate slot.

A recent poll in Utah Policy showed Gov. Gary Herbert far ahead of his Republican and Democratic challengers. Is Herbert cruising to victory?

Pignanelli: Notwithstanding the polls, Herbert is still facing a feisty challenge from Jonathan Johnson. State political conventions are strange affairs (especially the Republicans) so the unexpected can happen. Popular Gov. Michael Leavitt was forced into a primary in 2000. Delegates ousted well-liked incumbents Gov. Olene Walker (2004) and Sen. Bob Bennett (2010). Herbert is working hard to prevent such occurrences. Insiders believe Herbert gets out of convention, but so could Johnson.

Webb: Both the primary and general gubernatorial elections will be feisty affairs. It’s a safe bet that Herbert will win, but his opponents have enough money, organization and talent to be highly visible and very irritating.

Despite Herbert’s enviable popularity and success, I expect Herbert and Johnson will face off in a primary election. It’s not very difficult for a well-funded challenger to win at least 40 percent of the delegate vote and emerge from the state convention.