Summarized by Kent Larsen
How LDS Member Gayle Ruzicka Changes Votes
Salt Lake Tribune (AP) 11Mar00 P2
By Paul Foy: Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Gayle Ruzicka, an LDS Church member, has the
ability to change votes in the Utah legislature. Ruzicka is head of
the Utah chapter of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and its influence
at the Capitol is legendary. And the group says that the recent
session of the Utah legislature was very successful.
Ruzicka was born Gayle Clark in Namap, Idaho to a non-Mormon family
descended from two rebellious sisters who had left the Church over
polygamy. But Gayle and a sister eventually joined the LDS Church,
and Gayle has become a staunch defender of the conservative views of
Utah County, Utah's Mormon majority.
Because the Utah Eagle Forum knows the process and has organized to
exert influence, Ruzicka has legendary influence. On the final day of
this year's session, she marshalled her lobby to barrage legislators
on sex education in public schools. Sen. Peter Knudson, a Brigham
City Republican, had planned to vote against a bill outlawing any
discussion of birth control in schools, even with parental
permission. But Knudson caved in to the Eagle Forum's influence, "It
takes a lot of personal courage to stand up to her," says Knudson.
The Utah Eagle Forum claims victory on a dozen pieces of legislation
during the session, including a ban on adoptions for unmarried
couples, widely perceived as a way to keep gay couples from adopting.
It also fought a hate crimes bill, saying that it played into the
gay-rights agenda and fought a plan to force health-insurance plans
to cover contraceptives. And it got bills passed requiring flag
education and the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.
The group acts primarily by using a "phone tree" to contact
supporters and urge them to contact legislators on an issue. The tool
is effective, to the degree that even Ruzicka is surprised at times,
"Where Gayle Ruzicka's folks are effective is they understand the
political process. They know how to get county and state party
delegates elected. They know how to work that system," Senate
Majority Leader Lyle Hillyard said.
The family lives in Highland, Utah and Gayle's husband, Don Ruzicka
is also active in politics, as the president of the Utah Republican
Assembly, which tries to ensure a conservative GOP. They have raised
12 children, and managed to send five delegates to the Republican
National Convention in 1996, including the youngest GOP delegate
ever, Kristyn, then barely 18.
Many legislators are not happy with Ruzicka's style, however. Knudson
says the group's "in-your-face style is intimidating." He says that
lawmakers don't know if she represents a large group of voters or a
small group. "Utah is a very conservative state, generally speaking,
and you start wondering yourself, 'Am I wrong?' " Knudson asked. "She
seems to have an effective process of intimidation."