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For week ended March 12, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15Mar00

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."


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