Editorial: Accidental honesty in the sausage factory

We had a couple of winners last week of what I like to call the Accidental Honesty in Public Life Award, which is given when those in the news say what they really mean even though they're trying not to do so.

The first dishonorees are Arizona House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, and House GOP members, who OK'd the ability to close their caucuses to the public if they so choose. (Democrats and Republicans caucus weekly to discuss legislation, and the meetings have been open to the public.)

Public officials voting to meet in secret is bad enough, but Montenegro took it further. According to the AP, he said that "holding all discussions in public means the news media would find out when some caucus members have concerns about proposed legislation."

Wouldn't that be just awful? That pesky news media, finding out what legislators think about the bills they're going to vote on! What's next - forcing officials to show they actually live in the district where they're running for office? 

Oh, the humanity.

"We want to be transparent and open," said Montenegro, apparently with a straight face, "and that is what we're trying to do here to clarify."

For the record: Giving yourself the ability to close meetings to the public because you don't want people to know what you're thinking about public business is neither transparent nor open.

Next up is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which stumbled last week despite taking a big step toward being on the right side of history.

Church leaders said they would support laws that protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in areas such as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation. Well and good. That's a big step for an organization that recently, and vigorously, fought against gay marriage in California.

But then church leaders muddied the waters by saying that, in addition to showing "respect for other whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours," they also don't want to "deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process."

In a general sense, you can't argue much with that. Agreeing to disagree and living by your own code are elements of living in a free country.

But on a practical level - mostly in the "behavior" category - what the church is saying amounts to this: "Yes, we'll support gay rights, but we'll also support those who want to keep discriminating against gay people."

You can't have it both ways. 

I say that even though I know these are difficult waters to navigate. You have people's individual religious beliefs and rights vs. the rights of other human beings to be part of society. No one's going to take your religion away from you - but you're not going to stop the changes that are opening up our society, either.