SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah legislative committee has advanced a bill pushed by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to help the “lost boys” – youths evicted from polygamists‘ homes.
The legislation failed in the Senate last year.
On Wednesday, Shurtleff told the Judiciary Interim Committee the bill, which would allow a judge to emancipate a minor at age 16, is among his top priorities.
Shurtleff said hundreds of young men need help after being cast out by their polygamous families in the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
The youths are persecuted for their behavior or forced out as competition for older men seeking plural wives, Shurtleff said.
They often don’t want to see their parents prosecuted.
“I’ve had kids in my office who have been kicked out of the community on trumped-up charges,” Shurtleff said. “I think we are going to see more of these kids.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, said the youths have no way to finish school, get medical care, or live and work independently without permission from parents, who often refuse it.
Eagle Forum head Gayle Ruzicka expressed concern that the bill might allow youths across the state to sever ties with their parents at times when they need parental guidance.
Supporters said the bill lays out an extensive process for teens, who must prove to a juvenile court judge that it is in their best interest.
The bill passed out of the committee with three lawmakers voting against it.