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Utah – Freedom to Care for One’s Own Dead restored – 2009

3/25/2009 UPDATE – HB 265 has been signed into law by the Utah governor!

– Joyce Mitchell called us crying with happiness today; after tireless organizing, lobbying, and testifying, this one-woman powerhouse got a bill passed in the Utah House to restore citizens’ rights to care for their own dead.

“I can’t believe it,” Mitchell said by cell-phone after the vote, laughing and sniffling at the same time. “If it weren’t for [the national FCA], the FCA Biennial Conference last year, and the FCA email discussion list, I couldn’t have done. You all kept up my enthusiasm and broke me out of my apathy.”

Actually, Mitchell, the President of the FCA of Utah, is the real heroine. Outraged at a 2006 law that forced Utah citizens to hire funeral homes if they wanted a completed death certificate and custody of the body, Mitchell rounded up families and home funeral activists to testify to the Utah House. David Robles and his wife, Marcia Robles-Racehorse, consumer advocates from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho, were particularly helpful, as were Native American leaders who supported HB 265 . The bill passed the House overwhelmingly, and Mitchell has found a Senate supporter to shepherd the bill through the senate.

Mitchell’s success is a testament to what “ordinary” citizens can do when they remember that the government serves the people, not the other way around. Mitchell put up a website dedicated to the issue , gathered families who’d been affected by the 2006 law, and gave Powerpoint presentations on the issue to legislative committees.

Hats off to all of you who went to the mat on this important issue. Your work has restored a fundamental freedom for all Utah families. Special thanks to Rep. Brad Daw, who understood the injustice of depriving families of control over their death rituals, and who was willing to stand up for the right thing.

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