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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 31, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 53
Ten Utah municipalities pass anti-discrimination ordinances
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Ten Utah municipalities pass anti-discrimination ordinances

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Grand County, Utah, became the state's 10th municipal government to pass an ordinance protecting LGBT residents from discrimination in housing and employment.

The ordinance passed on December 22, and marks the successful completion of Equality Utah's '10 in 2010' campaign.

Salt Lake City became the first city in Utah to ban employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in November 2009.

Salt Lake County followed Salt Lake City's lead, and Equality Utah launched their '10 in 2010' campaign to increase the list to 10 by the end of this year.

The Grand County Council expedited the ordinances to ensure passage before the new year.

When the Grand County ordinances take effect, one in four Utahns will live in areas where LGBT residents are protected from discrimination.

'Each of these local governments has set an example for their residents and for business owners and property owners,' said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. 'They've also set a good example for our Legislature.'

'I do hope it sends a message [to the Legislature],' said Grand County Council chair Audrey Graham. 'It obviously makes a statement that this corner of rural Utah is interested in equality.'

She said the ordinances, which make it illegal to fire or evict someone for being Gay but exempt religious organizations, small businesses and small landlords, are a 'fairly minimal expectation.'

The successful passage of local anti-discrimination ordinances is the result of an historic compromise between Equality Utah and the LDS (Mormon) Church.

LGBT activists agreed not to pursue statewide pro-Gay legislation, and Mormon legislators agreed not to introduce bills to repeal local Gay rights ordinances.

LDS Church leaders have supported anti-discrimination measures, even though they steadfastly oppose same-sex marriage.

'The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage,' said LDS Church spokesman Michael Otterson to the Salt Lake City Council last year. 'I believe in a church that believes in human dignity, in treating people with respect, even when we disagree - in fact, especially when we disagree.'

Sen. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City) said he plans to challenge the compromise in the upcoming session of the Utah state legislature.

McAdams will introduce a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing housing and employment laws banning discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, or national origin.

Two-thirds of Utahns support such a law, according to a January poll by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Republican legislators, who control both houses of Utah's legislature, were not particularly receptive to the idea, however.

'We have been very resistant in the past to doing anything that might make sexual orientation a protected class. I don't think that has changed,' said incoming House Speaker Becky Lockhart (R-Provo).

Senate President Michael Waddoups (R-Taylorsville), who brokered last session's compromise on bills affecting the LGBT community, said he thinks McAdams is 'running a risk' by bringing up the issue again.

Some legislators, Waddoups said, would prefer to overturn the anti-discrimination ordinances passed by Utah cities and counties.

'I think that will be a real acrimonious debate - whether it will be [expanded] statewide or prohibited,' Waddoups said.

He said he prefers to have anti-discrimination measures determined at the city and county level.

'So far, I've seen no advantage to the laws and I've seen no disadvantages,' Waddoups said. 'The public out there is treating people fairly and equally. I think [Gay-rights advocates are] trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.'

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