(Cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)
Last week Salt Lake City passed an ordinance that protects persons seeking employment and housing from discrimination because of sexual orientation.
Done deal? Not a chance. According to a Deseret News Article last week state legislators are gearing up for what promises to be once again a hot topic for the 2010 legislative session.
Government and civic leaders said Wednesday the fight will be much tougher in the conservative Legislature, though the odds of passing an anti-discrimination law may get a boost from the Mormon church’s endorsement Tuesday of the Salt Lake City Council’s ordinances. Lawmakers could do three things when they come into January’s general session: They could adopt a statewide law similar to the city’s; they could actually repeal the city ordinance and ban all other local governments from doing likewise; or they could do nothing, which would let the city ordinance stand.
Rep. Chris Johnson, D-Salt Lake will be introducing a bill much like the Salt Lake City’s passed ordinance to afford all persons equal protection with regards to housing and employment.
There are, of course, conservative legislators, ironically property owners, outspoken on the issue:
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he expects the issue to come up next session.
“I don’t know where it will go,” he said. “It depends on whether they try to plow new ground with it.” Waddoups said he would be willing to support legislation protecting employment and housing rights for gay Utahns if current statutes are unclear.
However, Waddoups, a property manager, said he wants the “right to protect the image of my company” against gay employees “out flaunting the gay lifestyle” during work hours. He said he also had concerns about similar behavior among his tenants. “I’m not going to put up with that on any of my properties,” Waddoups said.
Gayle Ruzicka, the president of the right wing “pro-traditional family” Utah Eagle Forum feels that property owners are now being discriminated against with regards to the right to rent property to whomever a private property owner wants:
“The housing the LDS Church owns around Brigham Young University would not have to rent to a couple living the homosexual lifestyle,” Ruzicka said.
“But I as a private property owner would, even if I disapproved of that lifestyle,” said Ruzicka. “I call that discrimination” against the property owner.
So would this mean then, that if a property owner is a racist against blacks, that their rights are being violated? How about disabled people? But wait, let’s not stop there – how about (gulp) a white woman married to a black man? Mercy me, shades of the 60’s!
The Sutherland Institute, a right wing think tank in Utah, which countered the Common Ground Initiative (a series of anti-discrimination bills) last session with its “Sacred Ground Initiative”, countered the LDS church’s support of the Salt Lake City Council’s action:
“As a public relations opportunity, the LDS Church’s statement before the Salt Lake City Council may assuage the minds and soften the hearts of ‘gay rights’ in Utah,” the Sutherland statement read. “As a policy statement, it is problematic.”
“The approved ordinances before the Salt Lake City Council are unsound in principle, clarity and effect.”
There are legislators who intend to introduce a bill that mandates that municipalities will not be able to do what Salt Lake City did in the state of Utah. This hints of the tragic legislation several years ago that mandates that cities cannot discriminate against contractors because they do not pay a living wage to their employees (overturning a Salt Lake City ordinance to prioritize hiring contractors to those which pay its employees a living wage.)
There are thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender citizens in Utah. They contribute to our communities and our economy like all other citizens do. In fact, there are many successful business owners who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender. All citizens in Utah, regardless of any type of orientation, deserve equal protection under the law.