Summit County bans anti-gay discrimination
Summit County has snagged the No. 6 spot on a growing list of Utah cities and counties that protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination.
This week, the Summit County Council voted unanimously, with two members absent but supportive, to pass two ordinances that forbid housing and employment discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"It's the right thing to do," County Councilwoman Sally Elliott said Thursday. "It's wrong to discriminate against anyone for any reason. We wanted to make a statement that we all believe that it's right to treat people well."
Last fall, Salt Lake City was the first Utah government to extend such protections, garnering a historic endorsement from the LDS Church and a unanimous vote by the City Council. Salt Lake County, Park City, Logan, West Valley City and Summit County followed the capital city's lead.
Gay-rights advocate Equality Utah aims to grow the list to 10 by the end of 2010. Discussions have sprouted in Taylorsville, Ogden, Moab and Cedar City.
"Summit County is the most rural area we have had success in so far," said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. "This is Kamas and Coalville and Peoa and Hoytsville. ... It's a beautiful statement about Utahns, as a whole, and their support to stop discrimination in any form."
Summit County's ordinances apply to residents of unincorporated areas, such as Snyderville Basin, Hoytsville, Peoa and Jeremy Ranch. Landlords or employers who violate the ordinances face $500 or $1,000 fines, depending on their size.
In January, a Salt Lake Tribune poll showed that 66 percent of Utahns support extending anti-discrimination protections statewide. This year, in a truce that scuttled all pro- and anti-gay bills, the Legislature dropped a proposal to include sexual orientation and gender identity in existing state laws that forbid housing and employment discrimination based on race, religion or other characteristics.
Equality Utah plans to push such a measure again in 2011.
In Summit County, many residents spoke in favor of the anti-bias statutes at a public hearing Wednesday evening, Elliott said. No one spoke in opposition, she noted. Summit, Utah's 10th most-populous county, is home to 37,000 people.
Melyssa Davidson, who spoke at the hearing, said Thursday she thought the statutes were a "wonderful idea" and "long overdue." She lives in Park City with her husband and two kids.
"Even though I have what would be considered an extremely traditional family, it's important to me as a parent to raise my children in an environment where everyone's family is respected," she said. "Everyone doesn't have to look like my family to be important and valued and protected."
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