Legislation to prohibit housing and employment discrimination against gay and lesbian Utahns will be considered this session, but apparently without the support of the LDS Church.
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said he is proceeding with a bill modeled after a Salt Lake City ordinance and similar to legislation that failed to make it through committee last year.
“I think this is one of the big issues of our time,” Urquhart said. “I think it’s time for us to pass this as a state. I don’t think that Utah is about discrimination in any way, shape or form.”
Representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been in discussions with supporters of the bill for months, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was prepared to sponsor anti-discrimination legislation if there was an agreement on how to frame the bill.
But the agreement could not be reached, and Urquhart will carry the legislation.
“We appreciate him recognizing the importance of this bill,” said Brandie Balken, executive director for the group Equality Utah. “We have been committed to working with many stakeholders in support of this bill and will continue to do that.”
Sixteen municipalities in Utah have passed ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination, and 17 have adopted ordinances banning housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
Urquhart said he is hopeful, but realistic, about the bill’s chances.
“I have faith in the process,” he said. “It’s definitely an uphill charge, but I’m going to give it a try.”