Holladay • The city of Holladay is now the 20th local government in Utah with an ordinance banning housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The city council passed the ordinance 5-1 Thursday night following debate on some proposed amendments to the proposal, but little discussion of the ordinance itself.
Councilman Steven Gunn explained his vote in favor of the ordinance, saying as he looked into the issue of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people he found only one alleged instance in the city. However, he voted for the measure because discrimination has occurred in other places and he would like to prevent it happening in Holladay.
“I say to our gay community: You are welcome here,” Gunn said.
Gunn also said that the ordinance would not interfere with Utah’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling striking down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
“It is inconceivable to me that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals would conclude that the existence of a Holladay ordinance banning the discrimination against gays in employment or housing has any relevance to the issue whether Utah’s ban on gay marriage violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution,” said Gunn, an attorney.
Earlier in the meeting, Gunn proposed an amendment to clarify that the ordinance would not force business owners — such as bakers and florists — to provide goods and services for same-sex weddings against their will.
“I personally believe… that it would be difficult for any court to find that there is such an inference, but just to make it very clear I have suggested that we add this language,” Gunn said.
Councilman James Palmer Jr. said such an amendment was unnecessary as demonstrated by the experience of other localities with the ordinance.
“I’m not inclined to vote for something that is there to try and address somebody’s irrational fear of something that might not happen,” Palmer said.
The amendment failed and the ordinance passed as proposed.
Palmer also said that since the Utah Legislature will not take action, it is important that Holladay’s ordinance should be uniform with other non-discrimination ordinances around the Salt Lake Valley in order to avoid confusion. Salt Lake City was the first to adopt the ordinance in 2009, with support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Legislature’s leaders decided early in the lawmaking session to freeze any action on bills involving gay rights or religious liberties for fear of hampering the state’s legal case in defense of its 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Among legislation blocked by that decision is SB100, which would extend the anti-discrimination ban statewide for housing and employment.
SB100, which enjoys broad public support according to polls, was not allowed to go before a committee for public debate.