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Lawmakers didn't act on anti-bias, liquor reform or same-sex marriage

Published March 14, 2014 12:05 am

No action • The list includes ed-tech drive, gay-discrimination ban, liquor-law tweaks.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some of the most hotly contested issues of the year — from banning discrimination against gays to defending traditional marriage to eliminating the "Zion Curtain" in restaurant bars — all died.

Many of them have appeared before, and likely will again.

Take for example SB100 to ban housing and employment discrimination against gays. It was not given a hearing because, with the backdrop of Utah's appeal attempting to defend it's gay-marriage ban, legislative leaders decided to put on hold any bills dealing even remotely with gay rights or religious liberty.

Protesters plastered the door of the Senate with notes pleading for a hearing. Several rallies were held. Some protesters blocked the door to the governor's office, and later blocked access to a legislative hearing, leading to their arrest..

Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, has run the anti-discrimination bill for years, and plans to bring it back again. "I know how this issue ends eventually," he said amid the protests.

"It is a question of whether we pass this legislation this year or next year or sometime after."

Meanwhile, other legislation to ensure churches would not have to perform same-sex marriages or allow people and businesses to refuse service to gays because of their religious beliefs also were not given hearings.

Arizona passed similar legislation, before it was vetoed, generated national criticism. Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, who introduced a trio of religious-liberty bills, said Utah likely escaped the firestorm that hit Arizona by deciding to shelve all related bills this year.

When House Speaker Becky Lockhart's $200 million initiative to improve technology in schools died, she in turn pronounced DOA some related gasoline and property tax hikes that the Senate had pushed to help fund the initiative or help prevent cuts it could cause.

Amid opposition by the LDS Church, a push died to tear down the "Zion Curtain," a 7-foot-2 inch barrier that restaurants must have in bar areas so children will not see alcohol being mixed of poured.

Moves to tweak other vices also died — including a push to raise Utah's already highest-among-the-states smoking age from 19 to 21; one to more closely regulate electronic cigarettes; a tax break on premium cigars; and a tax hike for beer.