A statewide antibias bill may be dead in the Senate, but advocates Wednesday wanted lawmakers to know it’s not gone from their hearts.
More than 100 people rallied at the Capitol for an event sponsored by Equality Utah, the group that has been pushing the past five years for the statewide bill that advocates say does one thing: Prohibit discrimination at work or in housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Several groups joined in the rally including Mormons Building Bridges, which is not affiliated with the LDS Church, but is a grassroots group of more then 2,000 active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bertita Dequiensabe, a self-described Latina, Puerto Rican and Mormon, told the crowd Mormons should especially be able to relate to those wanting protection: Pioneer Mormons went from persecution to power.
"To our fellow Mormons," Dequiensabe said about Mormons Building Bridges. "We hope to be a resource."
Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who sponsored SB262, said he slowly came around to the antibias cause, at first being against it.
"It took me a while to be here but I’m glad to be here," Urquhart said to cheers. "Yes, there were people bent out of shape but mostly it was an outpouring of love."
LGBT advocates such as Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, expressed mixed emotions during the rally: "We are celebrating today … we got further than ever before."
It was the first LGBT event Mathew Volk had attended, even though he came out as gay to his parents and friends three years ago, shortly after returning from his church mission in Hong Kong.
When asked about the LDS Church creating the website Mormonsandgays.org, Volk, 25, said, "It’s a step forward, but I hope it’s not an excuse to hide discrimination by going with PR [public relations]."
Valerie Larabee, executive director of Utah Pride Center, said in an interview that it was harder getting the LDS Church to support the bill because religious institutions were included in the statewide antidiscrimation bill. Previously, the LDS Church supported an antibias law that passed in Salt Lake City in 2009.
"I think it’s going to be very much like the other issue we’re dealing with in that the federal government is going to have to make delineations," said Larabee, referring to same-sex marriage.
Other supporters of the bill attended the rally, such as the Jewish Congregation Kol Ami, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Utah Coalition of La Raza.
Lee Anne Walker, of Salt Lake City, questioned lawmakers’ priorities, referring to lawmakers forwarding a bill to relocate a prison that could cost millions.
"If legislatures can work so fast on this prison, then [the antibias bill] could have gotten fast-tracked," Walker said.
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