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American Fork tables anti-discrimination ordinances

Published December 13, 2011 10:55 pm

Proposed ordinances • Council member says moretime needed to work out issues.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

American Fork • The city will not become the first in Utah County to enact ordinances protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and jobs.

The City Council, after an hourlong public hearing on the ordinances, unanimously voted to table the measures indefinitely for further public discussion. The suggestion for tabling came from a staunch supporter of the measures: Equality Utah.

"I wonder if it is time to step back, take a deep breath and have a civil dialogue in this season of compassion," said Brandie Balken, Equality's executive director.

Councilwoman Heidi Rodeback, who had joined with Councilmen Rick Storrs and Keith Blake to put the ordinances on the agenda, made the motion to table them. Rodeback said she supports the principles of the ordinances — which were endorsed by the LDS Church when Salt Lake City passed them two years ago — but wants to have more discussion to work out issues.

"There are some concerns that we need more time to address," Rodeback said.

Blake said one issue he thought needed to be clarified was "gender fluidity" — the idea that people can change their genders. He wanted to look into how that would affect matters with employers.

Councilman Dale Gunther said it made sense to slow down the process because three new members will join the council in January.

Storrs introduced the ordinances at the request of resident Mark Steele. Steele said he has pushed for the ordinances in American Fork after seeing how his daughter was treated when she decided to become a transgender person.

Because the council did not set a specific date to discuss the ordinances again, some supporters fear the issue is dead. "It's a shame," one supporter said as he walked out of the council chambers.

But Steele said he will continue to work to keep the ordinances alive, and will meet with the new council members and others to explain the issues. He does not see it as going back to square one.

The conservative Sutherland Institute saw the tabling as a victory. The institute mounted an email campaign, inundating council members with messages protesting the ordinance.

"We thought the council took the prudent step to set aside the ordinances," said Derek Monson, the institute's director of policy.

The institute argued that the ordinances would have violated people's religious liberties. Although the ordinances would have exempted churches and affiliated businesses and schools — along with small businesses and landlords with four or fewer rental units — the institute's representatives said it did not protect people who might be religiously opposed to gay or transgender people.

Some of the landlords and business people who attended the meeting argued that the ordinances were an unwarranted — and unwelcome — intrusion.

"Not everything that is wrong is illegal," said resident Steve Densley, who said it should be left to parents to teach their children not to discriminate. He also stressed that the LDS Church only endorsed Salt Lake City's, and no other cities' ordinances.

dmeyers@sltrib.com Twitter: @donaldwmeyers facebook.com/ donaldwmeyers gplus.to/donaldwmeyers —

Who's passed the ordinances so far?

Salt Lake County

Summit County

Grand County

Salt Lake City

Alta

Logan

West Valley City

Murray

Taylorsville

Moab

Midvale

Ogden.