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Urquhart wants public outpouring on discrimination bill
First Published Jan 31 2014 05:18 pm • Last Updated Jan 31 2014 11:04 pm

Utah Sen. Steve Urquhart taped a note to the door of the Senate chambers that read "Hear SB100," and called on supporters to do the same until Senate leaders allow debate on his proposal to ban housing and employment discrimination against gay Utahns.

Right now, Urquhart’s bill is stuck in legislative limbo.

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"Come up to the Capitol and let your senator know it’s time to solve this issue," Urquhart said. "Come to the Capitol and let your senator know this issue should be heard."

Republican leaders in both the Senate and House — on advice of the attorney general — have agreed not to hear any bills dealing with same-sex marriage or any other gay or lesbian issues while Utah is appealing a federal court ruling striking down Utah’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"We want to stay focused on that effort, to defend our citizens’ amendment, which passed by a large majority," said Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe. "So we have kind of taken the stance that we probably won’t take a look at some of the religious freedom-type bills or the anti-discrimination bills, because a lot of rhetoric and discussion that would go along with those bills could have an effect on the court case."

Urquhart said a ban on discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has been proposed in the Legislature for five years — long before the same-sex marriage ruling — and has broad public support.

A poll conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune found that 60 percent of Utahns support a bill banning workplace and housing discrimination while 35 percent opposed it.

"While there is significant disagreement over the issue of same-sex marriage, there is not significant disagreement over non-discrimination," Urquhart said. "That’s the job of legislative bodies, to do the will of the people, so it’s time to pass … nondiscrimination laws statewide."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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