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Salt Lake’s New Mayor: Ralph Becker

Ralph Becker took to the podium at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night to claim victory in the Salt Lake City Mayor's race. A half hour earlier, his opponent, Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler, conceded the race to Becker.

Newly-elected Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker with his campaign staff

With 94.6 percent of the votes tallied, Raph Becker has over 64 percent of the vote. Buhler has 35 percent and 105 people voted for write-in candidates.

Gay and lesbian rights took center stage throughout the campaign, especially prior to the primary. Both Becker and Buhler, as well as all of the other serious candidates, courted the gay vote. After the primary election Equality Utah bestowed Becker with their endorsement. Buhler attracted support from some Log Cabin Republicans of Utah leaders, but the group never issued an endorsement in the nonpartisan race.

During his campaign, Becker promised a series of "Universal Human Rights Initiatives for Salt Lake City":

We end the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag with a commitment to “liberty and justice for all.” These are not shallow words; they lie at the heart of our commitment to equity for all through a democratic form of government, and our Constitution explicitly states that no State shall “deny any person the equal protection of the laws.” Salt Lake City, as a subdivision of the state, has an obligation to all of its residents – all of its “persons” – to protect their human rights.

Discrimination has no place in a great American city. While Salt Lake’s human rights policies are the most progressive in Utah, there is more that can be done to ensure that all residents and visitors are treated with greater equality and respect. A comprehensive and forward-looking set of policies that affirms the universal human rights of all residents can contribute substantially to Salt Lake’s productive and stable economic environment. When every person feels valued and protected by our City’s government, they work more effectively and efficiently. Turnover rates are lower, quality of life is higher, and the entire region benefits from a workforce that does not perceive itself to be threatened by discriminatory actions.

A focus on human rights in no way negates or dilutes any of the critical work that is to be done to combat racism in our community. These Human Rights Initiatives recognize that there are multiple forms of oppression, and multiple subjects of that oppression; to emphasize one at the expense of another is ultimately ineffective, because the mindset that permits the invidious discrimination underlying all forms of oppression is what we seek to overcome. And in that fight, we seek to foster equity among all residents of and visitors to Salt Lake City.

In order to leave no doubt as to who is covered by our City’s policies, an enumerated list of protected classes must be included in comprehensive human rights ordinances and related laws, such as a municipal hate-crimes enhancement ordinance. Accordingly, I propose the adoption of Universal Human Rights Initiatives that fall into three categories: Comprehensive Ordinances and Policies, Domestic Partner Policies, and Compliance and Enforcement.

A Comprehensive Set of Human Rights Ordinances and Policies
A truly great American city recognizes the fundamental importance of protecting and celebrating universal human rights. Accordingly, the Becker administration will build upon existing ordinances and policies in the following ways:

1. Transform the Office of Diversity into the Office of Human Rights. By acknowledging that a broader set of human rights belong to all residents of our City, Salt Lake City joins other international cities that elevate the protection of basic human rights for all residents and visitors as a fundamental municipal value.

2. Implement a comprehensive nondiscrimination municipal ordinance with an enumerated list of protected classes. This ordinance would cover housing and realty, employment, public accommodation, and city activities.

3. Require companies that contract with and/or sell goods and services to the City to implement a nondiscrimination policy with regard to race, color, familial status, veterans status, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

4. Champion a hate-crimes ordinance that would enhance penalties for crimes that are related to race, color, familial status, veterans status, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

5. Develop anti-bullying and equal access policies by working with the school district to include protection for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Domestic Partner Policies

6. Establish a city registry for domestic partnerships to streamline the process for businesses to offer benefits to domestic partners.

7. Require the extension of benefits equally to registered domestic partners by companies that contract with the City and already provide benefits to employees’ spouses.

8. Change the City’s retirement policy to allow an employee to name a domestic partner as a beneficiary.

Implementation and Compliance

9. Ensure the continued vitality of the Civilian Review Board.

10. Emphasize the importance of diversity training in every city department.

Equality Utah endorsed Becker in the race. 

 

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