Well, it’s that time of year again, muffins! No, it’s not the Sundance Film Festival, or the new season of American Idol, It’s way more important than that. It’s time to gird your loins in preparation for the annual Utah Legislative Session, because darlings, it’s an election year and we have got some work to do.
Representative Christine Johnson is sponsoring House Bill 89 which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the states workplace discrimination protections. It’s a great idea whose time has finally come. Well, technically it’s already come in 11 other more progressive states, and it’s the standard way of doing business in many private Fortune 500 companies. But be warned, cupcakes, passage of a gay-inclusive anti-discrimination bill in Utah may be a long slog that could take years. Remember how long it took for the Hate Crimes Bill to pass, and that was for something as severe as homicides and assaults? A functional Hate Crimes Bill almost became a mythical quixotic quest with gay-friendly Democrats introducing a Hate Crimes proposal year after year, only to see it languish in committees, or amended into an unrecognizable pulp. I’m pretty sure it was about seven or eight years before it actually became law. Which raises an interesting question: Has anyone actually been prosecuted for a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender-related hate crime using the Hate Crimes Statute, or has the prospect of a sentencing enhancement been so wildly effective in reducing hate crimes that they simply don’t exist anymore? Let it go, cherubs, that was a purely rhetorical question and only mildly sarcastic on my part. My conspiracy theory on that one was that we only got a watered-down Hate Crimes Bill because the Legislature was finally getting embarrassed with Utah being one of the last states that would not protect gay people. Nationally and internationally it made us look like hicks at best, and mean-spirited, intolerant religious zealots at worst.
Not surprisingly, Gayle Ruzicka and the rest of the conservative fringe has already decreed that the workplace discrimination law is flawed because gay people choose their orientation unlike factors like race, color, age or religion. Hmmm … intriguing! Tell me, pumpkins, did you get the “gay as a choice” memo? Because I sure as hell didn’t. Well anyway, kids, being an election year (and after seeing private school vouchers thrashed by voter referendums), you know that some random conservative is going to float some outrageously divisive bill attacking gay rights, abortion or immigration this session – and if they do, we need to be alert and counteract them. Be prepared!
With that in mind, I am thrilled to announce that before the legislature goes into session, Equality Utah will be holding a cocktail meet and greet at The Mynt Lounge (a private club for members at 63 West 100 South) on Wednesday Jan. 23 at 5.30 p.m. I will personally be there to rally the troops. Do come, won’t you? I would love to see you all and Michael, Will and the Equality folks will be more than happy to fill you in on the bills of interest. See you there! Ciao, babies!