Utah families, political groups and lawmakers gathered at the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 24 in support of a bill seeking to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Sponsored by local gay rights group Equality Utah, the rally for HB 89 Antidiscrimination Act Amendments featured speakers Rev. Sean Parker Dennison from the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society and bill sponsor Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City.
Johnson told the crowd – many of whom brought homemade signs in support of the bill – that HB 89’s supporters would likely try to defeat the bill by calling it a “slippery slope to giving partner benefits.”
“This bill is not about putting a stamp of approval on homosexuality,” she said. “It’s an equality agenda, not a gay agenda.”
She encouraged attendees to help educate their legislators about the bill, and to let them meet their “beautiful, loving families.”
One such family on hand was Jeri Tafoya, her partner Shannon Moffitt and their two-year-old son, Ryan.
Tafoya said she supported the bill because she had experienced discrimination on the job. She said she lost her job as a manager at a Salt Lake City business because of her sexual orientation. She said she was not comfortable naming the business.
“I often saw people not getting due raises and promotions based on who they are,” she said, adding that she and her partner would contact their Representative to let her know about the importance of the bill.
Utah Log Cabin Republicans president Melvin Nimer said that his organization, a grassroots group for gay and lesbian Republicans, would also contact members of the House Business and Labor Committee to voice support of HB 89. The committee has to approve the bill before it can go to the House for debate.
Nimer also said he and other Log Cabin Republicans hope to start conversations with other Republicans on capitol hill about the importance of this and other bills important to gays and lesbians.
“A number of us are state delegates, and they’ll need our votes in upcoming elections,” he said.
Although HB 89 was held in committee on the following day, supporters said they were not discouraged.
“After an amazing introduction by Rep. Johnson and solid testimony in support of HB89 Antidiscrimination Act Amendments, the committee leadership decided to hold the bill for further discussion. This is HUGE for the first effort on this bill. Just as easily, the heavily conservative committee could have voted down the legislation," Equality Utah president Mike Thompson said in a statement released to the bill’s supporters.
HB 89 is currently waiting in committee pending a decision by chairman Rep. Stephen Clark, R-Orem, on whether it will be discussed further.