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Utah ENDA Bill Held Until Interim Session

In an exuberant video update on HB 89, Antidiscrimination Act Amendments, bill sponsor Christine Johnson explained that House Business and Labor Committee Chair Stephen D. Clark, R-Provo, asked that the bill be held until an interim session of the legislature rather than decided upon in this session.

"House Bill 89 was brought back to committee, not for discussion, but to decide bhow to proceed," Johnson said in the video statement. "It was recognized by committee members that there is such a huge learning curve in understanding the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, and particularly the transgender community."

"For many community members, meeting Ariana [Losco] was the first time they have ever had a transgender person sit in front of them and offer testimony," Johnson continued.  Losco was one of three people who spoke in favor of the bill when it came before the committee Jan. 26. She has been fired from her job as a health care worker after agreeing to an interview with the Associated Press about her treatment at Rocky Mountain Health Care, a nursing home in Tooele.

"Many of the committee members approached me outside of the committee and said, 'We have som many questions,'" continued Johnson. "Because of this, Rep. Clark has asked that H89 be sent to interim for further study."

"This is tremendous. In fact, I don't think we could ask for a better outcome," she said.

Indeed, most believed that a Utah "ENDA" bill would take ten years or more to get past the legislature, based on how long it took to pass hate crime legislation, albeit without specific gay and lesbian protection.  Conventional wisdom held that the bill would fail outright in the committee and never se a flor vote.

"It's one thing to try to pass a bill without educating the committee and the community at large," said Johnson. "It's something else to help people understand how discrimination impacts our community and the community at large."

Johnson went on to ask that people contact the committee members and thank them for understanding that the issue is complex and "hugely important."

"Rather than deal with such an important issue as a 20-minute agenda item, committee leadership expressed the desire to learn more about the discrimination faced by members of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," Equality Utah Executive Director Mike Thompson wrote in a statement after the decision. "We believe committee members were moved by Ariana Losco’s courageous testimony. Ariana’s testimony may very well have been the first experience committee members had with a transgender person. As a result, the first step toward breaking down the barriers of stereotypes may have been taken."

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