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Businesses Come OUT for Equality

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Three Salt Lake City businesses have announced their support of an Equality Utah initiative to secure basic legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns.

On Feb. 26, Golden Braid Books, Café Oasis and Faustina restaurant, a triumvirate of businesses owned by Joel and Jill LaSalle, became the first in the state to join Come Out, Utah!, a coalition of businesses that support Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative.

Started as a series of four bills that were roundly defeated in the 2009 general legislative session, the initiative has now become a broader effort to secure such things as domestic partner health insurance and housing and workplace nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender Utahns

Joel LaSalle announced the business’ participation in a press conference held in the courtyard between Golden Braid Books and Café Oasis. Until the legislative session’s end on March 12, LaSalle said his businesses would donate 25 percent of their profits to Equality Utah, to help them further their work in passing equal rights legislation in municipalities around the state.

“Everyone needs to come together,” he said. “Businesses, people, families. The higher your position in this community, the higher level of courage it will take to come out for these issues.”

The press conference included remarks from Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who unveiled the county’s new logo, which includes the word “Diverse” on the emblem. Earlier in February, the Salt Lake County Council passed a proposal extending health insurance benefits to non-spousal adult designees of county employees, including same-sex partners.

Corroon thanked Equality Utah for launching the Common Ground Initiative.

“Those issues they asked us to come together on will make our state a better place to live,” he said.

Corroon called the fact that gay and transgender Utahns can still be fired or evicted from their housing because of their orientation or gender identity “shameful” and “a disgrace.”

“These are not special rights. These are basic human rights for all of us,” he said to loud applause.

Openly gay Sen. Scott McCoy also spoke. Arriving late due to legislative business on Capitol Hill, the Salt Lake Democrat joked that he had nearly received a speeding ticket en route to the press conference.

But McCoy was all business when he thanked Salt Lake businesses for “opening another front in [the] battle” for gay rights in Utah.

Although McCoy admitted that “it can be crushing” to see bills like his own that would have let a same-sex partner sue in the case of wrongful death die, McCoy reassured the crowd that the bills would some day pass.

“You’re on the side of right and doing the right thing,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”

In his closing remarks, LaSalle encouraged the crowd not to gay foes such as Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who made headlines late last month for anti-gay remarks made to documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan.

“We ask you tonight to know that his hate is immature, uneducated and unfounded, and we should treat it as such,” he said. “There is no more room in this world for hate. We should have pity on him for his lack of depth.”

To counter prejudice in people such as Buttars, LaSalle urged those gathered to talk to their families, friends and coworkers about the need for gay rights legislation.

“We ask you to come out again and again until this battle is won,” he said.

Since Feb. 26, at least 20 businesses from all over the state have ‘come out’ in favor of the Common Ground Initiative. Interested businesses may join their number with a $50 donation to Equality Utah. For this money, their contact information will be listed on Equality Utah’s Web site. They will also receive a decal to put in their storefront window.

To see a list of participating businesses, visit equalityutah.org.

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