The Park City Council is still planning on passing two gay and transgender-inclusive ordinances despite the State Legislature’s request that municipalities hold off on such laws, according to Mayor Dana Williams.
In January, openly lesbian Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, orchestrated a controversial compromise with Republicans in the Legislature: Johnson and other lawmakers would withdraw gay and transgender rights bills in exchange for Republicans pulling bills seeking to nullify ordinances passed last year in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The ordinances in question added sexual orientation and gender identity to laws prohibiting employment and housing discrimination and received backing from the LDS Church, in a move that shocked many. As part of this “truce,” the ordinances would be allowed to remain in place the Legislature formally studied whether or not gay and transgender Utahns face employment and housing discrimination. However, Republicans later called off the study in favor of more informal research gathering.
Since the compromise’s announcement, Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, requested that other municipalities refrain from passing similar ordinances. The request, said Williams, does not sit well with him or the city’s five-member council. When they heard of Waddoups’ request, Williams said the council agreed that they would enact the ordinances before a bill from the State Legislature could prevent them.
“We really don’t feel like they should be tying our hands,” he said.
If nothing forces the city to stop, Williams said that the matter will come before the council in March, after the city holds a public meeting on the subject. While Williams does not anticipate that anyone will show up to object to the ordinances, he said he likes to have such meetings on the record, in case a resident later complains that an ordinance was passed without any public input.
Although Williams announced in November that Park City would go forward with ordinances similar to Salt Lake City and County’s, he said the council has not yet moved because it has been studying similar ordinances passed in other states. It has also been reviewing exemptions in Salt Lake City’s ordinances that provided for businesses with under 15 employees and landlords owning fewer than four properties.
“[Some of those] don’t make any sense and it must’ve been some kind of lobby effort that got [them] in there,” he said.
A number of other cities and counties are looking into passing similar ordinances, including Summit County and, ironically, Waddoups’ home city of Taylorsville. On Valentine’s Day, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden and statewide gay and transgender rights group Equality Utah held a town hall meeting about nondiscrimination ordinances and invited Ogden’s mayor and city council.