Cities Moving Ahead on Gay, Trans Ordinances

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On April 2, Salt Lake City’s gay and transgender-inclusive housing and employment ordinances went into effect, following the enactment of similar ordinances in Salt Lake County this January. As the month moves on, five more municipal governments are in various stages of considering, and even passing, similar ordinances.

Currently, the Park City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on ordinances similar to Salt Lake City’s on April 15.

“I’m pretty hopeful that the council will actually pass it that night,” said Park City Mayor Dana Williams.

During the city staff’s research into Salt Lake’s ordinances — and into federal nondiscrimination laws on which they were based — Williams said he wanted to make his city’s ordinances stricter than those in the capitol. For example, he wanted to toss out Salt Lake’s exemption for businesses of 15 or fewer employees, but found that federal guidelines on which Salt Lake’s ordinances were based would not allow him to do this.

“[Under federal law] it’s not like you can’t hire a woman or a person of color if you have less than 15 employees,” he said. “I don’t know why federal law” is different when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Out of concerns for what he called “repercussions from the State Legislature,” Williams said city attorneys suggested that Park City pass Salt Lake-style ordinances now and “keep looking at future possibilities” in making the law stricter. He added that the city’s chamber of commerce, board of Realtors and lodging association are all supportive of the ordinances.

On Valentine’s Day, a few of Ogden’s City Council members met with members of Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden for a town hall meeting about the ordinances. On April 20, there will be a formal presentation on the ordinances in the City Council Chamber.

“We do have some people we’re working with who are working with the city attorney and city administrator,” said James Humphreys, the Vice President of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans and an Ogden resident who has spearheaded the push to pass gay and transgender-inclusive employment and housing ordinances in the city. “I’m hoping since they have a draft copy of the language they will be able to publicly state a prelim position on the ordinances to the council at the meeting as well.”

While Councilwoman Susie Van Hooser said that the ordinances had been “an item of discussion” for the council, she said that no date had been set yet for a public hearing or even a work session.

“But it’s a priority on our agenda,” she added.

The meeting will be held in the council chambers, 2549 Washington Blvd., at 6 p.m.
A similar discussion has been taking place among Taylorsville’s City Councilmembers, said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. The gay and transgender rights organization has been working with municipal governments to pass ordinances like Salt Lake City and County’s since early 2009.

On March 29, Equality Utah’s staff held a town hall meeting at Taylorsville’s City Hall, which was attended by residents and elected officials, including Mayor Russ Wall. Since then, Balken said, the city’s ordinance review committee has looked over Salt Lake’s ordinances and have recommended that the council move forward in drafting ordinances for Taylorsville. The committee consists of Taylorsville residents who examine and make recommendations on laws proposed by citizens before delivering them to the City Council.

Balken said that Summit County was also in the process of considering ordinances like Salt Lake City’s. Additionally, she and other staff members have done similar work in Moab as they did in Taylorsville.

“We’ve gone down and had a public meeting and a discussion with Mayor Dave [Sakrison] and the City Councilmembers,” she said. Similarly, Equality Utah conducted a phone bank in the city to assess the level of public support for the ordinances.

Meanwhile, the West Valley City Council has already held a work meeting on the ordinances and unanimously voted to begin drafting them. Mayor Mike Winder said that he expected the council to vote on the ordinances “at the end of April, in May or early June at the latest.” Currently, he added, the city’s staff is examining the ordinances to see how they can be integrated into West Valley City’s particular laws.

“The council still feels strongly that this is the right direction to go a do I,” he said.

As these municipalities work on considering and drafting their own gay and transgender-friendly housing and employment laws, others are also speaking with Equality Utah and with residents about the possibility of putting such ordinances in place. While Balken said she couldn’t yet name names, she did say that six additional municipalities had expressed interest in learning more about such laws.

“Most of our other municipalities are in a place where people are talking with their City Councilmembers, but we’re not in the docket yet,” she said.

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