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Ogden City still mulling ordinances after 10 months

Discussion on two proposed nondiscrimination ordinances in Ogden has been going on for 10 months. Drafts of the ordinances were presented to the Ogden City Council in April of last year by James Humphreys, an Ogden City resident and vice president of Utah Log Cabin Republicans. But the city has yet to formally address the measures.

The proposed ordinances would ban discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, similar to those passed in 10 other Utah cities and counties.

“The Ogden City Council has been wonderful to work with,” Humphreys said. “Consistently they have encouraged me and other residents here in Ogden to be patient. I believe we have more than enough support to pass these ordinances with the council.”

Humphreys is frustrated, however, that Ogden City Mayor Matthew Godfrey is not accepting dialogue on the issue.

“The mayor has not returned a single phone call or any of my e-mails on this subject. He has preferred to deal directly with Equality Utah and bypass the residents who want this set of ordinances passed,” Humphreys said. “My sources within the administration suggest he does not want these to pass. It is my understanding that none of us that are supportive of these ordinances has had an opportunity to speak directly with him about them.”

Humphreys is hopeful, but unsure, that the mayor would not veto them if passed.

Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken will meet with the mayor on Jan. 7 hoping to clear up legal questions he has regarding the proposed ordinances.

The mayor’s office is declining comment on what issues will be discussed with Balken, except to tell the Ogden Standard-Examiner, “We would like to have a meeting with them rather than through the media.”

Humphreys is concerned that the mayor may propose a resolution that discrimination shouldn’t happen in the city rather than ordinances that levee fines. Balken told the Standard-Examiner that Equality Utah prefers ordinances over resolutions which have “no teeth.”

“We see a resolution as very much like the Golden Rule,” she said.

Councilmembers are waiting on the outcome of the meeting before deciding how to proceed with the ordinances.

Humphreys is unsure what legal issues the mayor’s office has been going back and forth on with Equality Utah leaders.

“[The mayor] has raised the constitutionality of these ordinances, but I am unaware of any discussions about this specifically,” Humphreys said.

Standard-Examiner columnist Charles Trentelman called on the city to “quit stalling” and pass the ordinances.

“The Ogden City Council banned the fake drug [called] spice in weeks,” he wrote. “[T]he goal was to send a message, and councilmembers sent it special delivery. Ogden’s efforts to send a welcoming message to gays is redefining the term ‘snail mail.’ Handcarts have blinding speed compared with these guys.”

Trentelman also quoted Theresa Novak, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church, who says the mayor is simply stalling the ordinances.

“Since April, every couple months we’ve tried to ask, ‘What’s the status? What’s the status?’ We e-mail and Facebook the mayor, and he says, ‘Oh, we’re working with Equality Utah,’ and when I talk to Equality Utah, what they say is, every time the city comes with a question, they send a reply, and then the city sends another question,” Novak said.

Humphreys says he is perplexed by the mayor’s reluctance to discuss the issues with him.

“The mayor and I are in the same precinct, so we see each other at caucus meetings,” he said. “He is very easy to talk with about most things, but has been quiet about this issue and I am confused by this.”

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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