Ogden City Council passes amended anti-bias ordinances

The Ogden City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to amend two anti-bias ordinances that were passed last week, but not signed by the mayor. The ordinances protect against bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and in housing.

The compromise amendments to the bills clarifies that the law would not stop people from expressing deeply seated religious beliefs or trample First Amendment rights. However, the amendments stipulate that severe expressions of religious belief would be prohibited. The city of Ogden would also be exempt from the ordinances, although Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he would issue an executive order against discrimination of city employees.

Godfrey opposed the ordinances after they were passed last week and promised to veto the bills unless the religious and city exemptions were added to the bills. The city council passed the original bills by a 4-3 vote. To override the mayor’s veto, the council would have needed five votes, which is why the ordinances were reconsidered on Tuesday.

“These ordinances are a product of compromise,” said Gary Williams, city attorney. “And like all fair compromises, it required both sides to give a little.”

The bills struck a delicate balance between all the parties involved, said Ogden City Councilman Bart Blair.

“It was a fair balance of representing both sides, which I thought was a great credit to those involved who worked tirelessly to come up with the language,” said Blair.

With unanimous support from the city council and the exemptions to the bill that the mayor wanted, Ogden will become the 12th municipality in Utah to pass similar bills.

“We’re very excited and happy about these ordinances,” said James Humphreys, an Ogden resident and vice president of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans. “We know they are not perfect, but we are so excited to have them passed and I don’t think the amendments we added detracted from the bill. All they did was clarify what the First Amendment already says and put it in our bills.”

Religious organizations, companies with 15 or fewer employees and landlords with four or fewer rental units were already exempt to the law.

The mayor issued an executive order to protect Ogden city employees. However, an executive order does not have as much power as a law and could be repealed if a new mayor is elected and decides to remove the executive order The new mayor would not need any approval from the city council to repeal the anti-discrimination order.

The new ordinances also added that Ogden is comprised of “churches and families.”

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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