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Activists debate gay discrimination laws

Despite the bullying and discrimination that gay and transgender people endure, it is important to simply rise above it and there is no need for any legal protections in the workplace or in schools, said Cherilyn Eager, a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

Eager, and an executive officer from the Utah Eagle Forum, Dalane England, faced off in a public debate with former mayor Rocky Anderson and a member of the Equality Utah board of directors, Cliff Rosky. The public debate attracted more than 100 people and it was held at the University of Utah on Tuesday night. It was used as a public forum to discuss the need for having a statewide anti-bias law to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Discrimination is a fact of life and it’s our response that makes all the difference,” Eager said.

Her colleague and partner in the debate, England, continued by saying that everyone is going to face bullying and that she herself was constantly bullied in school and that she is now a better person for it.

“We’re losing sight because we’re so focused on bullying and homophobia that we are forgetting the compelling interest that government has to protect children and provide the best possible circumstances for those children to be raised in by promoting a traditional family,” Eager said. “That is what this is really about my friends.”

The representative from Equality Utah, Rosky, countered the argument and said that there is no evidence showing gay couples to be worse parents than their straight counterparts. Also, protecting children has nothing to do with protecting people against bias in the workplace and in housing, he said.

“It’s really about the opportunity to pay your rent and it’s the opportunity to be judged by the quality of your work,” Rosky said.

Protecting all people, not just gays and lesbians, from discrimination based on sexual orientation is a compelling interest for the government and the right thing to do, Rosky said.

“This is a done deal,” Anderson said. “This is going to be one of those cases where we look back and say, ‘What was the big deal? What were we so afraid of?’”

Anderson said that the gay-rights movement will be considered in the future much the same way that other civil rights movements have been seen. It will take time, but soon people will see the gay-rights movement as basic civil rights, he said.

“I learned bigotry growing up as a young Mormon boy in Logan when I was told that blacks led such a bad life in the pre-existence that they were to be denied the same religious rights and responsibilities as everybody else,” Anderson said.

Passing anti-bias laws could lead to a societal change and the government should avoid becoming involved in such issues, England said. Instead, people just need to do the right thing, she added.

“We just don’t believe that sexual preference should be brought into the workplace at all,” England said. “And if people choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, that shouldn’t be asked about at all.”

Eager also agreed with the assertions made by England and said that the gay-rights movement is not the same as other civil rights movements because it is a mutable characteristic.

“If in our public schools we are not teaching the facts to our young people about sexual choices and the fact that there is a much lower life expectancy amongst those that actively engage in homosexual behavior, then we are doing a disservice to our young people,” Eager said.

Instead of focusing on differences, the community at large should focus on the common ground and help advance legislation that will reflect the community values of fairness and equality, Rosky said.

“I think I can see we all agree on the basic principles of fairness, and I am encouraged,” Rosky said.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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