Statewide anti-bias bill gaining ground in Utah Legislature

For the first time since the bill was first proposed four years ago, the anti-bias measure protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace or in housing will have a Republican sponsor in the Utah Legislature. Rep. Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights, is taking up the bill in the House while last year’s sponsor, Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, runs the same bill in the Senate.

The major shift of bi-partisan sponsorship comes on the heels of another major endorsement. The Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce issued a set of guidelines, for state legislators, to improve the state’s business climate and one of the major points was passing a statewide nondiscrimination bill.

“Discrimination is not only wrong, it is bad for business. A patchwork of nondiscrimination ordinances currently exists in the state. We support a standardized statewide nondiscrimination ordinance, modeled after that passed in Salt Lake City and 12 other local governments in Utah,” the report reads.

Salt Lake City was the first municipality to pass the ordinances with the backing of the LDS Church in 2009. Since then, a dozen other local governments followed suit with similar measures.

Recent polling by Equality Utah shows that approximately 75 percent of Utahns support passing a statewide measure to protect against bias in the workplace.  While nondiscrimination bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, they have never made it out of committee hearings.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, has opposed the bills and even threatened to ban all protections for queer Utahns, even at a local level.

“I think it’s a local issue. I think each community should implement what’s best for their community. On an issue like this, I think mandating that La Verkin have a similar ordinance to Salt Lake when their community values may be diametrically opposite … I think that’s further than we ought to be,” Waddoups told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah Legislature convenes on Jan. 23 and Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, has announced his plans to introduce an anti-bias bill early in the session.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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