SL County celebrates 20th anniv. of discrimination ordinance

This Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of Salt Lake County’s nondiscrimination ordinance, the first of its kind in the state. The Salt Lake County Council commemorated its passing with a resolution at its meeting Sept. 25.

Ordinance 1212 was passed in 1992 and reads, “Discrimination in Salt Lake County government services based on age, marital status, color, disability, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or religion is prohibited. Individuals shall be assured of equal access, opportunity and protection in all areas of Salt Lake County government services. This section is not intended to expand the services of county government beyond those required by state or federal law.”

David Nelson

Longtime gay activist David Nelson wrote the measure and approached then-Commissioners Randy Horiuchi and Jim Bradley to run it.

Horiuchi said in 1992 that he believes the county needed an ordinance that would be stronger than federal laws that prohibit discrimination since they didn’t address sexual orientation.

“Being a person of color myself, any hint of discrimination in my view is heinous,” Horiuchi said at the ’92 meeting.

The 3-person commission passed the ordinance 2-1, with then-Commissioner Mike Stewart voting against it, urging his fellow commissioners to “consider this with reflective reason rather than glands and hormones.”

Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka promised lawsuits against the measure, though none came to pass.

“I was 11 years old when this ordinance passed,” said County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw at Tuesday’s commemoration. “Growing up gay in this area can be a hard thing to do. I noticed efforts like this from my heroes.”

Councilman Richard Snelgrove said that the world needs more tolerance and that homophobia, Mormonphobia and Islamophobia have no place in the county.

“Just this week we are seeing the outcome of those who foment hate in our society in a Youtube video that was funded by homophobic. Mormonphobic and Islamophobic people,” he said.

The resolution sponsor, Councilwoman Jani Iwamoto, said, “These kinds of things are very important and make me glad to be a part of Salt Lake County.”

The 1992 ordinance was expanded beyond governmental discrimination in 2009 when the county became the second governmental agency in the state to pass the Common Ground Initiative sponsored by Equality Utah.

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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