Urquhart to reintroduce LGBT anti-discrimination bill

ST. GEORGE – Though his proposed antidiscrimination bill died in the state legislature earlier this year after passing a senate committee by one vote, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said he plans to resubmit Senate Bill 262 in the next legislative session where he believes it will pass. Opponents of the bill aren’t so anxious to see that happen.

Urquhart’s Employment and Antidiscrimination Housing Amendments Bill would amend Utah’s current employment and housing antidiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A number of Utah cities, including Moab and Springdale, have already passed antidiscrimination employment and housing ordinances benefitting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in recent years. However, Urquhart wants to see uniformity in laws throughout the state.

“These laws help us create a better society,” Urquhart said.

While Urquhart’s work on behalf of the LGBT community in the legislature has won him some praise from advocacy groups, not everyone shares Urquhart’s belief that passage of the amendment will be beneficial. To the contrary, opponents such as state Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and Gayle Ruzika, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said they believe the legislation is potentially dangerous and opens the door to potential threats against religious freedoms.

Reid was on the Senate committee that gave favorable recommendation to the antidiscrimination bill during the Legislature’s 2013 general session, though he was not among those who voted for it (the bill was favored 4-3 yea-nay).

“I cannot advance policy, that frankly encourages the societal acceptance of something that I think is immoral, which is what I think this legislation does,” Reid told the Daily Herald following the vote in March.

Ruzicka also takes issue with the proposed bill. In an editorial published in Deseret News Wednesday, Ruzicka outlined concerns related to the gender identity portion of the amendment.

According to language included in the bill, Gender identity is defined as:

An individual’s internal sense of gender, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth. Evidence of gender identity may include an individual’s self-identification, as well as the individual’s gender-related appearance, mannerisms, and other gender-related characteristics.

Under the proposed amendments, a person is who she or he thinks she or he is, regardless of anatomy. If a woman identifies as a man, or a man as a woman, then that is who that person is, and employers will need to accommodate said individuals accordingly. This would extend to how the individual dresses and to which restroom or shower facilities may be used.

Reid and Ruzicka are holding a series of public meetings across the state outlining their objections to the antidiscrimination bill and what they fear may come about in Utah if the bill were allowed to pass. One of those addresses was in Washington City recently where they addressed a small crowd affiliated with the Dixie Republican Forum.

Religious liberties and “sexual civil rights”

Reid started the Dixie Republican Forum meeting with a speech. The overall theme of the speech dealt with the belief that legislation like Urquhart’s antidiscrimination bill lends both societal and legal legitimacy to additional laws catering to what he termed as “sexual civil rights,” and could ultimately become a threat to the personal religious liberties.

“When one scrapes away all of the rhetoric for and against SB 262, remaining is the fundamental question (of) whether homosexual activity is immoral, “Reid said. “All pertinent public policy should flow from the answer to this question, including special antidiscrimination protections, rights of adoption, and same-sex marriage.”

As legislators and judges tend to adapt laws and rulings to the moral climate they inherit, Reid said, religion provides a counter to man’s short-sightedness. He said:

To compensate for the inevitable destructive results of humanity’s short-term vision, religion stands as on sacred ground as a guardian over timeless, moral laws. As long as religion is true to its mission by defending these moral laws, then it will remain relevant and can help guide society on a secure course through the generations of time.

However, whenever religion attempts to make a stand now, Reid said, it is chased out of the public square and decried as bigoted and lacking compassion for the LGBT community. In order to avoid the backlash and remain relevant, some religious organizations have begun to champion “sexual civil rights” and call for compassion and tolerance, while others face potential antidiscrimination suits for not capitulating.

Reid said he was aware of at least 60 court cases “being adjudicated to determine whether religion, its affiliated organizations and people of religious conscience will be forced to choose between their educational, medical charitable and business activities and their freedom and religion and conscience.”

During her half of the presentation, Ruzicka used known science fiction author Orson Scott Card as an example of someone who has been attacked for his views against same-sex marriage.

How is this not discrimination?” Ruzicka said. She highlighted recent events where Card had been contracted with DC Comics to write for one of its Superman titles. However, due to public outcry accusing Card of hate and an 18,000-signature-strong online petition, the artist involved left the project and DC ultimately shelved it. Others have vowed to boycott the movie “Ender’s Game,” which is currently playing in theaters and is based on one of Card’s most popular novels.

“They want to destroy his career,” Ruzicka said.

SB 262: What it does and does not do

“Does it seem right or fair that you should have to give up your religious rights and freedoms for someone else’s sexual activities?” Reid said during his speech.

Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said that wasn’t something SB 262 would do, or was meant to do.

The bill deals with housing and employment rights, she said, not public accommodation.

According to Title II of the Civil Rights Act: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Federal law currently does not include sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of protected classes in this regard, but a number of states do. It is in these states where business owners who have declined to do business relating to same-sex marriage/unions have been sued for discrimination related to public accommodation.

Being a housing and employment bill, if passed next year, the proposed antidiscrimination laws will only apply to businesses with 15 or more employees and landlords with five or more rental properties. Religion-affiliated businesses and housing facilities would be considered exempt.

The bill doesn’t require anyone to go against their religious beliefs, Balken said.

If passed, the bill would protect someone from being fired or evicted on the sole basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Employers and landlords still have the freedom to fire and evict individuals who are lousy employees and tenants, Balken said.

The proposed antidiscrimination bill would provide “the most basic expansion of rights” to the LGBT community statewide, Balken said. “I believe everyone should be protected under the law – period.”

Equality Utah has conducted a statewide poll showing that at least 70-75 percent of Utahns are in favor housing and employment protections, Balken said.

“As a people, we do not believe in denying basic rights and freedoms to others. I hope the state Legislature (and Sen. Reid) listens to the people of Utah,” she said.

He has experienced a significant level of support for SB 262 from constituents across Washington County, Urquhart said;  it has been a welcome surprise.

As for worries that the legislation will open potential floodgates resulting in litigation against landlords and business owners, Urquhart said experience has shown him that will not likely be the case.

I think we’re going to pass it (next year),” Urquhart said.

“I very much hope that is the case,” Balken said.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013

Currently on the national stage is ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, that would extend employment rights and protections to LGBT individuals. It passed a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate Monday and it is anticipated to pass the Senate overall. However, its fate in the House remains uncertain as Speaker John Boehner has already voiced his opposition to the legislation.

Sen. Orrin Hatch supports ENDA, while Sen. Mike Lee stands opposed to it.

Balken said she would like to see the proposed law pass yet, noting how well the Senate and House work together these days, she wasn’t holding her breath.

Even if ENDA did pass, it would only address 50 percent of what SB 262 would cover on the state-level, she said.

Resources 

Utah – Employment and Housing Antidiscrimination Amendments 2013 S.B. 262

Federal – H.R. 1755 ENDA 113th Congress – 20130425

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17 Comments

  • Good Job November 7, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Good job Steve. When you engage in business with the public, you need to do so fairly. Especially if that business involves basic needs, like food, utilities, and housing.

  • Sweet Jude November 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Society is getting swept away into this movement for the so-called tolerance for sin. Any way these folks think they can justify it, we should remember that we are all subject to a being that is higher than we are. This so-called equality is contradictory to the standard we should be holding ourselves to.

    • philiplo November 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      You can tell yourself that, and you can hold onto all the fear, hatred, and misplaced pity you want, but you can’t continue legislating it. And that’s a GOOD thing.

      • forest family November 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

        Well said! Keep YOUR religious beliefs to YOURSELF! There is NO place for religion in government (remember that little thing called separation of church and state?). I would never want your despicably skewed version of morality, so stop trying to push it on those of us who actually have a HEALTHY moral compass and a rational mind.

        • Sweet Jude November 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm

          I won’t answer to your judgmental comments because I have no judgment, just plain and simple thing called….a conscience. You must have burned that a long time ago.

    • Craig November 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      So, equality for EVERYONE is a “movement” in your mind?
      And exactly what is sinful about people wanting to be true to themselves and live their own lives?
      How does that affect you?

      • Sweet Jude November 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        True to themselves? That is a clever saying. This is the very destructive fiber that people like you are trapped in. Deception at its worst.

  • Curly November 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Now that Urquhart’s foot soldier got elected to St. George Mayor you can expect that Jon Pike will introduce policies and ordinances similar to Urquhart.

  • And... November 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Why is it that the LBGT come into “our” community and demands us to change our morals because we need to “tolerate” them and their views. Here’s an idea. Leave. If you don’t like how we do things we aren’t forcing you to love here. We want God in school and the pledge. We have our morals that have been here since it’s been settled. We want to worship out way without being picketed. You can’t come into our house and move the furniture cause you don’t like the way it is. It’s simple leave. Don’t make us tolerate your morals if you can’t tolerate ours.
    And Steve Urquhart leading this. What a fearless man. Going against popular demand. And he’ll be sure to step on and backstab and belittle everyone for his job and campaign. Look at the city council election. He thinks he is so educated with bringing in a “better ambulance company” he doesn’t have the first clue of Ems that paper pushing weasel. But if it helps his campaign he’ll sleep fine if they are killing 9 year olds.

    • Steve November 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      I agree. I didn’t like the direction california was going in. After being born and raised for over 30 years I had enough. Moved to Utah and never looked back. If they do not like it here, they are free to leave. I would hate for Utah to turn in to a state like california and others alike. Utah is fine the way it is and should be left alone.

    • Nonbeliever November 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      It is amazing how you people miss the point.
      No one is asking you to change your antiquated and hateful beliefs.
      They are asking you to leave alone and offer a modicum of respect for people who believe differently than you.
      You are being asked to not discriminate not change your sexual orientation.
      Every single human being deserves to love as they choose. It’s none of your damn business. It will not effect you what they do behind closed doors. Being gay doesn’t mean it’s an infectious disease that will spread to you and your family.
      The last time I checked Utah was still part of the US, it doesn’t belong to one group of Hetero’s or one religious group. Although you sure are trying hard to create your own narrow minded island.
      People should be able to reside and work here AND enjoy equal rights.
      People should not fear moving here because of the hatred and bigotry.
      So stop being so hateful and unchristian.
      And by the way,there has been LBGT people in Utah forever. They didn’t just move here. They have been quietly living in fear of people like you. All the while being treated like dirt and experiencing every level of discrimination .
      Compassion and respect is sorely lacking in state. It is shameful.

      • Steve November 8, 2013 at 7:19 am

        Nonbeliever, since it’s none of our business what people do, I guess you would also think they are allowed to have as many spouses they wish, regardless of age or species.

        • forest family November 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

          actually, “believer,” lol – it was YOUR religious leaders who said that THAT was “God’s will.” maybe you should re-think bringing that issue up…lol

    • Dana November 8, 2013 at 6:05 am

      You sound like you’re having a meltdown.

    • Here and queer November 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

      “Our” community? Who is the “we” you refer to? Mormons? Heterosexuals? Republicans?

      I know many LGBT people who were born and raised right here in southern Utah, including myself, immediate family members and friends. Why should we leave?

      This is our home too and we aren’t going anywhere.

      Your judgmental musings don’t speak for the whole state. I know many honest, compassionate, taxpaying citizens who are not religious, or conservative. And, yes many of them are straight as well.

      Did you miss the part of the article that said “Equality Utah has conducted a statewide poll showing that at least 70-75 percent of Utahns are in favor housing and employment protections”?

      If someone is a good worker, why should their orientation matter? What are you so afraid of? Someone who is gay has the same basic struggles in life as a person who is straight. We are all just people. People trying to work and live in accordance with who we are.

      No more closets. No more fear.

      “We” didn’t barge in on “your” state. Many people here who are LGBT were born here, and won’t give it up to outdated bigotry. You don’t have to like it. But as we have seen in history, the civil rights movement cannot be stopped. Get used to it.

    • DogMom November 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      You have your “morals that have been here since it’s been settled?” Really? But what about the fact that you’d like the world to conveniently forget that your men had multiple spouses when this place was settled? And according to your prophet, that was “God’s law.” So apparently you pick and choose what tenets of your own moral code you’d like to obey in any given decade. That’s fine – your religious beliefs are none of my business…AS LONG AS THEY DON’T AFFECT OR INTERFERE WITH MY GOVERNMENT. And make no mistake – I’m a heterosexual, law abiding, tax paying business owner who believes in God AND who supports equality for all and this is MY community too; YOU do not speak for me or my family. And for the record, the southern states were founded on the backs of slaves and the slave owners wanted to be left alone too. Given your bigoted mindset, one can only assume you think THEY should have been allowed to continue the cruel lifestyle upon which their states were founded as well. How shameful.

  • Jason November 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Yes we should treat everyone with respect but no we shouldnt legislate every little thing either. All it does is give the upper hand to the “minority” to sue when they get fired for being a slacker. Then all the sudden it becomes the businesses responsibility to prove there was no discrimination, but if they fire a hetero they have no drama. Just another reason not to hire a homo. Let’s be honest it is not hard to tell who is who, most of you go out of your way to emphasize how different you are. The ones that you can’t tell don’t want anyone to know anyhow and are not the problem. Its not the act that is the problem. People do immoral things all the time it’s trying to force society to accept it as normal, that it is OK so that they can finally feel OK with thier actions. Personally as a business owner I don’t feel that I should be legislated to do anything. It is my business, I can run it how I want. If I want to hire all women so be it. If I want to hire all men so be it, and if I don’t want to hire gays so be it. I will hire who i want to work with and who i think will generate the best image for my business. This includes discriminating against sloppy, uneducated, lazy, or tatooed/peirced individuals just as much as hiring gay talking, fruity walking, liberal communists. I don’t want certain people working for me it is that easy. Some may not be easy to work with, others may not do a good job and the rest may give the business the wrong image. Whatever it is it is my choice because I sign the checks. Legislation doesn’t stop discrimination it just makes us more careful with how we do it. No one is equal, we all get what we get in life. You can’t legislate equality because guess what, life will never be fair no matter how much you legislate and tax those doing all the work.

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