City hears request for possible nondiscrimination ordinance

Matthew Jacobson speaks to the St. George City Council about protecting the city's LGBT community from housing and employment discrimination, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – While the St. George City Council chambers were packed with people gathered to protest the city’s perceived anti-dance policies Thursday, others, many dressed in red, were there to support an effort to encourage the council to consider creating a nondiscrimination ordinance that would extend housing and employment protections to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Addressing the City Council regarding the adoption of a nondiscrimination ordinance was St. George resident Matthew Jacobson, who had originally sent a letter to the mayor and City Council about the issue in September.

“I am a St. Georgian. I am also a gay man,” Jacobson said as he began addressing the council. “Despite my work ethic … and my ability to do a job well, I still have that fear that at any moment I could lose my job and the ability to provide for my family just because of who I am.”

Why does Jacobson have that fear? Because it’s already happened to him, he said. In 2002, Jacobson said he worked as a makeup artist for a retailer in town. He loved his job and took pride in his work, he said. However, the management eventually learned about his sexual orientation and, soon after he was let go from the job, he said.

“It was probably the most humiliating thing I’ve been through,” Jacobson said.

Citing statistics, Jacobson said between four and five people a month are fired in Utah because of their sexual orientation. Transgender individuals have it worse, he said, as 67 percent of them are fired because of who they choose to be.

“I believe every resident of St. George should have the freedom to work, live and love without fear of being fired or evicted simply because of who they are,” Jacobson said.

As Jacobson was about to conclude his words to the City Council, he said, “We believe we deserve to be judged on what we do, how we perform, and not just by who we happen to love.”

Jacobson’s statement was given during a public comment period allotted to St. George residents during the first council meeting of each month. As such, it wasn’t an official format in which the council would discuss and vote on a matter. Council members were given copies of the proposed ordinance to review.

The ordinance Jacobson proposes is based on the nondiscrimination ordinance adopted in Salt Lake City in 2009. That ordinance was supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and church officials called it “fair and reasonable.”

Not everyone at the council meeting liked the idea of the city pursuing a nondiscrimination ordinance. Patricia Kent, 63, of St. George, addressed the City Council after Jacobson and expressed her opposition.

“What I have found in the past and seen in the past is that, without fail, every anti-discrimination ordinance that has been passed has been discriminatory,” Kent said.

Using laws against racial discrimination as an example, Kent said such laws discriminated against business and property owners by telling them whom they should hire or rent property to.

“Bottom line,” she said, “there is no anti-discrimination law that’s not going to discriminate against someone.”

As to laws meant to protect the LGBT community, Kent said, “What I have seen with anti-discrimination laws against gender (identity) is that they want to push their ideologies on the rest of us.”

Kent also said the Constitution gives her the right to life, liberty and property, and that government has no right to dictate that she be required to allow someone on her property simply because of their gender identity or racial background.

“The Constitution protects those of all races, all genders, and gives us all the same rights,” Kent said. “Those people who have been fired or experienced those things because of their gender-orientation have a recourse … The laws of the land give them that recourse.”

A nondiscrimination law wouldn’t provide equal rights, she said; it would simply give more rights to the LGBT community.

“Well, I think at the end of the day we all agree that there’s also one law above all and that is to love your neighbor, and that’s perhaps where we all should start,” Councilman Gil Almquist said.

If St. George did adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance, it would be the second city in Washington County to do so and the 17th city in the state. Springdale adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2012. Other cities that have nondiscrimination ordinances include Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Park City, Taylorsville, West Valley City, Marriott-Slaterville, Murray, Midvale, Moab, Ogden, Alta, Logan, Harrisville, Perry City and Washington Terrace.

Countywide nondiscrimination ordinances also exist in Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties.

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  • MmmBacon November 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Equal rights for bacon lovers! we demand housing, food, phones, x-boxes, maids, and an unending supply of bacon!

    • Zonkerb November 8, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Really…?…. yawnnn.

  • St George November 7, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    “What I have found in the past and seen in the past is that, without fail, every anti-discrimination ordinance that has been passed has been discriminatory…” So church woman wants to be entitled to …? Why do church people feel they are worthy to discriminate and hate? I don’t get it. She really cracked me up with her “law of the land” comments. What are the laws of the land? Where do we look up these laws of the land? If she has really been here all her life, I’m sure she has been a part of the discrimination that extended a lot further than against just gays and stood silent while people were discriminated against just for having the wrong underwear and not being the worthy sort.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Koolaid. November 8, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I’m a gay St. George utah needs new laws for 3 percent of the population. Sodom and Gemorha had no laws for 99.9 percent of the population. The two cities where burnt by God for their sins and the inhabatints consumed. Moral of the story make sure if you live how ever you want to. Then answer to the laws of God. Because man laws always favors the minority! Like green day says I wanna be a minority I get free things from the majority! If you have ten employees how many have to be gay to be legally hired. That would be zero. How many employees do you have to have before obama care won’t help. Keep your business less that 100. So the total number you need to concentrate on 100 squared divided by pie then times in the 10 divided by two, add it all back together then times it by the amount God cares about laws for the minority which is zero. So continue giving 100 percent times it by Gods number 0 . so to recap 100 percent of nothing is 0(nothing) that’s why we need laws. Because this is nothing plus this is nothing you add them together you get something. WHATZ UP

  • Koolaid November 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Why can’t we all just get along? What’s this city coming to? Gays, dancers and church people cohabitating in the same town? Oh my heck!

  • Kenren November 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Utah is a right to work state. Anyone can be fired at any time for any reason. A law that only protects the LGBT community from this would in itself be discriminatory. That’s a very slippery slope!

    • Hunter November 9, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Kenren, you don’t know what right to work means, then. It does not mean you can lose your job at any time for any reason. Even under a RTW model, you cannot be fired for your religion, the color of your skin, a disability, etc. BTW…any time you use the term slippery slope, you play your entire hand and anyone capable of any critical thinking at all is likely to dismiss you in kind.

  • My Evil Twin November 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    As Jacobson was about to conclude his words to the City Council, he said, “We believe we deserve to be judged on what we do, how we perform, and not just by who we happen to love.”
    I agree with Jacobson! Everyone should be judged on what they do and how they perform. There should be no discrimination because of who someone happens to love, and that is exactly what an ordinance like this would do. It would give the GLTB “community” the ability to scare employers into hiring them even if they are not qualified, and keeping them even though they may be substandard in their performance.
    My strong advice to Mr. Jacobson would be to do whatever job he is doing so well that no employer would want to get rid of him. Nobody cares “who he loves,” he isn’t working to love, he is working to live. If he got fired from a job, it is probably because of either lack of performance, or a personality clash that he brought on himself.

    • Kenren November 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      I absolutely agree. Do your job well and you don’t have anything to worry about.

      • The Rest Of The Story November 9, 2014 at 3:55 am

        That sounds like something a privileged white heterosexual male might say.

        • My Evil Twin November 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

          And that sounds like something a whiny minority (of any kind) might say to justify not having to measure up to other workers.

          • Kenren November 9, 2014 at 8:25 pm

            Ouch! I thought we were on the same side but that one’s going to leave a mark! I am a Hispanic woman and I can tell you that most minorities have experienced discrimination at some point in their lives and are the least whiny people you will meet.

        • Kenren November 9, 2014 at 8:20 pm

          The irony is that I am a Hispanic woman. Now what say you? You think I haven’t experienced prejudice? Let me tell you, I have. And my solution to that is to rise above it. I work harder. Try harder. And change people’s minds in the process. THAT’s how you make change happen. You don’t cry foul and demand laws be implemented to protect yourself at the expense of everyone else. Put on your big girl/boy pants and rise above.

    • Jo November 9, 2014 at 10:13 am

      I disagree. Anyone who has been subjected to discrimination by the ‘you’re not being welcome because you’re not one of us (ref: religion)’ mindset in St George and surrounding communities would agree how these laws are necessary to protect anyone from that institutionalized discrimination. Your comment is a perfect example of the ‘it had to be something YOU did’ response when people are on the receiving end of that institutional discrimination. It also exists with parents who don’t let their kids play with the non-mormon kids. Institutional discrimination is an evil thing.

      • Maggie November 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm

        Why is it I was welcomed here and made friends and made a good life and you were not? I am not LDS .
        My parents were adamately against some of the friends I brought home and so was I with my children. Did not even grow up in Utah .
        Just for the record sometimes,now that I and my children are grown ,some of those folks,not all ,made very bad choices in life. Even if some in this and every community want their children to socialize with their own church members or race,why would that bother you. There are many who would enjoy your companyif you are pleasant and open to people.
        Some folks just make their own problems by whining about everything and anything. Look in the mirror and see if that might apply to you.

  • Shay November 9, 2014 at 4:18 am

    You can tell the people who fall into the “majority” on here by what they say and their lack of fear or empathy. You CAN be fired from a job because you’re gay, and if you’re trying to get an apartment, good freaking luck. Never ever have I been judged so harshly as I was when I told a rental place I was engaged to the woman standing next to me.
    The problem with this town so full of white, one-religion, straight people is that so very very few people believe that discrimination of ANY KIND is a thing. They don’t see it; most of them don’t realize that they themselves usually do it. This is terrible, and it’s why there should-no, NEED-to be protection on the books that protect the very tiny and squished minority.

    • Koolaid November 9, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Go to the Dixie College and take notice of the many “LSD, oops, I mean LDS, standards requirements” on the apartments for rent notices on the bulletin boards. If you call these numbers, the first question asked is if you are LSD, oops, I mean LDS. Why does the college allowed this discrimination?

    • tc rider November 9, 2014 at 9:52 am

      people move to different places for different reasons, we came from the east and like the conservative life style that most people have here.
      Its who they are, the way they were brought up, it is their culture and I respect them.
      Its like if you want to live in harmony with your environment, you have to accept it and be part of it.
      We like Saint George because its kind of the opposite of Vegas and other places like, Key West.
      Back in 1980, I was stationed at Key West Florida for a year, I thought it was the best place in the world and thought I would like to retire there.
      I visited Key West a couple years ago and thought, how could something so nice turn in to such a circus, the culture, you cannot even see the ocean because there are so many hotels on the water front, what a waste.

      • Koolaid November 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Not everyone who comes to southern Utah envisions becoming another LDS clone. Last time I checked, southern Utah is within the continental USA and people don’t require a city council permit or some church recommend to move here. If locals don’t like other people living and working here, well, they should just leave.

        • Haha Koolaid November 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm

          Classic answer from somebody who moves in and tries to take over the place. All the sudden it is NIMBY from the new comer. Haha, what a joke. Don’t move here in the first place if that is your mentality.

          • Mike November 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

            You sure missed his point

    • Maggie November 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      May I ask why you felt it necessary to tell your perspective landlord that the person with you you were engaged to?
      I am going back a bit but when I graduated and got an apartment ,single engaged ,sexual preference never came up. I had both male and female friends visit and at times stay . I became engaged and then married and never a question. Never saw the landlord,rent was mailed on time monthly.
      Just curious how this becomes an issue. Unless of course there are noisy activities that disturb the neighbors and that is not a sexual preference issue.

      • Hunter November 10, 2014 at 11:53 am

        Maggie, rental applications usually ask the names of all applicants/tenants and relationships.

    • My Evil Twin November 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      HORSE CRAP. Utah is an “AT WILL EMPLOYMENT STATE,” regardless of what earlier posters have said. (Obviously they are clueless.) Your boss can fire you because he/she doesn’t like the way you comb your hair. They can decline to hire you based on the clothes you wear to the job interview, or because you are wearing too much perfume/after shave, or because you are not wearing perfume/after shave.
      Quit trying to hide behind being a so called minority, and get off your dead butt and find a job. Then do a good job at it. It is a fact of life. NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING. You have to EARN everything you get.

      • My Evil Twin November 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        My above reply was posted directly to SHAY.

      • Shelly November 9, 2014 at 7:06 pm

        Absolutely true. I worked in St. George as a Registered Nurse, and I was told at my job interview that Utah is a ‘right to work state’, meaning I could be fired for any reason. Those were the words of my manager. In fact they tried to fire me several times by doing five random urine drug tests in one year, but it didn’t work. I have a perfect work record of forty years, but they want younger, new graduates to save money. I am thankful to now live in another state where this sort of BS does not happen.

        • Mike November 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

          So Shelly, if they told you in your interview “they could fire you for any reason” why did they bother “trying” to fire you with the drug tests? Could they have not fired you simply because they wanted younger, cheaper nurses? Obviously the “BS” didn’t happen to you.

          • Shelly November 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

            Actually Mike, I did get fired (laid off, same thing). My job was eliminated, along with a few other nurses, and I wanted to continue working in another position, but they would not hire me for another position. The pay rate is usually a lot higher for nurses with experience, compared to new graduates. So, the BS did happen to me.

  • Maggie November 9, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    TC Rider
    Sounds exactly like our story. Moved here ,love it. Never been insulted or mistreated. Lived in the east and crime and taxes are the game.
    Do not know what is the problem with many people moving here. Perhaps it is the religion,ethics etc that makes it so nice to live here.
    WHY ARE YOU HERE IF THE LIFESTYLE IS SO DISTURBING ? 15 runs both ways into many more active liberal communities that may be more pleasing to you. I chose St George for the very things many criticize and you could not pay me enough to live in Las Vegas,Salt Lake,Park City or LA,much to liberal for my taste but just fine for others. There is a place for all of us to be happy. Federal laws that protect us against discrimination are applicable everywhere in this country,however communities attract different lifestyles and we are just a bit more conservative than the above mentioned cities. Which is just fine with me.

  • Aaron Judd November 10, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Regardless of your views on being conservative, liberal, or whatever other term you may use define yourself, You should have the right to fire who you want, and house who you want. Without oversight however, individuals who don’t fit into the white religious cookie cutter ideals of what the city should look like, people who have the right to live here without discrimination, WILL be discriminated against. Without nondiscrimination ordinances our brothers, sisters and friends in the LGBT community will be discriminated against for housing and jobs simply because they don’t fit the mold established by a generation of people not taught to love and care equally. It really isn’t their fault for being close minded, They were taught to shun sexual difference for a very very long time. But saying you have more right to a community because you came here first, or you believe your religion is the right one and therefore those who are LGBT are not clean members of society is what will lead to discrimination in the housing market and into the workplace. And due to that inherited intolerance THERE MUST BE PROTECTION FOR MINORITIES. I’m a heterosexual white male, the deck is already GREATLY stacked in my favor, how dare I say by offering nondiscrimination ordinances will cause me to be discriminated against because it would no longer be equal! IT ALREADY ISN’T EQUAL otherwise we wouldn’t be having this debate. Also saying, if you don’t like the intolerance in a community then one should move somewhere else just isn’t enough. We as a community have to be better and I’m proud of those actively trying to make a change for the better.

  • My Evil Twin November 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    My gosh there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about “Right To Work” vs “At Will.”
    So here are the definitions:

    A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.
    Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers, or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.

    At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish “just cause” for termination), and without warning.
    When an employee is acknowledged as being hired “at will”, courts deny the employee any claim for loss resulting from the dismissal. The rule is justified by its proponents on the basis that an employee may be similarly entitled to leave his or her job without reason or warning. In contrast, the practice is seen as unjust by those who view the employment relationship as characterized by inequality of bargaining power.

    Utah is an at-will employment state. Period. End of story.

    • Shelly November 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Okay already, there is no confusion about the ‘at – will employment state’ thing. There are variations in the terminology. I was agreeing with you. My manager just had a different wording of it when she said ‘right to work state’. She has a Masters Degree, so I guess she needs to go back to college.

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