Utah lawmakers have given preliminary approval to state-wide housing and workplace protections for gays and lesbians. Last night, members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services committee advanced the bill. It’s the first time a statewide non-discrimination measure has survived a committee hearing in Utah.
Republican Senator Steve Urquhart sponsored Senate Bill 262. He told the committee the basic principle behind the bill is straightforward.
“We should all have an opportunity to earn a living and keep a roof over our heads," Urquhart said."Gay and transgender people are good, hardworking people with families just like everyone else.”
SB 262 would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or promote people, just because they are gay or transgendered. The housing amendments prevent landlords and brokers from evicting, refusing to rent or sell to someone for the same reasons.
Dori Burt is with Mormon’s building bridges, a group of LDS church members who support LGBT individuals. She gave an emotional presentation in support of the bill, citing the LDS’s churches focus on family and the Golden Rule.
“Securing basic housing and workplace rights for all our brothers and sisters puts that principle into action," Burt said. "We encourage you, our legislative leaders to act on Jesus’ teaching, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
GOP Senator Stuart Reid argued homosexual acts are immoral and this bill sanctions it.
“Someone is going to have to demonstrate to me in a satisfactory way that homosexual activity is not immoral," Reid said. "Because as long as I feel that way, I cannot advance policy that frankly encourages societal acceptance of something I believe is immoral.”
Conservative political activist Gayle Ruzicka wasn’t shocked when the bill passed 4 to 3. She says she believes members of the committee are placating the sponsor and members of the public who support the bill.
“I just think they’re trying to show they want to be fair and they’ve got a colleague on the floor that they don’t want to be unkind to," Ruzicka said. "They don’t want to look hard or uncaring.”
After the hearing Urquhart told the press he’s not 100% confident he’ll get enough support for the bill when it advances to the Senate floor.