Utah Gives Anti-discrimination Bill Hearing than Tables It

Despite having the support of three-fourths of the state’s population as well as the backing from of some big name employers like Ancestry.com, 1-800-Contacts and eBay, Utah lawmakers have effectively killed a bill that would have  added “sexual orientation and gender identity”  to existing state anti-discrimination laws.

Currently in Utah, like here in Idaho, a person can be fired or lose their housing simply because an employer or landlord doesn’t like the person’s orientation or gender identity.

There was some victory for the supporters of the bill this year. After five years of trying to pass the legislation, the bill was give a hearing before Utah’s  Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.

The committee tabled the bill in a vote 4-2 on Friday.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, the hearing brought out people from both sides of the debate on Friday who testified “before a standing room-only crowd”

Sen. Ben McAdams, the bill’s sponsor and a Salt Lake City Democrat, tells the Tribune, “he was disappointed the bill failed but called the hearing a “valuable discussion” and a “huge milestone.” This is the fifth year that Democrats have run such a bill but the first year to get a Senate hearing.”

Jeremy Cunningham, a supporter of the bill, told lawmakers he was terminated because a supervisor found out he was gay.

According to KSL-TV ” Cunningham  asked lawmakers to “imagine living in a world where your religion, where age or your race would come in to play, On the day I was fired, that was my world.”

Some of the bill’s opponents used scare tactics to convince lawmakers not to support the legislation. KSL reports thatLaura Bunker, with United Families Utah “spoke out against McAdam’s bill saying that a statewide anti-discrimination law could threaten traditional families and marriage.”

Supporters say tying the bill to the controversial marriage equality debate was a cheap tactic that had nothing to do with the legislation whatsoever.

Currently, “14 Utah cities and counties have ordinances that ban housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” reports the paper.

The list of cities include the City of Salt Lake, where the LDS church officially supported the passing of the ordinance in 2009.

The bill is very similar to Idaho’s purposed “Add the Words” bill which would add “gender identity and sexual orientation” to Idaho’s human rights laws.

That bill will be given a print hearing this Friday morning, February 10th at 8:00 am before the Senate State Affairs Committee. Though public testimony is not expected to be taken during the hearing, supporters are encouraged to attend.

Add the Words, Idaho volunteers released a new video over the weekend that includes  images of the almost 2000 people gathered across the state on January 28th in support of the bill:




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