The Ogden City Council voted to pass the anti-discrimination ordinances that would protect against bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and housing.
Though the bills passed in a 4–3 vote, Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he does not support them and would veto the ordinances unless there is an exemption for those that claim a religious belief while discriminating. He also said he would require that the city be exempt from the ordinances. Currently, there are exemptions for small businesses, landlords with four or fewer housing units and religious organizations.
“This is a colossal waste of all of our time,” Godfrey said. “I’m sorry, but we just have a different opinion.”
Godfrey stressed that he has been very clear about his opposition to the bills unless it exempts people that believe it is their religious right to discriminate. He said that people should not be fined by the government for expressing their religious beliefs. If exemptions are made to appease religious people, not just religious organizations, he said he could support the bill.
“All the changes that were made (to the bills) were made in favor of the LGBT community and did not listen at all to the other side,” Godfrey said. “Good public policy is well rounded.”
This is an election year for the mayor. Ogden residents will have the chance to elect a new mayor in November. Godfrey has not yet announced whether or not he will be running, however, the deadline to register for candidacy is not until later this summer. He has been mayor since 2000 and when he ran for reelection in 2007 he did not announce his candidacy until late in the campaign season.
Similar bills have been passed in 11 other Utah municipalities and the bills have been publicly supported by the Mormon Church. Godfrey would be the first Utah mayor to veto such a bill.
The city council would need five votes to override the mayor’s veto. Councilmembers Bart Blair, Susie Van Hooser, Amy Wicks and Caitlin Gochnour voted to pass the ordinances. Councilmembers Brandon Stephenson, Neil Garner and Doug Stephens voted against the measure.
Blair said that he supports the bills because he wants to help protect a young and growing workforce in Ogden.
“This ordinance affects a talented and educated section of our community,” Blair said. “This ordinance is long overdue. I wish we could have done it sooner.”
Stephenson said his vote against the proposal was not because he wanted to discriminate against people, but because he felt strongly that there needed to be a religious exemption.
“I would’ve liked to have an ordinance in front of me that I could have supported,” Stephenson said. “What would have made me support it would have been some additional balance.”
Stephens said that he could not support the ordinance for a variety of reasons, one of which is that landlords have the right to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I think they have a certain amount of privileges and rights with their property. I don’t think they need to discriminate but they do have the right,” Stephens said.
The meeting was nearly three hours, and passionate testimony was heard from audience members both opposing and supporting the ordinance.
To find contact information for the mayor and the city council members, go to ogdencity.com.