Categories: The Straight Line

Revisiting Nondiscrimination

The 2013 General Session of the Utah State Legislature is now history and, once again, they failed to enact statewide housing and employment protections that include Utah’s grossly underrepresented LGBT community. Even in failure, however, there were a few bright spots this year. First, and most notably, the bill did pass favorably out of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee, receiving the support of Republican Sens. Ralph Okerlund and Peter Knudson and it was sponsored by St. George Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart.

In committee, the bill was also supported by Democratic Sens. Karen Mayne and Pat Jones, although Jones felt it necessary to point out that while she supports nondiscrimination in housing and employment she is still firmly opposed to marriage equality. Such a supportive ally she is.

That’s the positive, now to the reality. As much as we all want to celebrate some sort of victory, this was not it. The bill didn’t come up for debate on the Senate floor and there are still thousands of Utahns that live without housing and employment protections. At the end of the day, nothing changed.

Through the course of discussions with several interested and involved parties, I have pieced this together. First, the original plan was to have Sen. Curt Bramble bring the bill forward, with the support of LDS, Inc. Bramble announced about mid-way through the session that he would sponsor the bill if his bigoted church leadership concurred. I guess we all know who this clown represents, eh?

Well, the bigots on South Temple decided not to support the bill unless it included language that would exempt anyone with a “moral objection” to gays and transgender folk, essentially rendering the bill useless. So, with two weeks left in the session, the bill was released with Urquhart as the sponsor.

I was critical of Equality Utah’s strategy with this bill, and was pleased to be wrong as the bill cleared committee.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t that wrong, and the bill died in the dark less than a week later, failing to reach the floor for debate.

The bottom line is this: LDS, Inc. is a hate group and they will always be a hate group. Negotiating with them for their support of equality measures is a fruitless endeavor. They endorsed the Salt Lake City ordinance under a wave of negative PR stemming from their ecclesiastical, political and economic involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign. That won’t happen again.

If we’re going to make real change in Utah it is going to have to come from the people. We are going to have to organize and fight for equality, and it’s going to take all of us working in all kinds of different ways. We are going to need people willing to sit down with their elected legislators and showing them what gay Utah looks like. We are going to need aggressive, in-your-face protests that will shine the light into the dark recesses of church involvement in Utah politics. We are going to need volunteers to make phone calls, drop literature, and register voters for the upcoming municipal elections in 2013 and for the legislative races of 2014.

To quote a hero of mine: “It takes a village.” This village needs to sharpen up the pitchforks, light the torches, and work to banish the medieval monsters from our halls of government.

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Bob Henline

Bob Henline is the Assistant Editor of QSalt Lake Magazine, as well as a columnist and social/political activist and amateur chef.

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