Despite overwhelming public support and a “blue note campaign” pleading with Utah legislative leaders to allow Senate Bill 100, which would expand existing anti-discimination law to include LGBT citizens, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy) said in a press conference this morning that he will not allow the bill to move forward this legislative session.
Senator sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) asked citizens to plaster the Senate Chamber’s doors with “blue notes” – used to communicate with a constituent’s representatives. Though custodians have cleared the doors several times over the weekend and today, more of the notes replace those removed, to the point one cannot see the color of the door..
Utah House and the Senate leaders decided early in the session not to hear any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender-related bills for fear that rhetoric on both sides of the issue may affect the pending appeal of the Dec. 20 ruling by Judge Robert Shelby striking down the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told House and Senate Republicans in a closed-door session that if any LGBT-related bills receive a public testimony, it was “inevitable that some lawmaker or member of the public would say something offensive: and could damage the state’s case.
Niederhauser said the high emotion behind the bills made leadership decide not to hear them during the appeal.
“Although there isn’t a direct tie to the marriage issue [with the non-discrimination bill], there is a lot of emotion out there,” Niederhauser said. “This is an emotional time. Let’s stop and pull our faculties here together, and address other issues this session and wait for the process and appeal to take place, and we will come back at another time to address religious liberties and anti-discrimination.”
Though Equality Utah has been running the bill since 2008, Niederhauser said the state should take some time to decide it.
“We need to take some time, not get too anxious. The best policy is the policy that takes some time and has had a lot of deliberation,” he said. “Obviously Judge Shelby’s decision has created a new dynamic this session that we haven’t had in others, but we still feel it is best to focus on the appeal and wait to discuss the issues.”
Earlier in the day, an exchange on Twitter riled many in the LGBT community, causing both Niederhauser and Rep. Jacob Anderegg (R-Lehi) to issue an apology and offer their staff sensitivity training in trans* issues.
This morning, Anderegg tweeted that he is “strongly considering a gender identitfying [sic] change to use the open womens [sic]” restroom as the private “Men’s” bathroom in the House office building is occupied.
To which Neiderhauser replied, “First supporting SB100, now switching your gender identity? Just can’t keep up with you. You’re a new man! erm…woman…”
Neiderhauser later tweeted that an intern had sent the response, and not him. He offered to meet with any trans* people and friends who were offended by the remark.
Anderegg tweeted, “I sincerely apologize. My earlier comments regarding Transgender issues was totally inappropriate. I own it. And I apologize.” He further states, “As always, when I find I have put my foot in my mouth it is always helpful to work to learn from it. I intend to.”
SB100 would add gender identity and sexual orientation to Utah’s current non-discrimination code, prohibiting employers of more than 15 or landlords with more than 4 units from using those as a basis for making employment and housing decisions. Many people, including legislators, have argued against SB100 in the past, claiming such protections are unnecessary.
According to Equality Utah, 43 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual survey respondents and 67 percent of trans* respondents reported they have experienced discrimination in employment.