For the fourth consecutive year, a Utah lawmaker has proposed a statewide law prohibiting discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or political views.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, would protect gay, lesbian and transgendered people from losing a job or housing. Senate Bill 51 would also allow people to freely participate in political activities outside of their work without fear of retribution.
A committee hearing on the bill will likely happen early this next week. McAdams said even if the bill fails to get out of committee, it is still a success after discussion of the bill was stymied by Republicans last year.
This year, however, the proposal has some notable backers. So far, 14 cities and counties have passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses statewide, has endorsed the bill.
“I’d love to see the bill pass (the Legislature), and the case has certainly been made,” McAdams said. “But there is still a lot of concern from people up here. It will take more education.”
For their part, Republican lawmakers oppose the bill because they would prefer cities and counties pass their own laws. There is also a concern that the law would potentially lead to gay marriage becoming legal.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said during a forum last week the law would be difficult for business owners because they may not know if an employee was gay without asking. Additionally, he was concerned the law gave unfair protections to gay people.
“In my mind, you are picking a special activity and creating a special class of people,” Jenkins said.