Senator introducing statewide nondiscrimination bill

2013-03-07T00:28:00Z 2014-01-10T07:19:01Z Senator introducing statewide nondiscrimination billBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 07, 2013 12:28 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY -- Once again a state legislator is running an anti-discrimination law in Utah dealing with a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, will present his legislation in a Senate committee on Thursday and is ready to argue that it is time for the state to stop skirting the issue and pass legislation that brings some protection to a segment of Utah's population that is not covered under state law.

"I think it is important," Urquhart said as he spoke to the media about his bill while seated on a couch in the Senate president's office, surrounded by Senate Republicans who chose to keep quiet while the issue was discussed. "I hope to do a good job with it."

Urquhart said he came to the position in the last year that this legislation was needed. He said he has wanted to represent the opinion of his district, which he assumed was opposition to the idea. However, as he has had more conversations with his constituents he felt they were ready to be supportive of a law that would ban landlords or employers from discriminating against people just because they are gay.

"The heat of the opposition wasn't as great as it was with vouchers," he said.

In 2012 former senator Ben McAdams ran a similar bill, which was shot down by a Senate committee. Salt Lake City passed this ordinance in 2009, and about a dozen other Utah municipalities also have a nondiscrimination ordinance.

Urquhart was the chief sponsor of a bill that passed the Legislature creating a school voucher program. The law ultimately was overturned in a referendum vote, the only law to receive such treatment in Utah. He said that issue drove much higher passion from supporters and opponents than this one has.

The St. George lawmaker admitted the bill has a tough road ahead of it. He hopes to get it out of committee and onto the calendar to be considered by the full body of the Senate. He noted the Thursday afternoon hearing could be the first step in what could be years for the bill to receive final passage and become law.

Republican legislative leadership and Gov. Gary Herbert all have said they prefer to allow cities and counties to individually pass anti-discrimination laws.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she would like to give more time for the current laws in the cities and counties to move forward before doing something statewide, thus allowing the Legislature to see the consequences of such policies on a local level.

Urquhart said he hasn't discussed his legislation with any representatives of the LDS Church. He hopes all interested parties come to the committee hearing to give their voice on whether the Legislature should consider the bill.

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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