Senator Ben McAdams made the following remarks today on the floor of the Senate in a bid to get the statewide anti-discrimination statute a committee hearing.
“SB148 would enact protections against discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity similar to protections adopted first by Salt Lake City and now by 10 other Utah cities. This bill is necessary for several reasons. Firstly, because discrimination exists in Utah as studies have shown. I believe most Utahns are respectful and welcoming of others. Yet, there are those who will fire or evict a person because of their orientation. Secondly, while Utah is a warm and welcoming community, that is not how we are perceived nationally. Frequently, businesses and employers looking to locate in Utah ask if their employees and their families will be treated well in our state. We know they will, and when we are asked, we are able to demonstrate to these businesses the great community and lifestyle Utah offers. Undoubtedly, many businesses never ask and simply look to locate their job creating enterprises in another state.
“But the symbolism of this bill goes beyond the protections it offers in housing and employment. Allow me to take the liberty to adapt to our Utah circumstances comments made by Harvey Milk. Somewhere in Bountiful or Provo, Emery or St. George, there is a young gay person who fears that if their landlord finds out they might be tossed out of their apartment, their employer may fire them, and their neighbors and family might turn their backs on them. And that person has several options: they can stay in the shadows and hide or they can leave the fellowship of loving family, friends and childhood mentors for a community that will accept them. And then one day that individual might open the paper that says “LDS Church backs SLC non-discrimination protections” or “Utah Legislature adopts anti-discrimination protections” and they realize there is another option: they can stay in Provo or St. George, they can reach out to parents and loved ones for understanding and support and be accepted by their childhood community.
“On the day the SLC ordinances were adopted, I got a phone call from a friend who is gay that my wife and I know well. This friend had lunch scheduled with his brother on that day. Knowing that I had been integrally involved with the crafting of the SLC non-discrimination ordinances, he related to me that the topic of the ordinances came up in his lunchtime conversation. Tearfully, he explained that the event of the passage of these protections was the impetus for a conversation with his brother several decades in the making. Since the passage of the Salt Lake City ordinances in November of 2009, healing conversations have taken place in city council chambers throughout Utah. Ten cities have followed SLC in passing these protections. Healing conversations have taken place around the dinner table, at family reunions and among neighbors and friends.
“This conversation now comes to this Senate Chamber in the People’s House. Some of you worry of the controversy and hateful emails that may ensue if this conversation is allowed to go forward. You may prefer to sweep this under the rug, or hope it will go away. I can’t promise you won’t receive hateful emails and phone calls. Some of you already have. I believe the dialogue will be respectful and constructive. It can be a healing dialogue. I refuse to accept that religious liberty is incompatible with protections for gay and transgender Utahns in their homes and at their jobs.
“Utah can pioneer legislation that balances respect and protections against discrimination with the robust religious liberties we value dearly. I believe my bill, reflective of the protections passed by Salt Lake City and 10 other Utah cities, strikes this balance and is fair and reasonable. I’m willing to listen to ideas, criticisms and make adaptations to achieve a better balance if new ideas come forward. We can’t find this balance unless we are willing to open our doors to a public discussion. My constituents have bestowed their trust in me to begin this dialogue. I ask for my colleagues in the Senate to give me a similar measure of trust.
“This legislation is important because discrimination is real. But it is also important so the person in Bountiful or Provo, in Emery or St. George, and the thousand upon thousands like them know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. And we have got to give them hope. I ask for your support to start this healing dialogue and send this bill to committee for a public hearing.”