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Salt Lake City Council To Consider Public Accommodations Ordinance

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Whittney Evans
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Chad Griffin announces the findings of HRC's latest Municipal Equality Index.

Members of the Salt Lake City Council will spend the next year considering a potential public accommodations ordinance. The move comes as the city is recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as an increasingly gay-friendly place. 

Salt Lake City got a score of 69 out of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual evaluation of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy and services. The report rated 506 cities across the country.  Chad Griffin is president of HRC. He announced the findings Monday at city hall.  

“We wanted to recognize, not just the record-breaking 60 cities that achieved perfect scores this year, but we also wanted to celebrate cities like Salt Lake, which have demonstrated a real commitment to advancing equality in more challenging environments,” Griffin said.

Salt Lake City would have gotten a higher score had it adopted a public accommodations ordinance that bans businesses from refusing service to people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In 2009, Salt Lake City passed the state’s first anti-discrimination ordinance specific to housing and employment. Six years later, Utah’s Republican controlled legislature passed similar protections at the state level.

Councilman Stan Penfold has the same vision for a potential public accommodations ordinance. He plans to spend 12 to 18 months talking with residents, businesses, state lawmakers and church officials.

“I feel very confident and sure that we will come to a similar conclusion that we did in 2009 by adopting a new ordinance,” Penfold said. “Our hope is that ordinance may be modeled statewide and eventually reach the state of Utah.”

Earlier this year, city officials in Charlotte, North Carolina passed a public accommodations ordinance that also allows transgender people to use the restrooms that matched their gender identity. North Carolina’s state legislature quickly overruled that ordinance in favor of a law that limits LGBTQ protections.

Penfold says he hopes Utah lawmakers recognize the harm the North Carolina law caused in that state and that they will avoid a similar situation in Salt Lake City. 

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