A group that’s worked to include gay people in the Mormon community will be holding public conversations next week about an anti-discrimination bill being proposed in the upcoming legislative session. But one opponent of the bill thinks the recent controversy over gay marriage could get in the way.
A number of local governments in Utah have ordinances that ban housing and job discrimination against gay and transgendered people. Republican Senator Steve Urquhart tried to make that a state law last year, but his bill failed. Now, he’s ready to try again in the upcoming session with Senate Bill 100.
Sherri and Bill Park are members of Mormons Building Bridges, a group that drew national attention by marching in Salt Lake City’s gay pride parade. The organization will be hosting conversations at libraries around the state to talk about the bill to ban discrimination. The Parks have been landlords for more than 40 years, and they say gender identity or sexual orientation just aren’t relevant.
“We may have rented to gay people," the couple told KUER, "but that’s not the first thing you ask somebody. You don’t say, ‘Hey, what’s your sexual orientation?’ You say, ‘Hey, can you pay this bill? Are you gonna keep the place clean? Are you gonna keep it up?’”
Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute opposes the bill based on private property rights. But he says that argument could be eclipsed by gay marriage as the state prepares to challenge a federal ruling that overturned Utah’s ban of same sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court recently halted the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of conservatives on the Hill, this session, who feel that the voice of the people was taken away with Judge Shelby’s ruling. Even if subconsciously, retribution for that, they’re going to clamp down on this bill. I don’t think this bill’s going to go anywhere.”
The meetings sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges will be held at libraries in Salt Lake City, Logan, Provo and Kimball Junction on the evening of Tuesday, January 21st.