Utah Bill to Add Sexual Orientation to Anti-Discrimination Law Still Alive

January 28, 2008

Bryan Horn is convinced he recently lost his job at a Utah County credit union because he’s gay.

He said he was forced to resign, four days after telling his boss he intended to marry his partner.

“They were just looking for things to fire me on. I have no recourse,” Horn told lawmakers.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes in Utah’s anti-discrimination law.

On Friday, lawmakers heard testimony about the bill and did the unexpected: They didn’t kill it.

“I think that’s a great sign. The conversation is not over,” Johnson said after a hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee.

Utah is one of the most conservative states in the country, and most lawmakers are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which considers acting on homosexual feelings a sin.

Rather than kill the bill, the committee decided to table it until another meeting. The chairman, Rep. Stephen Clark, R-Provo, said he was late because of car trouble and needed more time to study it.

“I take it as a very promising sign that they’re willing to think more on the issue,” said Will Carlson, policy director for the gay-rights group Equality Utah.

Nursing assistant Ariana Losco, a woman who had a sex-change operation in 1994, claimed her supervisor cut her hours because of her sexual identity. She recently lost her job at a nursing home in Tooele and testified at the hearing Friday.

Rocky Mountain Care says Losco was fired for disparaging the business.

“I do believe that she should not be discriminated against in her situation and there are laws on the books that already prohibit … discrimination against someone in a sexual harassment thing like that,” said Debra Poulsen, speaking on behalf of Utah Women’s Forum, an opponent of the bill.

“I believe that sexual orientation is a choice and that it should not be included in the discrimination act,” she said.

But advocates said there’s a difference between sexual harassment and losing a job because of sexual orientation.

The Utah Labor Commission said it has received 14 complaints of discrimination against gays or transgenders since June when Equality Utah asked it to keep track.

Opponents said government shouldn’t recognize homosexuality as a legal status because they contend it’s a choice.

“I think that causes and creates discrimination because we’re segregating them out,” said Dalane England, who has a house-painting business.

“I don’t think it’s the role of government to legitimize sexual choices. Are we going to be doing the same thing next year with polygamy?” England said.

Johnson, who is gay, said she was unimpressed with the opposing arguments.

“I think they’re fantasy,” she said. “I think they’re really based out of fear and ignorance and not a clear understanding or willingness to understand.”


On the Net: House Bill 89

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