Sen. Buttars supports Salt Lake's non-discrimination ordinance



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A political shift for conservative state Sen. Chris Buttars came to light Wednesday when the senator announced his support for Salt Lake City's new non-discrimination ordinances.

Buttars, who sponsored the state's constitutional amendment on marriage, is still very much against gay marriage; he is also opposed things like gay adoptions and domestic partnerships. But on the question of housing and employment discrimination, Buttars said he has shifted his opinion.

Salt Lake City's non-discrimination ordinances usher in a new era for gay rights. At the Capitol, not everyone supports the new job and housing protection, but long-time anti-gay Sen. Chris Buttars says he does.

"An individual should be able to have a roof over their head and have a job and not worry about being fired for their sexual choices. I support that, but that's all I support. I don't support any legislative creep. There's talk up here about going after other things; I will be opposed to that," Buttars said.

To Buttars, that means gay adoptions, civil unions and--in spite of current Utah law already prohibiting it--gay marriage.

His position in support of the non-discrimination ordinance puts him at odds with long-time collaborator Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum.

"I do disagree [with Buttars] on that. However, I believe we are more in agreement than maybe what was expressed," Ruzicka said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' support for the ordinances is clearly a shift for Buttars.

"Up until recently, I have been worried about, going dow the road, did the Church's announcement leave an effect on me? Yes," Buttars said.

But Ruzicka has another view.

"They did not say that we, as members of the Church, should take the same position; and I don't," she said.

In the meantime, those fighting for gay rights are encouraged

"Of course we don't agree on everything, but on work place protection and housing protection, which are top priorities for the gay and transgendered community, we have common ground," said Will Carlson, with Equality Utah.

Buttars said he doesn't anticipate a bill to undo what Salt Lake City has done, but he is in favor of a bill that restricts other cities from going too far when it comes to gay rights.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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Richard Piatt

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