SALT LAKE CITY — A bill aimed at providing equal housing and employment rights to all Utahns, regardless of sexual orientation, is headed to the House floor. SB262 passed through the Economic and Workforce Services Committee Thursday with a vote of 4-3.
"It was a wonderful day — not only for the LGBT, the gay community in Utah, but for all Utahns," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.
"It was a rough win, but a win's a win and I'll take it," said James Humphreys, president of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans.
SB262, sponsored by Sen. Steven Urquhart, R-St. George, would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment. It also addresses workplace dress and grooming standards, as well as shared restroom facilities.
Currently, individual cities can pass similar anti-discrimination ordinances — 17 in Utah already have — but SB262 would be an umbrella state law.
It's not first time the bill has been proposed, but it is the first time a Republican has sponsored it, and it's the first time it has made it out of committee.
Supporters of the bill are celebrating, but they know it will be an uphill battle. There are 10 days left in the 2013 Legislative Session, and a lot of opposition.
"The important thing is what happens in the end," said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum.
Ruzika, said the bill's language regarding allowances for transgender Utahns to choose which restroom to use may be one of the deal breakers.
"We don't want to go down that route, and I don't expect this to go any further," she said.
But Debakis, the senate's only openly gay member, said the hearing had a good discussion and he hopes the next step does as well.
"I hope we have that kind of civil, wonderful exchange on the floor of the Senate," he said.