Salt Lake City Council members to push for public accommodations law

Salt Lake City Council members to push for public accommodations law

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, File)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Two Salt Lake City Council members plan to launch a community conversation that they believe will lead to protection for LGBT Utahns in places of public accommodation.

Council members Stan Penfold and Derek Kitchen intend to take 12 to 18 months starting next year to talk to residents and businesses about the issue, similar to what the city did before passing the state's first nondiscrimination ordinance seven years ago.

"In that process, we're able to align allies who realized that this was something we needed to do because it was a good idea and it was the right thing to do," said Penfold, who along with Kitchen is openly gay.

"I feel very confident and sure that we will come to a similar conclusion that we did in 2009 by adopting a new ordinance," he said.

Penfold made the announcement Monday at a Human Rights Commission news conference about its annual Municipal Equality Index, which rates LGBT inclusion in local law, policies and services in 506 cities across the country.

With 69 of a possible 100 points, Salt Lake City scored highest among the eight Utah cities the commission evaluated. Cities were rated on 44 criteria, including nondiscrimination ordinances, employee benefits, services, law enforcement policies and leadership on equality. Sixty received perfect scores, while seven had zero.

The commission chose Salt Lake City to release the 2016 nationwide results to celebrate cities that have shown a commitment to advancing equality in "more challenging" environments, Human Rights Commission President Chad Griffin said.

"This city does not have a perfect score in the (index), and there are some who see Utah as unwelcoming place for LGBTQ people. But look at what Salt Lake City has done to lead and move equality forward in this state," he said.

Griffin noted that Penfold and Kitchen spearheaded the City Council renaming 20 blocks of 900 South after pioneering gay leader Harvey Milk earlier this year. He also said the city had no gay elected leaders a few years ago and now has three, including Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

That visibility and their leadership matters because it sends a powerful message to LGBT young people who fear rejection from their community simply because of who they are or who they love, Griffin said.

Salt Lake City would have scored higher on the equality index if it had a public accommodations law banning businesses from refusing to serve customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such as bakers or florists declining to work for same-sex weddings on religious grounds.

The Utah Legislature nearly two years ago passed a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment while also protecting religious rights.

Majority Republicans resisted efforts to consider expanding that law to include public accommodations earlier this year, saying they didn't want to upset the balance achieved in 2015.

Scores of other Utah cities rated in the equality index are Logan (35), Ogden (47), Orem (23), Park City (38), Provo (47), West Jordan (35) and West Valley City (35).

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