SLC non-discrimination ordinance passes with unanimous vote

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night that protects gay citizens against discrimination in housing and employment.

The vote came after a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an unusual appearance before the council, offering a strong statement in support of the new law.

The city council approved the ordinance unanimously, and the Church representative was one of several people who spoke out in support them. There were more than two dozen speakers in all; many telling personal stories of discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

"I returned to work to find my job had been replaced," one Salt Lake City resident said.


"Thirty years ago, living on 1st Avenue, I was kicked out of an apartment for being gay," another said.

Evidence of such discrimination moved not only council members, but LDS Church officials, too.

"I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree--in fact, especially when we disagree," church spokesman Michael Otterson told council members.

He made it clear the Church is not changing its position against same-sex marriage. In a written statement, Otterson read that when it comes to basic human rights, the ordinance represents "common sense laws that should apply to everyone."

"The Church supports this ordinance because it is fair and reasonable and does not do violence to the institution of marriage," Otterson said.

The Church's decision to speak out publicly on its position is the result of a concerted effort by both the gay community and the Church reaching out to each other.

"We live in the same town and the same community, but we missed each other for many years," said gay-rights advocate Jim Dabakis.

Utah Pride Center Executive Director Valerie Larabee says the issue brought together people who may appear to be on opposite sides at first glance.

"We have spent many, many, many months forming relationships, getting to know each other and having long discussions about what's really important for the human race," she said.

The crowd cheered when the two ordinance passed unanimously.

Utah's openly-gay state lawmakers now think this might open to the door for statewide legislation.

"I think what applies to Salt Lake City would apply to the state and should apply as well," said Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City.

There were also people who spoke against the ordinance, citing their objections to homosexuality in general. They, by far, were the minority at Tuesday's meeting. Members of the group America Forever say if a business owner or a landlord doesn't want to associate with someone who participates in a certain type of sexual behavior, he shouldn't be forced to.

The ordinance, itself, stemmed from a report released in July by Mayor Becker and the City's Human Rights Commission, which found a number of discrimination cases throughout Salt Lake.

Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Paul Nelson.

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