HOLLADAY — Holladay is latest Utah municipality to pass a law to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.
By a vote of 5-1, the Holladay City Council approved an ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
The measure is expected to officially take effect sometime next week. Holladay joins at least 19 other Utah municipalities to enact such a measure, City Councilman James Palmer said.
“It’s modeled after the same ordinance that Salt Lake City passed,” Palmer said.
The law is intended to prevent “fundamentally unfair” treatment of residents based on their sexual identity, he explained.
“Under our Constitution, people should be treated equally,” Palmer said.
Holladay had considered an anti-bias ordinance for years, he said, as far back as when Salt Lake City was initially proposing such a measure.
In November 2009, Salt Lake City became the first Utah city to approve an anti-discrimination ordinance, making it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation — a classification not protected under state or federal laws.
(The ordinance) is completely fair. It doesn't create a protected class, unless you consider the human race to be a class. It protects everyone equally.
–Holladay city Councilman James Palmer
Discrimination complaints could result in fines of up to $1,000 under that Salt Lake City law. Holladay has yet to determine civil penalties under its new ordinance, city attorney Craig Hall said.
Under the measure, the city manager will be authorized to appoint three members of the city’s anti-discrimination board to review complaints.
Some exemptions would exist, Hall said, including for religious organizations and property owners with fewer than four rental units. He also noted that no complaints have been filed in any of the cities that have enacted anti-bias measures.
Palmer said the passage of the ordinance sends the message that the city ”values the constitutional principles that all people should be treated equally.”
“(The ordinance) is completely fair,” he said. “It doesn’t create a protected class, unless you consider the human race to be a class. It protects everyone equally.”
Palmer said the ordinance was designed to mirror a proposed anti-discrimination law that was recently thwarted in the state Legislature.
Earlier this month, Senate Republicans put the final nail in the coffin of a proposed statewide nondiscrimination law — at least for this year. GOP senators "resoundingly" decided to keep SB100 and bills related to religious freedom from being heard this session.
Republican Senate and House leaders have said since the legislative session started that lawmakers should hold off on nondiscrimination and religious freedom bills pending the state's appeal of a judge's ruling in December that Utah's Amendment 3 was unconstitutional. The voter-approved measure defined marriage as the union of one and one woman.
"There's an environment that we don't understand yet," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, referring to the case in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It would be imprudent for us to discuss what we're going to do with religious liberties and the discrimination bill until we know better what the environment is going to be," Niederhauser said. "That will help us create the best policy for Utah."
Like the Holladay ordinance, the bill would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment — specifically for housing complexes with four or more units and businesses with 15 or more employees. College dormitories, religious organizations or businesses owned by religious organizations would have been exempt from the proposed state law.
A version of the bill has been proposed in the Legislature for six years in a row.
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