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Cedar City anti-bias ordinance makes no headway

Published April 7, 2011 12:00 pm

Cedar City • Council satisfied with earlierapproval of resolution.
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Cedar City • In October, while considering an ordinance against discrimination in work and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the City Council here instead passed an anti-bias resolution.

But that wasn't enough for some people.

On Wednesday, the council again considered bolstering the resolution by passing an ordinance against such biases, which would have imposed fines on violators. But they ultimately backed off.

The decision came after a public discussion on the issue at the request of Councilwoman Georgia Beth Thompson and Benjamin Smith, who, as head of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Southern Utah University, proposed an anti-discrimination ordinance in October.

Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, told the council Wednesday night that 70 percent of those who experience discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity are afraid to report the incidents because they fear retribution for complaining.

She encouraged the council to change the city's resolution to an ordinance, which is backed by the power of law.

"An ordinance offers tangible protection and not just a position statement," she said.

Based on experiences of communities that have adopted such ordinances, Balken said property rights, such as a landlord wanting to enforce LDS standards, will not be affected by them, while people can still be fired for incompetence or other reasons.

She also told the council that lawsuits involving a discrimination case would be limited.

Balken said an ordinance would go beyond a gay-straight issue and protect all residents from discrimination, noting that federal and state laws don't protect those discriminated against for gender identity or sexual orientation.

. There are 12 Utah city or county government entities that have such ordinances.

Smith said he knows of people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but they are afraid to step forward and speak out publicly.

Cedar City resident Evan Ludwig told the council not to acquiesce to the demands of the advocates of the ordinance, fearing a law would restrict the rights of landlords and business owners.

Besides saying that the practices of gay people make him sick, he also expressed fears that an ordinance would embolden gay people to convert unsuspecting children to become gay.

"They solicit kids to their lifestyle," Ludwig said. "We should go to the depths of hell before submitting to their noxious solicitations."

Thompson, the only council member to support an ordinance and who earlier called her colleagues "chicken" for not supporting it, said Wednesday the council's job was to ensure fair treatment of all city residents.

"If we pledge justice for all and not guarantee it, then we are not doing our jobs," she said.

At the end of the discussion, it was decided to leave the resolution in place and not return to the issue.

Smith said he doesn't know if his group will continue pursuing the issue.





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