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Ogden • Ogden's proposed nondiscrimination ordinances close to a year in the making came up Tuesday night for full discussion during a City Council work session.
And for close to two hours, people filed to the podium, mostly to urge the council to pass the proposed statutes that would send the message that withholding jobs or housing from people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation is no longer acceptable.
City Attorney Gary Williams argued on behalf of an exemption that would allow landlords of shared university housing to be selective and not rent to individuals who might disrupt the living situation because they're gay or transgender.
"The landlord cannot do anything, he's stuck," Williams said "If he expresses a preference, he's committing a discriminatory act."
Landlord Larry Campion has lined up tenants for the Harrison Heights apartments shared housing near the Weber State University campus for 26 years and said he accepts everyone.
"If I thought it would work to put everyone together and they'd get along and we wouldn't have massive vacancies, I'd be fine," Campion said. "The problem with that is when someone moves out, I have no control over how much tolerance is needed, but the vacancy falls on me [to fill]."
However, many came forward to say they saw no problem with college students living in diverse situations including with roommates that might have a different sexual orientation than themselves.
Weber State student Colten Marshall said he came to grips with his own homosexuality last year and came out in October.
"I accepted myself in part because of friends I made in the dorms," Marshall said.
"I'm 100 percent in favor of these ordinances and am against the exemptions," said Christina Charbonneau. "As a previous college student and tenant in shared housing situations, my anecdotal story is that if I had known everything about potential roommates, I may have closed the door on eventual friends."
However, Paul Smith, president of the Utah Apartment Association, urged council members to retain the exemption on shared housing.
"It's 2 to 5 percent of the housing in the state," Smith said, noting that landlords face financial hardship if tenants move out because of a gay or transgender roommate.
Dave Mallinak, pastor of Ogden's Berean Baptist Church, voiced concerns about laws that would hamper his freedom to express his beliefs.
"I'm opposed to the lifestyle of the homosexual," Mallinak said. "We disagree with it. If we truly value diversity, then our ability to oppose that also has to be protected."
Daniel Gilbert, a straight man who served in the military, disagreed with Mallinak.
"Religion is the source of most of this discrimination," Gilbert said. "I compare this to the civil rights movement of the '60s. It's no different from an employer being able to discriminate against someone who is black."
The council has the option to pass ordinances addressing housing and employment discrimination or to allow Mayor Matthew Godfrey to issue an administrative order instead. Either way, a complaint process would be established and violators would face fines up to $500.
However, none of the proposals would allow a private cause of action a lawsuit stemming from the complaints. Unlike race, sex, religion, age and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity are not categorized as protected classes under state or federal law.
The council made no decisions Tuesday. Chairwoman Caitlin Gochnour said the council expects to discuss the issue one more time before taking action.
Since November 2009, 11 Utah entities have enacted anti-bias ordinances: Grand County, Logan, Midvale, Moab, Murray, Park City, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Summit County, Taylorsville and West Valley City.