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With a popular anti-discrimination law tabled for the fifth year in a row, members and supporters of Utah's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community plan to make some noise at Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Organizers are calling it the Human Dignity Rally, and more than 300 people have indicated on Facebook that they plan to be there. The rally is from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Capitol. Scheduled speakers include Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, fictional icon Sister Dottie S. Dixon, and openly gay lawmaker Rep. Brian Doughty, D-Salt Lake City.
"We as a community need human dignity. We're not looking for marriage," said Weston Clark, one of four friends who organized the rally. "What we want is a law that protects someone from being fired or evicted just because they're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender."
Fourteen cities and counties have passed ordinances that ban housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly three-fourths of Utahns support a statewide law, according to a recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates. In 2009, the LDS Church endorsed Salt Lake City's ordinances as "fair and reasonable." The Salt Lake Chamber and the Catholic Diocese of Utah have backed a statewide law.
But earlier this month, a Senate committee tabled the anti-discrimination proposal, sponsored by Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City. Supporters of the bill packed the Senate committee hearing and many were frustrated that lawmakers ignored the bill's broad-based support, listening instead to two who spoke against the bill, including Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka. The fact that Ruzicka was given a seat on the dais, when others were left standing in the hallway, added salt to the wound. Ruzicka did not return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.
"It was so symbolic of what seems to happen up there," Clark said. "The legislators are not listening to the public. They're listening to the lobbyists and the Gayle Ruzickas."
Outrage over the decision sparked the Human Dignity Rally. Clark hopes the LGBT community's voices will be heard and that Human Dignity develops into a direct-action group.
Bob Henline, another organizer of the rally, has taken his frustration a step further, promising in an article he wrote this month as a columnist for Q Salt Lake magazine to "expose" supporters of the Utah Eagle Forum in hopes of weakening its power. On his personal blog, Opinuendo.net, he has published the names of 60 members of a Utah Eagle Forum Facebook group, labeling them "***holes" and "bigots" while asking readers to confront the members about their views. He also posted the home address of an Eagle Forum vice president and suggested people "stop by" to talk to her.
Janalee Tobias, a South Jordan resident who was listed, said she has asked for increased police patrols around her home, although her address was not shared in Henline's article. She plans to attend the rally so she can introduce herself to Henline and others.
"Let's stop this divisiveness," Tobias said Tuesday. "I would rather sit down with the gay community and talk about how can we come together on this issue. How can you feel good about terrorizing people that you don't even know? They have no clue who I am."
In the past, Tobias said she has supported anti-bullying legislation and denounced hate crimes against the LGBT community. She also has fought efforts by the Utah Legislature to weaken the state's open records law.
Henline, in an interview, said his columns are his own and do not reflect the views of other Human Dignity organizers. But he defended his statements. "Quite frankly, I think sitting down and talking with these people has failed."
About the Human Dignity Rally
O For details and to RSVP • Go to http://on.fb.me/w1AOx5