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Push begins for non-discrimination bill

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Posted at 2:37 PM, Mar 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-03 16:37:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new campaign is being launched in support of a statewide bill that bars discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation.

The gay rights group Equality Utah over the weekend launched the website UtahValues.org featuring supporters sharing stories of discrimination claims in the workplace, citing polls that claim a majority of Utahns support a non-discrimination bill. Members of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their allies are featured in photographs holding signs that say “I don’t discriminate, why should my state?”

SB262 was unveiled last week and is being sponsored by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George. He is the first Republican to be the primary sponsor the bill, which has been consistently defeated in the Utah State Legislature.

“This aligns with the core values of the state. I think we’re at a time where we need to recognize there is discrimination that’s going on based on sexual orientation and that’s not appropriate,” Urquhart said in an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday. “So maybe the state can do something to help with that.”

Equality Utah said the bill was written with input from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but executive director Brandie Balken would not say if the church has given the bill its “blessing.”

Conservative groups, like the Utah Eagle Forum, have said they will fight the bill as it advances on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka told FOX 13 that people of faith should be exempted from having to rent their private property to those they disagree with on a moral position, just as churches would be under SB262.

The bill cleared the Senate Rules Committee on Friday and is expected to have its first hearing before the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee this week.