Hatch backs anti-discrimination bill protecting gays

Posted at 9:59 PM, Nov 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-04 23:59:26-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A historic vote took place in the U.S. Senate Monday night.

An anti-discrimination bill, which protects the LGBT has enough support to move ahead, and one Utah Republican lawmaker is backing it.

Monday's vote represents a powerful shift in political views in the nation's capitol but Utah's first openly gay democratic party chair isn't surprised to hear that Sen. Orrin Hatch supports ENDA.

Meanwhile, local advocates say it's a step in the right direction and believe it's only a matter of time that Utah passes its own version of this law.

"Senator Hatch is one of the most conservative senators ever. He and I agree on almost very few things let's say but Senator Hatch's heart has never been in question," said Sen. Jim Dabakis who is a Utah democratic lawmaker and the country's first openly gay party chair.

It seems unlikely for him to sing a Republican senator's praises but Dabakis said in this situation it's well deserved.

"He sets a wonderful example of a conservative Republican and his ability to actually stand for important values," Dabakis said.

Hatch joins a small group of Republicans in the Senate, seven, who support ENDA, which stands for the employment non-discrimination act. The bill is designed to protect the LGBT in the workplace.

Hatch released a statement to Fox 13.

"I voted for ENDA out of the HELP Committee and to proceed to the bill tonight because this discrimination is wrong," Hatch stated.

However, the bill exempts churches and religious organizations. Brandie Balken, the Executive Director of Equality Utah said there's something else missing from the legislation.

"Different than the legislation that we're looking at here in Utah, it does not include housing protections," Balken said.

Both Dabakis and Balken believe it's only a matter of time that Utah will someday adopt a statewide anti-discrimination law of its own.

"For it is as much as a symbol than anything else. This is the United States of America saying to all of its citizens we just don't tolerate discrimination," Dabakis said.

Dabakis said lawmakers will reintroduce an anti-discrimination law to protect the LGBT in the workplace and housing during next year's legislative session.

"I think the tidal wave, the tsunami of non-discrimination is here and whether it happens in 2014, 2015, 2016,” he said. “I have confidence in the legislature and Utahns, they do what's right."

As for ENDA, Monday’s support almost guarantees passage of the bill in the Senate later this week but it will face its biggest hurdle in the U.S. House of Representatives.