Lawmakers, LGBT community discuss anti-discrimination legislation

Posted at 9:35 PM, Feb 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-26 23:35:22-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hundreds from the LGBT community showed up to the State Capitol Wednesday for a meeting with lawmakers. They want SB 100, a bill which would provide protection in housing and employment for LGBT Utahns, revived.

But will they get it? It seems unlikely this legislative session.

"I was born Randall Heller, but I stand before you today as Rachel Heller, the person I've always known myself to be," said Rachel Heller, just one of many LGBT Utahns sharing personal, passionate stories about what life is like in Utah.

"I didn't choose to have a transgender child but I have chosen to love and support Grayson," said one Mormon mother who is asking lawmakers to support equal protection in housing and employment.

But SB 100 fell flat on its face.

"When Connor was 15, about a year and a half ago, he showed his love for Laurie and me by telling us he was gay," said Joey Eccleston with tears in his eyes.

His son wants to leave the state out of fear of a future of discrimination in Utah.

Senator Steve Urqhart, R-District 29, spoke in response.

"As Chair of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committee, stay in Utah,” he said. “We can use you here. Give us a chance to catch up to you and your parents, OK?”

The statement got applause in return. He and Senator Jim Dabakis, the first openly gay Democratic State Party Chair, organized the meeting.

"Since the age of 10, I knew there was something different: That I was gay," said Justin Udley, who told lawmakers he was fired because of his sexual orientation. "She said that had they known I was gay during the interview process they would not have hired me."

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox was also at the meeting. FOX 13 News asked whether he believed if it was right for employers to fire LGBT Utahns based on their sexual orientation.

"I think it's very difficult,” he said. “Again, I believe that we should make business decisions based on business reasons, and that's how I practice in my private practice, and so as hearts and minds understand this I think it will be interesting to see as things move forward in this state."

"I am disappointed of course I am, I think there was an unfortunate confusion of the Amendment 3 case, which is working its way through the courts, and this bill. One is marriage, and the other is housing and employment discrimination protection," said Brandie Balken, the Executive Director of Equality Utah.

She had high hopes for SB 100 before the session started, but lawmakers squashed the bill, putting it on hold pending the Amendment 3 appeal.