When federal Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah could not ban same-sex marriages it didn't take long for Utah conservative lawmakers to piece together their exploded heads and start writing bills in response—so many same-sex marriage related bills the Legislature may decline to hear them all this session. It was rumored this would halt Sen. Stephen Urquhart R- St. George from pushing a bill to provide non-discrimination protections to LGBT Utahns. Urquhart, however, came out swinging at a press conference announcing his introducing Senate Bill 100. Urquhart called out opponents for waging a campaign of misinformation and challenged Utahns to come to the Legislature and tape a simple note on the door of legislative chambers reading “Hear SB 100.”
Urquhart first acknowledged that the Legislature was right to hold off on the deluge of reactionary same-sex marriage bills introduced, but pointed out the non-discrimination bill has been heard for five years on the hill, with 2014 being the sixth year.
“This issue was relevant before Shelby's decision and it will contine to be relevant no matter how the issue same-sex marriage is ultimately resolved,” Urquhart said. That being said Urquhart said it was Utah's time to lead out on accepting the rights of Utahns not to be discriminated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Without naming names he also made reference to misinformation released in a recent television ad by the Sutherland Institute that claimed Urquhart's bill would affect Brigham Young University campus housing, even though the bill has an exemption for religious institution's like BYU and has had that language every year since the bill was first introduced on the hill in 2008.
“Opponents put this misinformation out there realizing the majority of people want to pass this law...unless they can do something to change the dialogue,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart's bill made historic progress in the 2013 session when it got voted out of committee for the first time since the bill was originally pushed in 2008 by openly gay legislator Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City and later by Sen. Ben McAdams, D- Salt Lake City. Even then senate leadership refused to hear the bill on the floor arguing there wouldn't be time to properly debate the issue.
At the conference Urquhart called on Utahns to write “Hear SB 100” on a slip of paper and tape it to the chamber doors of the Legislature. He also emphasized the bill would not affect BYU housing nor would it affect bathroom in public schools. Instead the bill would make it so landlords with four or more housing units couldn't discriminate against tenants, refuse them housing or evict them for being gay or transgender. Neither would it allow companies with 15 or more employees the ability to discriminate against employees simply because they were LGBT.
“That's pretty simple and that sends the message that we don't discriminate against our fellow Utahns,” Urquhart said.