The PR Version of SB296
In regard to your commentary ["Dr. Strangelaw," Opinion, March 19, City Weekly], Brandon Burt stated: "The bill, which passed March 12 amid much fanfare by LGBT activists and LDS Church authorities alike, codifies the rights of people to be secure in their jobs and their homes without fear of reprisal from anti-gay bosses and landlords." And this: "For the vast majority of Utahns, these job and housing protections are real."
Let's see how well that public-relations version holds up.
Senate Bill 296 has a couple of seemingly notable exemptions, which are conspicuously absent from your commentary. Employers with 15 or fewer employees are exempt from job discrimination, and landlords with four or fewer rental units are exempt from housing discrimination.
So if I understand it correctly, these are in addition to the exemptions for the jobs and housing owned by or contracted to religious organizations. Taken together, those exemptions are no small thing, and one could reasonably surmise they likely encompass a rather large portion—if not a majority—of the rental units in Utah and more than a few jobs, especially in smaller cities and towns. No offense intended, but it seems one could reasonably offer that if that is taken into account, those codified and real protections in jobs and housing appear a bit less vast and real than you and others would have readers believe.
Also, it seems foreseeable that legitimizing and legalizing discrimination with SB296 will surely open a Pandora's box of "closely held beliefs" posing as rights. Think in terms of the cop and the Utah Pride parade—see Sen. Stephen Urquhart's comment, as reported by Eric S. Peterson ["Utah Legislative Wrap-Up 2015: Up in the Air"]. The assertion that religious protections are strictly limited to church organizations also fails to hold up under scrutiny.
Seems one could reasonably say that two truths of SB296 are it expands/legitimizes/legalizes discrimination beyond church boundaries—even setting acceptable limits of discrimination, and the vast and real protections you mentioned aren't all that vast and real after all.
If the above is accurate, does omitting it from the conversation in favor of the public relations version of SB296 really feel like the thing to do?
Of course, all of this is probably moot considering the likelihood that legalizing discrimination in the public square won't pass constitutional muster.
But, hey, other than that, I agree with you.
South Salt Lake
We're Not All Neanderthals
In textbook analysis of argumentation, the "straw man" argument is considered faulty because an opponent is painted with a broad negative generalization that excuses the audience from hearing the straw man's argument. When Brandon Burt categorizes those who disagree with him on this issue as Neanderthals, he attempts to remove any real dialogue ["Dr. Strangelaw," March 19, City Weekly].
The LGBT community continually uses this tactic by referring to dissenters with negative terms such as homophobes or bigots. The pressure put on our society to agree or be banned only creates continuing hostility or cowardly submission.
I am not LDS, but the LDS Church's effort to stop discrimination towards LGBT while maintaining their rights to their own convictions is admirable. Those of us who do not endorse the LGBT lifestyle may have valid reasons for our objections, but you will need to stop the name-calling if you have any intention of hearing any real dialogue.
Salt Lake City
Murder Without Consequence
Have any of the media reports addressed that James Barker suffered from mental illness? Another national statistic, here: I read that a high percentage of unarmed citizens murdered by the police, like James, have mental problems. I knew James for almost 20 years, and I guarantee he wasn't casing neighborhood cars. He was shot a block from his home. He was one of the most honest and peaceful people I have known and it makes me wonder if there was something more to this story.
Either way, he was armed with a shovel, not a gun, and there's no reason he couldn't have been tazed instead of murdered. But that's what the police do—murder without consequence. It's finally hit home. James Barker was a kind, talented friend and musician and he will be missed. It should once again be reported that the police are not being properly trained to deal with the mentally ill and Utah and the rest of the police are again killing too many unarmed citizens without repercussion.
Aaron B. Cole
Salt Lake City
Correction: In the March 19 issue, we incorrectly titled Beardyman's 2014 album [Concerts & Clubs, City Weekly]. The correct title is Distractions.