Sutherland vs. Liberty & Equality | CitizenSpeak | Salt Lake City Weekly

Sutherland vs. Liberty & Equality 

Join us in the 21st Century, State Legislature.

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The bigots at the Sutherland Institute are at it again, this time issuing a press release opposing Mayor Becker’s proposed city ordinances to ban employment and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. In the press release, the Sutherland Institute claims that their opposition to the proposed protections in order to “protect the meaning of marriage in the law.”

I’ve asked this question before, as have many others, and yet we still haven’t heard a reasonable response. How does legal protection for the rights of all individuals impact the marriage of anyone else? Sutherland Institute continues the fear-mongering “anti-marriage” campaign with statements such as:

“The experiences of other states, namely California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, prove that the inclusion of terms such as ’sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ in state and local laws is used, ultimately, to denigrate the meaning of marriage.”

What they fail to do, however, is explain or even point to a single example of this denigration of marriage. Here are their arguments:

1. Proposed ordinances are legally vague. The argument attached herein, however, only complains that the wording of the ordinance is redundant, not vague. What it does, though, is define “sexual orientation” as “heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual.” This isn’t vague, it clarifies that all people, regardless of their orientation, are entitled to fair housing and employment consideration. It really isn’t that difficult of a concept to grasp.

2. Proposed ordinances are dangerously broad. The Sutherland Institute argues that inclusion of the term “perceived as” disallows any serious response to an accusation of discrimination. What they fail to address is that virtually all cases of discrimination are cases of perception. It still falls upon the accuser to prove that they were discriminated against because of a perception of their sexual orientation. That phrase in no way, shape, or form attempts to shift the burden of proof to the defense, nor does it undermine any legitimate defense.

3. Proposed ordinances are inherently unjust. “Businesses that operate within the city limits of Salt Lake would be compelled to abide by ‘civil rights’ laws that do not exist elsewhere in the state.” This is probably the most absurd argument I’ve ever seen. Just because other cities and municipalities are lagging behind the times in terms of extending equality to all people, it is no justification for Salt Lake City to not take the lead.

The press release ends with:

“Sutherland does not condone discrimination against any human being on grounds of innate and universal human traits addressed by civil rights laws. Nor does Sutherland condone irrational discrimination against any human being for chosen behaviors.”

If the Sutherland Institute truly supports the concepts of freedom and liberty that they espouse, there is absolutely no legitimate reason to oppose these ordinances. In no way do Mayor Becker’s proposals create an unfair playing field for anyone, they only serve to help promote justice and equality for all citizens of Salt Lake City, equally. Sutherland’s alternatives, the passage of ordinances that do not include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and the passage of “non-binding resolutions” defeat the entire purpose of the proposed ordinances.

It is time that someone in Utah’s political arena had the courage to stand up and promote equality for all Utahns. I applaud Mayor Becker for his courage and vision, and look forward to the day that other cities, counties, and our backwards State Legislature joins us in the 21st century to honor the principles of liberty and equality upon which this nation is theoretically based.

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About The Author

Bob Henline

Bob Henline is a social and political activist and resident of Tooele County, Utah.

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