Pro-LGBT group seeks guv meeting

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Members of an LGBT advocacy group want a sit-down with Gov. Gary Herbert after the governor said last week he does not believe gay and lesbian Utahns need legal protection against discrimination.

The Foundation for Reconciliation hopes to meet with the newly appointed governor to share stories of discrimination and request the creation of a task force that investigates such cases and educates public officials.

"What the governor's remarks indicated to us was a lack of information," said Peter Danzig, a spokesman for the group. "Almost always, if someone is willing to look at a number of personal stories, all of a sudden they may not change their mind about legislation or civil rights, but they have a more moderate stance and it's much easier for us to coexist."

Last week, during his first appearance on the governor's monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7, Herbert said passing anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians would create a new "protected class" and could impact the economy.

"Where do you stop? That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes," Herbert said.

Fair housing and workplace protections could make it difficult for employers to fire employees, the governor added.

Danzig said Herbert is "unaware of the types of discrimination people go through. That was saddening."

In response to the governor's remarks, the foundation is compiling a series of discrimination stories from the LGBT community, Danzig said.

"It's hard to notice discrimination until you are on the receiving end of it," he said. "If you don't have a friend who has suffered, why would you have any reason to notice it?"

Foundation for Reconciliation members requested a meeting with Herbert Monday morning, but Danzig said they were instructed to go through an online request process.

Angie Welling, the governor's spokeswoman, said Herbert would be "more than happy" to meet with the foundation's members.

"He is an inclusive leader who appreciates gathering all people around the table, so to speak, and hearing all points of view on a subject," she said.

The governor's office has received the foundation's request for a meeting, Welling said, and it is being considered through the "normal scheduling process."

e-mail: afalk@desnews.com

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