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Think-tank targets anti-discrimination

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Conservative think-tank Sutherland Institute is taking a stand against Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker's push for new anti-discrimination laws, saying the effort undermines the legal meaning of marriage.

In a statement released Monday, the institute claims Becker's proposals — aimed at curbing workplace and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians — are legally vague, dangerously broad and "inherently unjust."

At issue are the inclusion of the terms "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" in proposed changes to city ordinances. Those terms, according to the Sutherland release, have been used as the jumping off points in other states, like California, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, for "political activists and activist judges to reach beyond the limits of legal reason an public good."

Attempts to advance these terms, the release says, conflicts with "honest attempts to protect the meaning of marriage law."

The same protections could be created, Sutherland says, without the use of either "gender identity" or "sexual orientation" and cited a compromise reached in a 2006 state hate crimes bill that avoided both terms.

Becker's proposed changes come on the heels of a report released in July by the Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission that found wide-ranging discrimination leveled on the basis of race, faith, class and sexual orientation.

Becker, who promised in his mayoral campaign to wipe out discrimination against gays and lesbians, said Friday he is moving forward with his proposed changes, but staying aware of criticism already being leveled by some state legislators.

With that in mind, and the possibility his efforts may be parried by lawmakers in this winter's legislative session, the mayor will push for an April implementation date, if the changes are approved by the City Council.

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