American Fork to consider sexual orientation ordinance for housing, employment

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

AMERICAN FORK — The first city in Utah County to consider anti-discrimination ordinances focused on sexual orientation and gender identity has scheduled a public hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.

The proposed ordinances, posted on the city's website, focus on housing and employment practices within American Fork. Salt Lake City passed the first nondiscrimination ordinances in the state in 2010, and 11 other cities and counties have since followed suit.

City Councilman Rick Storrs said the idea has been in discussion since a resident made a complaint two years ago. "He has a child that has had a problem with discrimination," Storrs said, adding that he does not have a feel for how the council as a whole would vote on the ordinances.

"I think this is an important issue of human rights. We have a gay population in American Fork, and the problem of discrimination is real," said City Councilwoman Heidi Rodeback.

"We're not inventing the wheel. We have tailored the ordinances to our own administrative structure and needs," she said. "I believe that this protects freedom of religion" without creating a protected class.

Bill Duncan, director of the Center for Family and Society at the Sutherland Institute, said the conservative Utah think tank has concerns about the way the ordinances are drafted and the potential for unintended consequences.

"A little more thought and perhaps some further drafting could make a much better ordinance," he said. "Currently there is no exemption for individuals that have a religious concern about renting or providing employment to someone who identifies themselves as gay."

Brandi Balken, director of Equality Utah, said the resident who brought the issue to the city contacted her, and Equality Utah has "been talking to people in American Fork for about the last four months" about the proposed ordinances. She said she attended a council work session Thursday but does not want to predict how Tuesday's public hearing will go.

She calls the discussion in Utah County both "critically important" and "not surprising."

"I think in every municipality these ordinances are critically important because they provide much-needed protections," she said.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at City Hall, 31 N. Church Street. Copies of the proposed ordinances are also available at the city's administrative offices at 51 E. Main.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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