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American Fork tables anti-discrimination housing, employment ordinances focused on gay and transgender population

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 10:01 p.m. MST

AMERICAN FORK — No vote was taken on two proposed anti-discrimination ordinances following a Tuesday night public hearing where 24 people spoke both for and against the measures.

The proposed ordinances focus on housing and employment, and by title would prohibit unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

City Council members cited the need for additional discussion and the fact three new members of the council will take office in January. "I think it's unfair for three of us who are leaving to take any action and then leave them with the pieces, wherever they may fall," said Councilman Shirl Don LeBaron.

People addressing the council identified themselves in a number of ways: gay, straight, city residents or property owners. Both before and after the hearing, Mayor James H. Hadfield said he had received, read, responded to and filed more email related to these ordinance proposals than any other issue he has seen.

American Fork resident Mark Steele opened the discussion with the city on the anti-discrimination ordinances. After Salt Lake City passed a similar anti-discrimination ordinance two years ago, he asked his daughter, now transgender, if she felt her peers in American Fork had been subjected to discrimination. When several said they had, he initiated the discussion about American Fork ordinances with members of the City Council.

Steele supports the proposed ordinances, saying they would accomplish the same protections in the city that laws against racial, gender and religious discrimination have. He said he had mixed feelings about the Council's decision to table the ordinance proposals.

Organizations represented at the hearing included the Sutherland Institute, which opposes the ordinances, citing unknown and unintended consequences that could arise; and United Families Utah, which suggested a non-binding resolution of intent would serve the community better than a new ordinance.

Equality Utah supports the ordinances, citing a Dan Jones and Associates poll it commissioned in October that found 67 percent of Utah County residents support ordinances that would protect individuals from losing their jobs or housing "for no other reason than being gay or transgender."

The Utah County responses are a subset of a statewide poll of 801 households, so a margin of error for the Utah County portion is not listed in the poll results.

Clayton Weaver was one of a number of people who spoke at the public hearing who identified himself as both an American Fork resident and the owner of an apartment building. " We don't need more regulation. Please don't pass this and take away the rights of property owners," he said.

American Fork resident J.D. LaMont said he is both an American Fork resident and "proud father of a homosexual son." He said he doesn't care whether the city passes the ordinances but applauds the City Council for considering it.

City Council member Heidi Rodeback, who has supported the proposed ordinances, said she is "comfortable with the ordinances based on content" and made the motion to table a decision on them. "I feel it is best procedurally to table these ordinances until some future date when we've achieved a better consensus."

There was unanimous support on the Council for her motion. The Council did not discuss a timeframe or method for advancing the discussion.

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

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