SALT LAKE CITY — Even though the 2013 Legislature session will close Thursday without passage of an anti-discrimination bill designed to protect housing and employment for Utah's LGBT residents, about 200 supporters rallying on the Capitol steps were happy to call the proposed legislation a victory.
"This is a tremendous win for the people of Utah that believe in equality and fairness," said a grinning Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City. "For the first time in history, a bill which would ban discrimination for gay, lesbian and transgender people passed through a (legislative) committee."
Dabakis, who paused for hugs even as aides tried to hurry him back inside for floor time Wednesday, especially championed the "conservative, LDS, rural Republicans" who voted for SB262, which hit opposition Monday before it could be debated by the Senate.
One of those was Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who sponsored the bill. Urquhart, who received a warm welcome from the crowd Wednesday, said it will take a statewide push to advance anti-discrimination efforts.
The crowd sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the Capitol steps, holding up simple signs declaring "hard work," "compassion," "family" and "love."
Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken said growing solidarity between people who "believe in their state" will be vital.
"This is how we build this movement, by standing together," she said.
Murray teacher Ann Florence called anti-discrimination efforts part of a history-making civil rights campaign.
"I've always regretted I wasn't a civil rights activist, and I didn't march with Martin Luther King. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed," Florence said. "I really do think it's the civil rights movement of today, and I just feel like can't let this one go by."
Despite the bill's progress, more than similar bills proposed over the past five years have enjoyed, Salt Lake City resident McKay Scadlock was hesitant to call SB262 a win.
"It's kind of a slap in the face that we're here celebrating a disappointment like this," he said. "I just wish the rest of the state could feel what Salt Lake has. It's nice living in a place where I don't feel threatened."