Utah Senate panel rejects bill banning discrimination against public breastfeeding
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A fear of lactating women baring their breasts in a public protest helped doom a Tuesday bill that would have banned discrimination of breastfeeding in public.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Wood Cross, said he's "legitimately concerned" that scenario would happen in Utah if SB240 became law.
"As long as she's lactating and bringing her baby with her, she and maybe some friends to protest the business, they could sit there and publicly display their breasts as long as they want, and there's nothing the business could do about it," Weiler told the Senate Business and Labor Committee.
The bill, sponsored Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, would have added pregnancy, childbirth and lactating to the definition of sex in Utah's public accommodations law. The committee vote ended in a 2-2 tie, meaning the measure failed.
Dabakis found Weiler's scenario far-fetched.
"Sen. Weiler sometimes has the imagination of an attorney with a screwy client," he said after the meeting. "To be against allowing women to feed their children in public because of some imagined demonstration that might someday happen somewhere but has never happened before might have been a little bit too panicky on the part of Sen. Weiler."
Weiler, a lawyer, said breastfeeding women should be accommodated in public, but he said he couldn't support Dabakis' bill without some conditions.
The Legislature earlier this session passed his legislation requiring employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for workers related to pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding unless it creates an undue hardship on the business.
Dabakis also had another bill, SB241, on public accommodations but decided to pull it Tuesday. It proposed to ban discrimination against LGBT Utahns in places like stores, shops and other establishments.
The senator proposed adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to Utah's law guaranteeing equal rights in businesses and places of public accommodations. The law already bars discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, ancestry and national origin.
Dabakis said after some long discussion with the LGBT community, he decided to focus on getting a hate crimes bill passed.
"It just seemed like it wasn't the right moment. The hate crimes (bill) hasn't got past the Senate, so I think we've lowered our expectations a bit," he said, adding he would run both bills again next year.
A final Senate vote in strengthening Utah's hate crimes law is expected Wednesday.