Sen. Chris Buttars has his eyes on Salt Lake City's proposed anti-discrimination law and the state lawmaker says he would likely take action to quash the ordinance should the City Council approve it.
"I don't think anybody should be discriminated against," said Buttars, R-West Jordan. "But in America, we have never given special privilege or protection to little groups. We give them to the entire nation."
Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker said he was "committed to eradicating discrimination in our city" last month as he unveiled the ordinance aimed at providing fair housing and employment protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
Buttars, however, said the LGBT community doesn't fall under the same protective umbrella as race, age and religion, which "affect everybody."
"We've never done what they're asking," he said, "nor have I seen any evidence that it needs to be done."
The Human Rights Commission of Salt Lake City released a report last month detailing incidences of discrimination in the city, many of which involved LGBT residents, but Buttars questioned the validity of some of those claims.
"I have never seen any facts to back it up," he said. "They want to say they're being hurt more than someone else, I guess. If anybody had a right to special protection it would be Mormons; they've been persecuted but not as bad as the American Indian. But they're not pounding on the newspaper's door. Or the Jewish people; the Jewish people have lots of people hate them. I love them. But you know that's true."
For some, early concerns over the proposed ordinance have come as surprise.
"We were a little bit blindsided," said Council Chairman Carlton Christensen. "It's early for us. We've been furnished with a draft copy, but we've never had a discussion" about the ordinance. Christensen said he expects the ordinance to be before the council by year's end.
While city attorney Ed Rutan said the city would be within its rights to create fair housing rights for a group not currently protected under state law, Christensen knows the Legislature could hold the trump card.
"We want to help them understand what it is and what it isn't," Christensen said. "We'll try to be proactive before the legislative session. If we try to wait, it's going to be problematic and pretty political."
Salt Lake officials took a similar approach with state lawmakers when the city worked on its domestic partnership registry and expanded benefits package.
"I'm proud of the fact that Salt Lake City has been the leader in human rights issues and anti-discrimination legislation," City Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said. "I'm also proud of the fact that we have worked with the Legislature when we did our registry to find something that everyone could agree was constitutional and was within the local government's right. If this has reached the attention of someone like Sen. Buttars, I know the Salt Lake City Council and the mayor will want to work with him."
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