Last week the Economic Development and Work Force Services Committee, the majority voted in favor of SB262, anti-discrimination legislation providing protective rights in housing and employment for sexual orientation and gender identity. As a member of the committee, I voted against the legislation because I believe that homosexual activity is immoral. In an effort to be authentic, I admitted that my belief was in fact discriminating and that discrimination was the reason I could not vote for the legislation.
When society, through its government, identifies something to be immoral, it is by definition discriminating against that thing, act or behavior by setting it apart as harmful to society. Under Utah law, something identified as moral receives preferential treatment and something identified as immoral receives discriminatory treatment. To date, Utah has identified homosexual activity as immoral and therefore has purposely discriminated against it to protect society from its harm. This discrimination has included but not limited the prohibition of same-sex marriage and adoption.
In the past, when Utah held something to be immoral, the government has taken one of three actions: it does nothing at all; sanctions it without enforcement, such as in the case of adultery; or punishes it, such as in the case of prostitution. But the Utah Legislature has never supported something immoral with special protective rights until last week when the majority of the Economic Development and Work Force Services Committee voted in favor SB262.
Immediately following the vote of the committee, the homosexual community celebrated the favorable vote as a historic victory in advancing societal support of homosexuality. It praised the majority of the committee for supporting legislation extending special protections to them. Without a doubt, the vote of my colleagues on the committee was historic. It was not only a vote to reverse what up until now Utah held to be immoral and purposely discriminated against, but it also brought Utah to a crossroads.
The crossroads Utah is now facing is whether its government will continue to hold that homosexual activity is immoral. If it is determined that it is not immoral then the majority vote of the committee was right and SB262 should be supported by the entire Legislature and all discrimination against homosexual activity should end immediately. If, on the other hand, it is held to be immoral, then the Legislature now and into the future must reject any legislation that supports homosexuality.
When one scrapes away all of the rhetoric for and against SB262, remaining is the fundamental question whether homosexual activity is immoral. This is the great question of our day. All pertinent public policy should flow from the answer to this question, including, among others, special non-discrimination protections, rights of adoption and same-sex marriage. Any effort to circumscribe the question and the answer from applying to all pertinent public policy is self-serving and circumvents a principled approach that should be associated with law making.
In short, if homosexual activity is not immoral, then end discrimination in all its forms against it. If it is immoral, then government should protect against its harm to society and do not provide special rights in support of it.
Stuart C. Reid, a Republican, represents Utah Senate District 18.