While most of the nation celebrates April as "Fair Housing Month," poor, disabled and minority Utahns remain frustrated by the state's failure to pass an anti-discrimination in housing law, officials say.
"We are celebrating the 20th anniversary this month of the Fair Housing Law at the national level," Paul Johnson, a spokesman for the Housing and Urban Development Department, said Friday.Requests were sent to political leaders around the nation to join in designating April as "Fair Housing Month," Johnson said.
Gov. Norm Bangerter has not signed the requested proclamation. A spokeswoman Friday said the governor may still sign it, but "just hasn't gotten around to it."
Utah is one of only two states that do not have laws barring discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, Johnson said. Wyoming is the other. Both are covered by the federal act, with the closest investigation and enforcement office in Denver.
A fair housing bill has been defeated by Utah lawmakers the past two years. It came close in the 1988 Legislature, passing in the Senate, only to be killed by a narrow margin in the House during the final minutes of the session.
Utah's lack of a fair housing law "is a disgrace," said state Sen. Francis Farley, D-Salt Lake, who has worked closely with sponsoring Sen. Kay Cornaby, R-Salt Lake.
"It's way past due. It's really a disgrace," Farley said. "It's interesting that race isn't what seems to make people nervous, it's marital status and handicapped" discrimination protection. "I don't know what they're afraid of."
Failure to adopt a fair housing law indicates "there's an awful lot of landlords up there in Legislature," said Hal Schultz, director of the Community Action Program, a low-income people's advocacy group that worked on the bill.
"I think it also says something in the sense that Utah believes in the rights of the entrepreneur and the businessperson more than they do the rights of the poor people," Schultz said.
Supporters of the legislation say they will try again next year to get it passed.