Salt Lake City’s gay-rights laws take effect

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s landmark ordinances to protect gays from discrimination in housing and employment have taken effect.

Mayor Ralph Becker was joined by gay-rights advocates at a ceremony Friday marking implementation of Utah’s first such laws.

John W. Bennett, who is gay and a nephew of Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, praised the capital city for taking the lead in offering the protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

He recalled being fired from a state government job in 1986 for his sexual orientation.

"This is truly a good Friday. Today I’m ecstatic," Bennett said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorsed the ordinances as protecting people’s right to work and have a roof over their heads.

The laws exempt religious organizations, businesses with 15 or fewer employees and some small landlords. They also create a complaint and investigation process for violations.

"[The laws are] not providing any special treatment to any class," Becker said. "We hope the simplicity and sensibility of these ordinances will serve everyone in this community well."

Equality Utah has launched a campaign to get 10 more Utah cities or counties to pass similar anti-discrimination ordinances this year.

Salt Lake County, Utah’s most populous county, earlier followed Salt Lake City’s lead in passing such laws.

West Valley City, and Park City are moving toward passage.

Discussions are ongoing with Holladay, Taylorsville, Moab, Ogden, Midvale, Summit County and others, said Brandie Balken, Equality Utah executive director.

"We can build on our early successes in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, and believe we can achieve 10 in 2010," Balken said.

Public meetings will be held across Utah about the need for statewide housing and employment protections, Balken added. A comprehensive report will be presented to the Legislature next year.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, warns that if any local governments expand their ordinances beyond Salt Lake City’s, the Legislature likely would step in to prevent them from adopting anti-discrimination measures.

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