Gender Discrimination Ordinance Passes in Salt Lake City — Providing Additional Rights for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders — With the Help of the Mormon Church!

On Tuesday, November 10, 2009, the Salt Lake City, Utah City Council passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. The seven member Council unanimously passed the ordinance, which makes it illegal for employers or landlords to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. Given that the Church of Latter-Day Saints’ (LDS) elders eagerly backed California’s Proposition 8 last November — which banned gay marriage in California — the sudden support for gay rights has been viewed as a shocking turnaround.

Although progressive activists in California and Utah alike hailed the Church’s support of these anti-discrimination measures, some have wondered whether the shifting stance reflects a change of a philosophy or a calculated political decision designed to appease moderates who were turned off by the Church’s anti-gay marriage crusade in 2008.

The ordinance only applies to Salt Lake City — and not to the state of Utah as a whole — but it reflects similar ordinances passed in dozens of cities across the nation. It may portend a growing intolerance of discrimination towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals. The ordinance will go into effect in April 2010.

Likely, the Church’s decision reflects a kind of split thinking that many conservatives have about the subject of equality for people of different sexual orientations. On the one hand, the LDS and other conservative groups remain unified in their opposition to gay marriage: witness the recent defeat of a pro gay marriage bill in Maine in the November 2009 elections, and consider the Church’s statement reaffirming its commitment to ‘defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.’

On the other hand, there simultaneously appears to be a trend towards recognizing the unfairness of employment, harassment and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians. How this cognitive dissonance plays out remains to be seen.

If you believe that you or a friend or a loved one has been the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, the attorneys here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help. Connect with our legal associates right now by dialing (212) 688-5640, or learn more about our firm at www.jhllp.com.