SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of notes were taped to the doors of the Senate Chambers by Monday afternoon, demanding state lawmakers to consider a nondiscrimination bill that includes sexual orientation.
The notes are a visual form of protest, organized by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, over Senate Bill 100.
“I love it!” he told FOX 13 on Monday. “It’s very exciting to come back and see that.”
Urquhart is renewing his bill that would create a nondiscrimination law in housing and employment, that includes protections for Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Legislative leadership is refusing to consider any bills dealing with gay rights issues (either for or against) while the state is in the midst of an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling overturning Amendment 3, Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby struck down the constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. For 17 days, more than 1,300 same-sex couples married in Utah.
“This is an emotional time,” Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, told reporters on Monday. “Let’s stop and pull our faculties here together and address other issues this session and wait for the process in the appeal to take place. We’ll come back at another time and address religious liberties and anti-discrimination.”
Urquhart insisted his bill should be considered.
“The issue of workplace and employment nondiscrimination has nothing to do with same-sex marriage,” he said. “It needs to pass regardless of where that issue goes.”
The appeal of Amendment 3 is being considered by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The Utah Attorney General’s first legal brief was due in court by Monday night. Arguments in the case were slated for April.
Also on Monday, the appeals court rejected a request by three same-sex couples to intervene in the Amendment 3 appeal. They were being represented by Roberta Kaplin, who famously represented Edith Windsor in the U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
An exchange on Twitter between the Senate president and a House lawmaker caused a stir on Utah’s Capitol Hill Monday morning. Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, began by joking about the private men’s bathroom in the House being occupied.”Strongly considering a gender identifying change to use the open womens (sic)” he tweeted.
A few minutes later, Sen. Niederhauser’s Twitter account replied.
“First supporting SB 100, now switching your gender identity? Just can’t keep up with you. You’re a new man! erm… woman…” it read.
The exchange angered some gay rights activists, who pounced on it in the face of the Senate’s refusal to consider the nondiscrimination bill.
Anderegg apologized on Twitter, writing: “My earlier comments regarding Transgender issues was totally inappropriate. I own it. And I apologize.”
Meeting with reporters, Niederhauser blamed an intern for his tweet and said “it was embarrassing for me, it was embarrassing for her.” He said the gay rights group Equality Utah was meeting with legislative interns on Monday night to discuss LGBT issues and greater sensitivity.
“The tweet does not reflect anything that I believe in,” Niederhauser said. “I have deep respect for people in the LGBT community and continue to do so.”