SALT LAKE CITY -- A city councilman is pushing a new ordinance that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations.
At a news conference put on by the Human Rights Campaign praising the city for its support for LGBT nondiscrimination, Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold announced his proposed ordinance that would ban discrimination in places like shops, restaurants and other services.
"Really for me, public accommodation is about how do you ensure people feel safe where they are, regardless of whether that's in a public building or a business or a restaurant or a hotel," he said. "Whatever that looks like."
Such ordinances are controversial, Penfold acknowledged. Most recently, issues have erupted when businesses have refused to provide services to same-sex couples getting married or on the issue of bathroom access for transgender people. Penfold told FOX 13 his proposed ordinance could level fines against a business found to discriminate.
LGBT rights groups are anticipating some push back, particularly from social conservatives and possibly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Penfold said he intended to meet with the LDS Church and members of the Utah State Legislature as the ordinance was drafted.
Earlier this year, the LDS Church declined to support a hate crimes bill in the legislature, dooming its chances of success. Troy Williams, the director of Equality Utah, said they would try again next year as well as push for passage of the Salt Lake City ordinance (side-stepping the legislature).
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said they would back Salt Lake City if a fight erupted over the ordinance.
"We have always made this state and this city a real priority. It's one of our largest membership bases," Griffin told FOX 13. "It's the important next step. The city needs to do it."
The Human Rights Campaign gave Salt Lake City the highest marks in Utah on its "Municipal Equality Index" for its nondiscrimination ordinances, LGBT-friendly services and programs, law enforcement and relationship with the gay community. Griffin noted that three of Salt Lake City's top public officials (Penfold, Councilman Derek Kitchen and Mayor Jackie Biskupski) are openly gay.
The LDS Church declined to comment on Penfold's proposed ordinance. Bill Duncan, the director for the Center for Family & Society at the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank, said any opposition depends on what the ordinance says. He noted the accommodations for people of faith in last year's compromise law passed by the legislature that provided LGBT nondiscrimination in housing and employment.
"There's a line between asking people to be served regardless of sexual orientation and asking someone to facilitate a same-sex wedding that they feel they can't because of their religious beliefs," Duncan said. "Can we accommodate those? Of course we can. Americans know how to be fair."
Penfold said his proposed ordinance would likely not be available until next year.