SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill offering protection against discrimination to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals in housing and workplace environments has died a quiet death for the 2013 legislative session.
SB 262 was not brought up for discussion Monday on the Senate floor, effectively killing it for the session. By rule, the Senate will hear only House bills the three remaining days of the session, and the House will hear only Senate bills.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the bill didn't have the votes, so it was wise to spend the day focused on bills that potentially could be forwarded to the House. He said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of several parties involved in discussions on the measure.
Sponsored by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, the bill would have extended throughout the state housing and workplace protections for LGBT individuals.
Currently, 17 Utah municipalities have anti-discrimination measure on the books.
In a hastily called news conference late Monday, Urquhart expressed frustration the bill didn't come up for a vote, but said he has seen significant progress on the issue. He said in his 13 years in the Legislature, he has seen a lot of issues that are entrenched, but he said he sees movement on the equity issue.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who is gay, said progress made on the measure this session portends well for the future.
"The votes just weren't there, but the work continues one senator at a time, one vote at a time," Dabakis said.
Pressed on what the LDS Church might find objectionable in the bill, Dabakis declined to be specific or negative.
"We really did come this close. We just didn't close the gap. We'll begin in a couple of weeks to start sitting down and see if we can finally come to a conclusion with the LDS Church," Dabakis said.
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said polls show 75 percent of Utahns support the equality issue.
"We have not been pushed back. We will continue to push forward until we have the oppportunity to secure all the votes we need," Balken said.
Dabakis said passage of the measure will send a positive economic development signal to companies outside of Utah in efforts to recruit to the Beehive State.
Two major firms that have anti-
discrimination measures in place in the workplace are Zions Bank and CHG Healthcare Services.
Michael Weinholtz, of CHG, told a Senate committee last week the anti-discrimination policy of his company helps his company compete at a high level for employees they wouldn't achieve without the equity protection.