OGDEN -- By a 4-3 vote, the city council adopted ordinances Tuesday night prohibiting housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, Mayor Matthew Godfrey said immediately after the vote he will veto the ordinances because the council removed a provision to exempt the city and got rid of a religious expression clause.
Godfrey said his staff and the council had worked with religious leaders and Equality Utah, a Salt Lake City organization that supports equal rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, to reach a suitable proposal.
"It's a colossal waste of time," Godfrey said regarding the council's removal of the two exemptions.
He also said, based on the council vote tally to approve the ordinances, it is unlikely there will be enough support to overturn the veto, which means in effect the new regulation won't become law.
The council would need a supermajority, or five of its seven members to override the veto.
City Councilmen Doug Stephens, Brandon Stephenson and Neil Garner voted against adopting the ordinances. All three said they oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender, but maintained it's necessary to exempt the city.
They also said it is important to provide a provision that states the ordinances should not be construed to limit or prohibit the expression of religious beliefs or opinions.
Stephenson became emotional as he said he didn't want his "no" vote to be interpreted as his being against a segment of the community, but added that he represents a very large constituency, in an apparent reference to the religious expression provision.
Some church leaders have said they would not be free to express in the workplace their religious opposition to the gay lifestyle without the provision.
Stephens said the pending veto from Godfrey and the prospect that the council will not be able to override that veto presented a lose-lose scenario for those the ordinance is supposed to protect.
Removal of the provision to exempt the city from the ordinance could open the door for those who feel they have been discriminated against to trigger a state law that would allow them to sue the municipality and seek practically unlimited attorney fees, said City Attorney Gary Williams.
The religious expression provision was an attempt to allow both church groups and members of the gay and transgender communities to express their opinions without fear of being in violation of the ordinance, he said.
However, Councilwoman Susan Van Hooser said the religious expression provision is unneeded because the First Amendment to the Constitution already provides freedom of speech protection.
Several individuals urged the council to adopt the ordinance without the religious expression provision, while others said the ordinance isn't necessary.
Jefferson Shupe said individuals, not government, should be allowed to work out discrimination issues.