It seems like today, within the United States of America, no one should have to avoid living in a state because they’re afraid that state’s laws won’t protect them or their family. But, for LGBTQ Americans, this fear is still a real concern because of the discrimination they continue to face. That discrimination can affect which job offer they feel comfortable accepting, where they feel able to safely live, and what businesses and stores they can shop at without being mistreated.
In recent years, Utah has made progress in better protecting its LGBTQ residents from discrimination. On March 12, 2015, Governor Herbert signed SB 296 into law. This milestone legislation added the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Utah’s Anti-Discrimination and Fair Housing Acts, which has helped protect LGBTQ Utahns against discrimination at work and in the housing market.
Passing SB296 is an achievement we should all be proud of because, as the Williams Institute estimates, there are 55,000 LGBTQ adults living in Utah and 37,000 of those LGBTQ adults are employed in the workforce and because it covers the over 1 million jobs, 600,000 homes, and over 200,000 apartments within the state.
But persisting discrimination can affect many other areas of an LGBTQ person’s life, including people’s attitudes about who they should be allowed to marry, whether they should get credit card and loan approvals, what types of transportation they can use, and whether they deserve to have access to health care. That’s why LGBTQ Utahns need legislation that will specifically protect them from discrimination in those and in many other important areas.
Additionally, we all need to acknowledge that discrimination in Utah is real and that it is harming many of its residents. Before SB 296 passed, in 2015, 43% of Utah’s lesbian, gay, or bisexual workers said that they had been discriminated against in interviews or at their current jobs (according to the Williams Institute), and 67% of Utah’s transgender workers reported that they have experienced employment discrimination.
As a result, Equality Utah is continually advocating for our LGBTQ community to ensure that they will receive the same rights and protections that all other Utahns now enjoy—like inclusion within Utah’s existing public accommodations laws to help protect LGBTQ Utahns from discrimination in all stores, restaurants, hotels, and bathrooms within the state—making Utah into a more welcoming, inclusive place for LGBTQ people to live and to work.