No one should be forced to decide where to live because they’re afraid that a state’s laws won’t protect them. But for LGBTQ Americans, this is what discrimination does. Discrimination can affect your job, where you’re able to live, and what businesses and stores you can shop at.
When it comes to protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, Utah has made real progress. On March 12, 2015, Governor Herbert signed SB 296 into law. This milestone legislation adds the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Utah's Anti-Discrimination and Fair Housing Acts, protecting LGBTQ Utahns against discrimination at work and in housing markets.
The Williams Institute estimates there are 55,000 LGBTQ adults living in Utah. 37,000 of these LGBTQ adults are in the workforce. Utah’s nondiscrimination law covers over 1 million jobs; 600,000 homes; and over 200,000 apartments. Passing SB296 is an achievement we should all be proud of.
But discrimination can touch many areas of an LGBTQ person’s life. Discrimination doesn’t just affect who you can marry. It can also affect where you can shop, whether you can get credit and loans, use transportation, and access health care. LGBTQ Utahns need legislation that will protect them from discrimination in many important areas.
That’s why Equality Utah is advocating for:
- inclusion within Utah’s existing public accommodations laws
- and gender-neutral designations for single-occupancy bathroom stalls
Changing Utah’s public accommodations laws will protect LGBTQ Utahns from discrimination in stores, restaurants, hotels, and bathrooms.
Discrimination in Utah is Real
Discrimination in Utah is real. Before SB 296 passed in 2015, 43% of Utah’s lesbian, gay, or bisexual workers said they had been discriminated against in interviews or at their jobs, according to the Williams Institute. 67% of Utah’s transgender workers said they experienced employment discrimination.
Because discrimination against LGBTQ people is so widespread, we know it happens in other areas of life—not just inside the workplace.
Public Accommodations & LGBTQ Utahns
One of our policy goals is to make sure LGBTQ Utahns have the same rights as any other Utahn when it comes to using public businesses and services. In legal terms, this is called “inclusion within Utah’s existing public accommodations laws.” But what exactly are “public accommodations?”
Public accommodations are businesses and facilities that are open to the public. They include restaurants, stores, theaters, hotels, transportation services, and health care providers. The most well-known example of a public accommodation may be Masterpiece Cakeshop—the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Federal civil rights laws protect some groups of people from being discriminated against by businesses that serve the public. Civil rights law guarantees your rights to use public accommodations no matter what your race, color, national origin, religion, or disability status is. But the Civil Rights Act—which was passed in 1964—doesn’t protect people based on their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This means that LGBTQ people can legally be discriminated against by businesses that are open to the public just because of who they are.
Many states have recognized this loophole is wrong. 19 states have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another two states—Wisconsin and New Hampshire—protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But Utah doesn’t have laws that protect LGBTQ people from this kind of discrimination.
Bathroom Bills & Transgender Utahns
One of Equality Utah’s priorities is to create gender-neutral designations for single-occupancy bathroom stalls. What does gender-neutral mean? If a trans woman wants to use a bathroom stall that matches her gender identity rather than her assigned birth sex, she should have the right to do so.
Because many businesses that serve the public have bathrooms, these bathrooms are covered under existing public accommodations laws.
Bathroom bills get a lot of press coverage around the country. But at the end of the day, most Americans think trans people should be able to use the restroom they choose. According to the Pew Research Center, over half of all Americans think trans people should be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity . Gender-neutral bathrooms are no different from any other common sense policy that gives everyone the basic privacy and dignity they deserve.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states are proposing “bathroom bills” that would prevent trans people from being able to use the bathroom they choose. Right now, Utah doesn’t have any laws that restrict trans people’s access to public accommodations. But our state also doesn’t have any laws that protect them against this kind of discrimination. It’s critical that we make sure Utah doesn’t pass bathroom bills that discriminate against trans people.
Credit & Lending Discrimination for LGBTQ Utahns
Having access to credit and loans is an important tool for achieving the American dream. Loans, mortgages, and credit cards make it possible to go to college, buy a home, or start a small business.
But Utah doesn’t have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in lending or credit. According to SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), LGBTQ people have a higher chance of living in poverty when they’re older because of a lifetime of discrimination.
13 states currently have laws that prevent creditors and lending agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity . One state—New York—has a law that prevents creditors from discriminating against LGBTQ people because of their sexual orientation.
Utah prides itself on having a strong economy. But Utah’s economy would become even stronger if our state would pass a law that guarantees fair and equal access to credit for credit-worthy LGBTQ Utahns.
Have You Experienced Discrimination?
SB 296 is a monumental achievement. We wish laws would always stop discrimination from happening. But if you believe an employer or landlord discriminated against you, we urge all LGBTQ Utahns to report this.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, please tell your story.
- If you need legal counsel or services, contact the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
- If you have experienced housing discrimination, please contact the State Office of Fair Housing.
- If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, please contact the Utah Labor Commission and the EEOC.
- Equality Utah’s Fact Sheet on Frequently Asked Questions on SB 296
- Human Rights Campaign: Customer Non-Discrimination Act
- Movement Advancement Project: Non-Discrimination Laws by State
- Letter of Support from Utah’s Leading Businesses on SB 296
- Human Rights Campaign: Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act