By Rette Speight Associated Press

Utah House committee votes down employment non-discrimination measure

SALT LAKE CITY — Businesses in Utah will continue to be allowed to fire someone for being gay.

A House committee voted down a bill 5-8 Tuesday, Feb. 17 that would have made discriminating against someone in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal.

House Bill 267 also would have made it illegal for landlords to discriminate against gay and transgender people.

Bill sponsor Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill would not create hiring quotas and was in no way "inching toward" legalizing gay marriage.

"This is not a slippery slope," she said. "This is a plateau."

Under current state law, an individual can be fired just for being perceived as gay regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, said failing to have laws that would let individuals have their dignity at work and at home is "mind-boggling."

Sue Rice, a small business owner in Salt Lake City, said that she’s "had it" that other businesses are able to discriminate against individuals based on such stereotypes.

"I share civil rights with my employees, and I think that all business owners should do it too," she said.

Rep. Michael Morely, R-Spanish Fork, said that creating laws for "protected groups" take away rights from those who aren’t in such groups.

By creating more protected groups through legislation, Morely said that instead of "being innocent until proven guilty," landlords and employers would be "guilty until proven innocent."

A version of H.B. 267 failed to make it out of committee last year as well.

The bill was part of a package of bills called the Common Ground Initiative being promoted by the gay rights group Equality Utah that Gov. Jon Huntsman supports. This is the second bill in the initiative that has died in a committee.

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