Published in The Enterprise, 1-26-98

Dear Mayor: Veto the Repeal of the Anti-discrimination Ordinance

by Rocky Anderson

Dear Mayor Corradini:

True leadership sometimes calls for difficult, unpopular decisions that will, over time, be recognized as being principled, morally compelled and beneficial to the long-term public interest. This is one of those times.

The repeal by the Salt Lake City Council of the employment non-discrimination ordinance has been fueled not by pretextual “concerns” about technical language and legal issues, but by hostility toward gays and lesbians. It is the same hostility that gives rise to the need for legal protection against employment discrimination in the first place. And it is a hostility that our public leaders should vigorously and effectively combat rather than promote.

dare.jpgBy law, you have the power, as Mayor, to veto the ordinance repealing the protection against employment discrimination on account of sexual orientation. The responsibility now rests squarely on your shoulders to either accept or reject the recent action of the City Council. Your acquiescence to the repeal of the nondiscrimination ordinance would signal your support of the repeal as vividly, and as effectively, as if you had actively promoted it.

Your spokesperson recently commented on your behalf that, because there is no need for the non-discrimination ordinance, you will not veto the repeal of the ordinance. Not only has his statement about the need for legal protection been belied by recent accounts of City employees; the ordinance is needed for a more elemental reason. An official statement, with the force of law, requiring fair and equal treatment regardless of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation sends a message, which is heard far beyond the public employment arena, that discrimination against members of our community on those grounds is simply unacceptable. Such legal proscriptions eventually translate into fundamental societal norms.

In the area of civil rights, we have seen visionary, courageous leaders call for legal protections that have been vital to the transformation of societal values and expectations. Largely because of important, novel court decisions and legislation in the 1950s and 1960s, discrimination on account of race and ethnic origin is now not only legally proscribed; it is culturally condemned. Likewise, we will soon see the day when legal protection for gays and lesbians will also be generally accepted – and expected – throughout our society. Will you be counted among those who are willing to lead toward that compassionate progress?

I urge you to disregard personal political implications and do the right thing. Please veto the repeal of the nondiscrimination ordinance and help eliminate the divisiveness and destruction in our community wrought by the recent action of the City Council.

Respectfully,

Ross C. Anderson