Report finds huge levels of discrimination against gay and trans people in Utah

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A report by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has found significant homophobia and discrimination in the state of Utah, home to the Mormon Church.

The study of 939 LGBT Utahans found that sixty seven per cent of transgendered and forty four percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Utahans say they have either been sacked or have been denied a job or promotion as a result of their LGBT status.

In contrast to research in the UK, Gay men earn twenty per cent less than their straight counterparts in Utah. Lesbians earn on average $10,000 per year less than straight women despite actually working longer hours.

The report also found that LGBT workers were less likely to make formal complaints of discrimination than their straight counterparts. Partially, this was due to a lack of protection from either organisations or the government of Utah. Just ten cities within the state have localised protection from discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity. Although these cities do include Salt Lake city, where the measure was supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The report was published to coincide with an attempt by Democratic state senator for Salt Lake City, Ben McAdams to introduce state wide protection from housing and employment discrimination. Attempts to introduce this type of legislation has failed twice in the Republican dominated legislature.

Mr McAdams told the Salt Lake Tribune: “I’m convinced that any discrimination is too much,“ he said. “What we’re also trying to combat here is a fear of discrimination. If members of our gay community fear they might be discriminated against, then I think protections are justified.

“As we look to grow our economy by recruiting businesses to come here, one of the questions that is asked is ‘How will our employees be received in Utah?’ It will be proof that their employees are welcome.”

Clifford Rosky, an Equality Utah board member and a senior research fellow at UCLA’s Williams Institute told the same newspaper: “The two concerns we’ve heard from the Legislature in the past is that employment discrimination is very rare … and there would be a flood of frivolous claims.” The report predicts that there would be between 16 and 22 claims per year if such a law was introduced.

“If we look at this realistically, I don’t think it has a lot of chance,” Republican state senator Wayne Niederhauser told the Salt Lake Tribune: “the Legislature is a little more conservative than it was a year ago.” Mr Niederhauser told the newspaper that he didn’t support the law because of questions of how anti-discrimination protections would conflict with “natural rights,” such as the ability to register a same sex relationship as a marriage or civil union or the adoption of children.

In 2009, Republican state senator Chris Buttars said: “Homosexuality will always be a sexual perversion. And you say that around here now and everybody goes nuts. But I don’t care. They’re mean. They want to talk about being nice. They’re the meanest buggers I have ever seen.

“It’s just like the Muslims. Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it’s been taken over by the radical side.”

“What is the morals of a gay person? You can’t answer that because anything goes.”

The senator went on to talk about what he termed the “radical gay movement,” saying: “they’re probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”