Salt Lake City Mayor speaks to Flagstaff City Council
By Caleb McClure
Ralf Becker, mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, was invited to speak before the Flagstaff city council on Sept. 25 to discuss his city’s civil rights ordinance, which was put into effect in early 2010. The SLC ordinance extends non-discriminatory laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, similar to the ordinance proposed this past August for the Flagstaff community.
According to Becker, Salt Lake City is very similar to Flagstaff in that it is a liberal city in a very conservative state. The ordinance came under harsh opposition from the state government.
“We assumed correctly as it turned out,” Becker said. “There would be some serious objections from our state legislature to a city taking on an issue that some might assert had been addressed adequately by the state legislature and said you [Becker] shouldn’t be getting involved into the issues.”
Although the opposition was strong from the state, the Salt Lake City community gradually grew in support of the ordinance. The Mormon Church of Latter-Day Saints, which historically oppose LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) rights issues, supported the ordinance
“The polling that was done state wide before we adopted the ordinance was two to one against having a non-discrimination ordinance, and the polling by the time the legislature was considering the ordinance was two to one in favor,” Becker said.
Since its passing, the ordinance has faced little controversy with fewer than 10 complaints filed against it. It has, however, helped the city’s economic situation. Becker said, regarding Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm that “they [Goldman Sachs] commented that for their employees coming in from different locations and for them the non-discriminatory ordinance sent a very strong signal about our community for them and has made it very easy for them to attract employees.”
Becker spoke for approximately an hour answering many questions from the community. On how the ordinance would fare in Flagstaff, he stated: “I know better to never prejudge outcomes before they are finalized.”
When Kathryn Jim, a member of Flagstaff Pride who had a hand in drafting the original ordinance was asked the same question she said, “I’m hopeful and that’s all you can say about it. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I love this city [but] we’re way behind; it’s 2012. Let’s catch up.”