When a government decides to legally protect a group of people, it is making a formalized statement of two things: that a group has been unfairly discriminated against in the past (whether intentional or not), and that we as a society should work together to prevent active or passive discrimination in the future.
Currently, in the state of Utah, we protect against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, and/or national origin. Many within civil society argue for additional groups to be added to this list – but one group that few could disagree on are the disabled.
It is for this reason that we support Senator Pat Jones (D – Salt Lake City, District 4) in her effort to formally add the mentally and physically disabled to the list of those who should be legally protected from discrimination.
SB 108 – Civil Rights Amendments Relating to Persons with a Disability follows in the footsteps of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) by recognizing that, historically speaking, we as a state and nation have actively and passively discriminated against these individuals for no other reason than they are disabled. This may be as malicious as denying someone a job because they are in a wheel chair or as passive as serving an able bodied person first over a disabled individual in a restaurant or bar.
“But wait,” you might say, “doesn’t the ADA already protect those with disabilities from discrimination?” Well, the short answer is that yes, it does. But by adopting the provision into Utah law as well, we as a state and a citizenry are sending a clear message that we respect those who are disabled and that our policy will be to prosecute those who still choose to engage in the discrimination of those with disabilities. Inversely, if this bill were to fail, what message would we be sending to the citizens of this state and of the nation? Making our state as inclusive as possible is just good sense, both in terms of our image around the world as well as the message we send to companies who may be considering moving into Utah.
In many ways, the ADA has already done the leg work when it comes to the capital changes that need to take place if the bill were to pass – in the 23 years since the ADA passed, buildings have become more accessible, company hiring policies have changed, and a generational shift has taken place in regards to attitudes. But this should not mean that SB 108 is a waste of time. Not only is the symbolism important, but so too is the state’s ability do directly respond to any sort of violation related to discrimination towards those with disabilities. After all, the federal government may or may not choose to act on a particular violation, but by adding an extra level of protection (this time at the state level), we are better able to serve those members of our community who have been disadvantaged over the years.
To contact Sen. Jones, Click Here or call 801-278-7667
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill