What a way to make an entrance. In statements that seem like a trip back in time, Utah’s new Governor Gary Herbert said that he doesn’t think Utahns should be protected from discrimination on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity. Herbert was Lieutenant Governor under Jon Huntsman Jr, who was recently appointed Ambassador to China by the Obama administration. Instead, he wants us all to just get along and “do the right thing.”

“We don’t have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to just do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and we don’t have to have a law that punishes us if we don’t,” the Associated Press quoted Herbert as saying in his first monthly news conference as governor.

Utah has recently seen angry battles between LGBTQ activists and the Mormon Church over Church security guards’ detention of two gay men for kissing in a Salt Lake City plaza owned by the sect.

Governor Herbert’s comments come as Salt Lake City considers an ordinance that would prevent housing and employment discrimination on the basis of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation, after a report by the city’s Human Rights Commission revealed significant housing and employment discrimination against city residents because of their race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. According to Brandie Balken, Interim Director of the Equality Utah lobby group, a conservative Utah newspaper recently called on legislators to pass legislation preempting the Salt Lake City ordinance.

While Herbert’s sentiments might turn into a bullet point on his legislative agenda, Balken said, activists are taking heart that “Governor Herbert said he does believe in local control, and I believe the ordinance is well within that.”

Unlike Minnesota, Balken said, LGBTQ Utahns enjoy scant legal protections based only on “nebulous language in state law about protecting people’s “individual charecteristics.’ – and I’m putting those in big airquotes.”

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