POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Bills dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion stall in Utah legislature

Feb 27, 2023, 8:30 PM | Updated: Feb 28, 2023, 7:05 am

Men talk outside of the House chamber after the morning session of the Utah Legislature at the Capi...

Men talk outside of the House chamber after the morning session of the Utah Legislature at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two bills changing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs ran into opposition at the Utah legislature Monday.

One would have made it illegal to ask someone applying for a job or admission to college what they’ve done to promote the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion. It failed in the Senate committee on a 4-1 vote.

Despite failing Monday, H.B. 451 is scheduled on the Sen. Gov. Ops. committee Tuesday at 2 p.m.

It’s possible a motion will be made to reconsider the vote, and that’s why it’s been put back on an agenda. Agendas require 24 hours of public notice.

H.B. 451 had already passed the House, Sponsored by Rep. Katy Hall (R-Salt Lake City).

Hearing on bills dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion

The hearing got a bit tense when Sen. John Johnson (R-North Ogden) commented that he supports the bill.

“Not because I’m a racist or look at people differently.” he said. “We need to get back to the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. where we are judged by the content of our character not the color of our skin.”

After being interrupted by someone in the audience, Sen. Johnson had this to say.

“Anti-racism is racism … and I believe that we do have to enforce the Civil Rights Act of ’64,” he said. “Any type of racism is not a good thing and it violates that act.”

Dr. Jennifer Plumb pushed back. 

“I’m just really holding in because I think it is so crucial for us to not take step backwards,” she said. “To not insult our treasured members of our community … to also not make make it seem like folks asking to be acknowledged is asking for special treatment, it is asking for equal treatment and it is asking for us to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and learn from them. ” 

Rep. Hall said this bill stemmed from a constituent who had “concerns about the types of questions and writing prompts that their kids were being given — required to write — for applications to graduate programs at universities across the country and here in Utah.” 

“They felt like they were having to stand up for some political personal belief that they may or may not have had, and they would be judged on this — on whether or not they would be admitted or get the job.”

Second bill heard

The other bill that was heard today was being run by Sen. Johnson. 

It would have prohibited offices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in higher education. It was then substituted to say the bill will “study” the topic before the next session.

“I think the original [bill] was a shot over the bow that was a little bit strong — quite a bit strong,” Johnson told the committee. “But what I’d like to do is bring the parties together  so we can just have a robust discussion about goals and where we go forward, Johnson said.

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Bills dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion stall in Utah legislature