An historic law that protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in Salt Lake City went into effect on Friday.

Gay rights advocates and city officials joined Mayor Ralph Becker at City Hall to celebrate the ordinances' implementation.

“These ordinances demonstrate our determination to foster an environment of good will and acceptance welcoming every member of the community as an integral part of our Great American City,” Becker said in a statement. “Everyone in Salt Lake City will benefit from the protections these ordinances provide.”

Becker, a Democrat, introduced in October the two ordinances that make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity (transgender protections) in the areas of employment and housing. At the time, passage appeared iffy as socially conservative state lawmakers and Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, denounced the measures.

“I don't think the discrimination they scream about is really real,” conservative State Senator Chris Buttars, a Republican from West Jordan, told Salt Lake City-based KCPW radio. “I'm watching that to see what they try to do, and if they keep pushing it, then I will bring a bill about it.”

Herbert agreed, saying the measure would put the city on a “slippery road.”

“Where are you going to stop? I mean that's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes … or people who are losing their hair a little bit,” Herbert, a Republican, said. “There's some support for about anything we put out there. I'm just saying we end up getting bogged down sometimes with the minutiae of things that government has really no role to be involved in.”

But an eleventh-hour endorsement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) sealed the deal and appears to have subdued opposition.

“The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage,” spokesman Michael Otterson told city leaders before they unanimously approved the measures.

Gay activists who continue to blast the church for its role in approving Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved ballot initiative that outlawed gay marriage in California, were left stunned.

In approving the law, Salt Lake City became the first city in Utah to ban such discrimination, a move the Utah Legislature has refused to do.

Several state lawmakers at first threatened to take down the law, but eventually agreed to put gay rights legislation – both for and against – on the back burner for a year. Under the plan announced in early March, Democrats agreed to drop three previously publicized pro-gay bills in exchange for a promise from opponents not to attempt to prevent local governments from approving similar measures.

EqualityUtah, the state's largest gay rights advocate, has since launched Ten in 2010, with the goal of adding 10 more cities or counties to the list of municipalities with such protections in place.