Utah Governor to Sign LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill With Religious Exemptions

Use quotes to search for exact phrases. Use AND/OR/NOT between keywords or phrases for more precise search results.

News Law and Policy

Utah Governor to Sign LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill With Religious Exemptions

Teddy Wilson

An exemption-laden bill addressing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people was passed Wednesday by the Republican-dominated Utah state legislature.

An exemption-laden bill addressing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people was passed Wednesday by the Republican-dominated Utah state legislature. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) is expect to sign the bill into law during a special ceremony Thursday evening, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to approval from members of the local LGBT community, the bill—known as the “Utah compromise”—had the support of Mormon Church leaders due to its religious exemptions.

The bill adds “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the state’s non-discrimination laws for employment and housing, but includes exceptions for “freedom of expressive association or the free exercise of religion.” Not included in the bill are protections for members of the LGBT community from discrimination in public accommodations and health insurance.

Among those covered by the religious exemptions are religious organizations, corporations, associations, societies, and educational institutions, as well as individual religious leaders. The Boy Scouts of America and its councils, chapters, or subsidiaries are specifically exempt from the protections.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

Follow Rewire News Group on Twitter to stay on top of every breaking moment.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

“We are all people and I believe we all deserve protection equally,” Rep. Brad Dee (R-Ogden) said when presenting the bill to the house before the vote, reported KSTU.

SB 296 was passed by the state Senate by a 23-5 last week, and then the bill was passed by the House Wednesday on a 65-10 vote. Republicans hold a 24-5 majority in the senate and a 65-12 majority in the house.

The few lawmakers who spoke in opposition to the bill questioned the rapid time frame it took to pass through the legislature. “This is a deep constitutional dive in a very shallow pool of time and process,” said Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan), reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

After final passage, the house gallery, full of the legislation’s supporters, erupted in applause.

The ACLU of Utah and Equality Utah issued a statement applauding the bill’s passage.

The Mormon Church released a statement praising the legislation, saying it “reflects the very best of collaboration and statesmanship from groups and individuals who may not always agree on all things, but who have passed landmark legislation that balances religious freedom and antidiscrimination.”

“It is a landmark,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, told The New York Times. “This is a Republican-controlled legislature with a Republican governor, and this will be the first time that a Republican-controlled process has led to extension of protections for LGBT people.”

SB 296 was drafted after negotiations between state lawmakers, LGBT rights advocates, and the Mormon Church.

SB 296’s sponsors, Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) and Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams (R-Layton), said that the bill balanced individual religious beliefs and discrimination protections for members of the LGBT community. The Mormon Church endorsed the legislation, saying in a statement that the bill struck a “balance.”

Urquhart had sponsored similar legislation to SB 296 three times over the past six years.

The legislation comes at a time when Republicans in other states are moving to limit rights and protections for the LGBT community.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed an executive order last month that rescinded discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and a bill is advancing through the Alabama legislature that would prevent clergy and other religious officials from being required to officiate marriages to which they have religious objections and protect them from being sued for refusing to officiate.

Utah is set to become the 19th state to provide protections against discrimination in employment and housing for the LGBT community, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

During the press conference announcing the legislation, the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City), said that the bill sent a message. “This bill is a model—not just of legislation, but more importantly of how to bridge the cultural rift tearing America apart,” Dabakis said.

At the same press conference, Adams foreshadowed the impact of passing LGBT discrimination protections in such a deep-red state. “If Utah can do this, then in my opinion it can be done anywhere else in the nation,” Adams said.