Thursday, March 12, 2015

Utah Passes Landmark Anti-Discrimination Bill

It’s not perfect, but it’s impressive that a state that is not known for religious diversity and tolerance would pass it.

The legislation, known as “the Utah compromise,” has been hailed by Mormon leaders and gay rights advocates as a breakthrough in balancing rights and religious freedom, and as a model for other conservative states. But leaders of some other churches oppose it, saying it would not sufficiently protect the rights of individuals who have religious objections to homosexuality.


The bill would ban employers and landlords or property owners from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, adding those categories to Utah’s laws that already protect against discrimination on the basis of race, sex and age.

Religious organizations and their affiliates, such as colleges and charities, would be exempted. It also would exempt the Boy Scouts of America, which voted in 2013 to end a ban on gay scouts but still prohibits gay scout leaders. The bill also would protect employees from being fired for talking about religious or moral beliefs, as long as the speech was reasonable and not harassing or disruptive.

The legislation passed the Utah House on a vote of 65 to 10, after passing the Senate last week, 23 to 5.

“It is a landmark,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization. “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 L.G.B.T. people.”

The Southern Baptists don’t like it because it doesn’t demonize gay people enough, but the Baptists don’t think Mormons are real Christians anyway.