Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Utah Passes LGBT Rights Bill with Mormon Church's Aid

Utah lawmakers and Mormon church leaders celebrated a landmark moment Wednesday night, when a bill banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people passed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

Utah lawmakers and Mormon church leaders celebrated a landmark moment Wednesday night, when a bill banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people passed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

 

The legislation passed Utah’s Senate last week, 23 to 5, and the House on Wednesday night, 65 to 10.

 

The bill, which has been called the “Utah compromise,” aims to protect people in the LGBT community from employment and housing decisions based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, while still shielding religious institutions that stand against homosexuality. It does not deal with the more controversial question, however, about whether a business can deny services due to religious convictions, such as a wedding photographer who objects to shooting a same-sex wedding.

 

Still, the move has been seen by some as a model in compromise as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorsed the legislation last week. The partnership helped fast-track the bill, which was proposed only last week, through Utah’s Legislature.

 

The church, while standing by its views, has been a voice of tolerance on issues of gender equality in a manner that has surprised some of its traditional critics. For example, when the federal courts ruled same-sex marriage was legal in Utah, Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Mormon Church Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, its second-highest governing body, urged Mormons to respond with “civility” when their views are not upheld on issues such as marriage, pornography and drugs.

 

“When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility with our adversaries,” he said.

 

While not wholly satisfactory to LGBT advocacy groups, most figured the legislation was about as far as a conservative state like Utah could go.

 

“It contains a lot of provisions that are unique to the legal climate of Utah that would not translate elsewhere,” the progressive lobby ThinkProgress reported. “Given the ubiquitous presence of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Utah, it may be the best bill that could pass there — and is thus better than no protections.”

 

The church, when it endorsed the measure, said in a statement that it thought the bill provided a level of “fairness for everyone.”

 

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
Special Projects