Politics

Mormons Help Red State Ban Discrimination Against Gays

Evan Wilt Contributor

Heavily Republican Utah has passed a bill banning most discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation while protecting religious liberty — with the support of the Mormon Church.

The New York Times reported that the state legislature came to a consensus for what is known as “the Utah Compromise.” The new legislation passed Utah’s Senate last week, 23 to 5, and the House on Wednesday night, 65 to 10.

Under the new bill, individuals will be protected from employment or housing decisions based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. But the bill also contains protections for religious institutions that object to homosexuality.

The compromise was important, because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes same-sex marriage and believes gay sex is sinful.

But The New York Times reports that the Mormon Church “sent two of its leading apostles to a news conference on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City last week to endorse the antidiscrimination bill. Legislators and gay rights advocates said having the blessing of the church leaders turned the tide in the Legislature, where most members are Mormons.”

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 L.G.B.T. people.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement that “[i]n a society which has starkly diverse views on what rights should be protected, the most sensible way to move forward is for all parties to recognize the legitimate concerns of others.

“After a considerable amount of hard work, we believe that the Utah legislature has wisely struck that balance. L.G.B.T. people cannot be fired or denied housing just for being gay,” the statement continued. “At the same time, religious conscience and the right to protect deeply held religious beliefs is protected by robust legislation.”

The statement acknowledge “none of the parties achieved all they wanted” but said the bill presents “an opportunity to lessen the divisiveness in our communities without compromising on key principles.”