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Utah OKs 'Landmark' Mormon-Backed LGBT Rights Bill

Gov. Gary Herbert expected to sign 'Utah compromise' today
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2015 7:15 AM CDT
Utah OKs 'Landmark' Mormon-Backed LGBT Rights Bill
Kody Partridge, left, and her wife, Laurie Wood celebrate after the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passes a anti-discrimination bill Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Salt Lake City.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(Newser) – Both Mormon leaders and gay rights advocates are praising new legislation known as "the Utah compromise." Passed in the Republican-controlled legislature last night amid cheers, it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment, the New York Times reports, while simultaneously protecting religious groups that protest homosexuality. The bill, which passed 65-10 after clearing the Senate last week, states employers and property owners can't discriminate against LGBT people, just as they can't discriminate based on race, sex, or age. However, religious groups and affiliates—including the Boy Scouts of America—would be exempt. Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill into law today, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. "This vote proves that protections for gay and transgender people can gracefully coexist with the rights of people of faith," says the director of Equality Utah. "One does not exist at the expense of the other."

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It would require every county to have a person willing to perform same-sex marriages, but state officials could decline, FOX13 reports. It would also protect religious expression, noting workers can't be fired for speaking about their beliefs, as long as they aren't "harassing," the Times reports. Rep. Gregory Hughes says the fact that the legislation was backed by Mormon leaders worked in its favor as the Mormon religion is the "predominant faith here in Utah" and 80% of state lawmakers are Mormon. A Southern Baptist Convention leader says, "Christians and other religious people ... are not really addressed in terms of their freedom of conscience," but a Human Rights Campaign rep calls the bill "a landmark," noting "this will be the first time that a Republican-controlled process has led to extension of protections for LGBT people." (Read more Utah stories.)

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