Rights extended for LGBT and religious communities
March 17, 2015
For Eric Morgan, the legal recognition of same-sex marriages last year made it seem like "anything was possible in Utah." He said the passing of SB 296 last week only further illustrates that point.
"It’s very powerful for people everywhere," Morgan, a Kimball Junction resident, said of the bill’s passing.
Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert signed SB 296 into law, amending the state’s Antidiscrimination and Fair Housing acts. It adds Utah to 21 other states and the District of Columbia that already have laws recognizing sexual orientation and identity.
The bill, unveiled less than two weeks ago, met with little opposition and in a rare measure was supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I don’t know if, when I was a little kid, if I would have imagined seeing something like that where the leaders of The Church are at an event that supports gay rights," he said, adding that the bill’s passing wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the LDS Church.
Sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart (R- St. George) and Sen. Stuart Adams (R- Layton) SB 296 is a two-part bill that addresses sexual orientation and gender identity, while recognizing religious freedom.
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The bill prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity as being the basis for discrimination in employment and housing. However, it excludes religious organizations and the Boy Scouts of America from complying.
Morgan said as "liberal as Park City seems," there are still people who are afraid of expressing themselves in the workplace.
"I think that happens a lot and this will probably only help with that," Morgan said. "I think the big thing is no one should live in fear of losing their job or their home. In a way, it’s the most basic protection that everyone should be able to enjoy."
"It’s been a long day coming," said Kent Frogley, President of the Utah Pride Center Board. "I was delighted and so happy that this was happening. And at the same time, it reminded me of what a long road this has been."
Rep. Brian King (D-SLC), who represents a portion of western Summit County, said voting for SB 296 "was never a question."
"This is something that has been worked on for so long and I’ve always been in support of it every since I’ve been in the Legislature," King said. "I’ve always thought it was improper to discriminate on the basis of something that is, from my perspective, so much more like hair color or eye color."
SB 296 also addresses the free exercise of religion and speech in the workplace. It prohibits an employer from taking certain actions in response to certain employee speech.
King said it was "interesting the degree with which people came together and insisted on making it a discussion about religious liberty."
"I was a little uncomfortable about that and didn’t think that was necessary or appropriate," King said. "I thought they were two separate things. Related though, yes, but I didn’t think there was a close enough relationship that they be handled in the same bill. In the end I was OK with the language and that is why I voted in favor of it."
The bill will go into effect May 11.
To view SB 296, go to http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0296.html.
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