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Utah passes landmark LGBT rights bill backed by Mormon leaders

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill Thursday night.

By
Amy R. Connolly
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. File Photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Sopotnicki.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. File Photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Sopotnicki.

SALT LAKE CITY, March 12 (UPI) -- Utah passed a landmark anti-discrimination bill protecting gay and transgender rights while providing safeguards to religious institutions that oppose homosexuality.

Known as the "Utah compromise," the bill is being called a "monumental day in Utah," largely known for its conservative views. It has been hailed by Utah's Mormon leaders and gay rights activist as a breakthrough in compromise between religious freedoms and rights. It is the first statewide policy that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from housing and employment discrimination. At the same time, religious organizations and their affiliates, including charities and schools, would be exempt. The exemption also includes Boy Scouts of America, which voted to end a ban on gay scouts but still prohibits gay leaders. The bill also protects employees for being fired for talking about religious or moral believes as long as the speech is not disruptive or harassing.

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The Republican-dominated Utah Legislature passed the bill Wednesday. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill Thursday night.

"The apostles of this faith, which is the predominant faith here in Utah, stepped forward and expressed an earnest and sincere desire to come together," said Representative Gregory H. Hughes, a Republican and the speaker of the Utah House. "We had not heard that before, and we had not heard that with such specificity, and we took notice."

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Still, some opposed the bill that was introduced last week and feared there was not enough time for public debate.

"This is a deep constitutional dive in a very shallow pool of time and process," Rep. Ken Ivory said.

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