Box Elder lawmakers react to LDS Church announcement

By Will Glade
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its support for laws which protect members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities from being discriminated against when seeking work, housing, and other basic human rights.

This caused a buzz last Tuesday morning among many supporters of SB100, a bill which would change the current Utah Antidiscrimination Act and Fair Housing Act to include the LGBT community. Bill sponsor Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George,  was very optimistic after the Church’s press conference.

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Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, and Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, spoke after the LDS announcement during the first week of the Utah Legislature.

“I think it changes things significantly, and I think the bill now passes,” Urquhart said. “Before this, I think that a lot of LDS legislators believed that their religion and the religion of most of their constituents dictated that they vote against the bill.”

Tuesday’s events have led many legislators to seriously consider their actions moving forward — not only weighing their own positions but also those of their constituents.

“Nobody should be discriminated against,” said Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, “I abhor the idea of people discriminating (against) other people. Whether that’s color, sex, religion or whatever that excludes them.” Although Perry agreed that people shouldn’t be discriminated against, he also wanted to read the bill more closely prior to making a decision.

Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said it was difficult to determine the overall feeling on Capitol Hill after the Church announced its support for changes to the anti-discrimination laws. “I think it is way too early in the process — just four days into the session — to know how [SB100] might proceed through a committee hearing or floor debate in either chamber,” he said. “I just think it is too early to give an idea of what might actually be voted upon.”

Both representatives had reservations about what will happen if the State Legislature begins to specify groups in law against whom one can’t discriminate, for example, whether or not legislating for specific groups will in turn lead to other groups being left out.

There is little doubt, however, that as the session continues there will be significant debate over the language in the bill and whether such changes are needed in Utah. There is concern from some people that passing such a bill could cause conflicts between the LGBT and religious communities in the state.

Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, was unreachable for comment on the press conference or SB100.

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