[Opinion] SB296: A Monumental Moment

By Haley Sotelo
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s signing of the historic SB296 Anti-discrimination and Religious Freedom Amendments bill on Mar. 12 was the highlight of the 2015 Legislative session.

Standing in the back of the crowd surrounding the governor, I could feel and see the importance of the moment. It went beyond all of the clapping and flashes of cameras. I could feel in my gut that this moment marked the day when people from two traditionally contrasting positions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the LGBT community, came together to stand up for each other’s rights.

The governor embraced men in the crowd with hugs and a sincerity. I could see L. Tom Perry, an apostle in the LDS church, standing among other community leaders in support of this bill. I could see men and women being open with who they are as they displayed their rainbow colors, a symbol of gay pride. However, I could also see beyond all of that; I could see the happiness in the faces of the people gathered to support this event.

Posters were passed around reading “SB296: Mormons Building Bridges.” Spectators eagerly took them, waiting for the moment that would be a giant step towards equality. Whoever these people were―LDS, Christian, Atheist, Gay, Straight, Republican or Democrat―they were standing together for the same thing.

This event had to be the greatest moment in Utah political history. While Utah has been given much criticism for its traditional conservative approach toward the LGBT community, it now leads the nation on the pathway to equality and preserving the rights of the individual concerning both their sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

“I have no doubt that the eyes of the nation are upon us as we have shown a way to resolve a somewhat contentious issue,” Governor Herbert said, highlighting this event as a historical occasion. “We’ve shown once again that we, here in Utah, are able to do difficult things. Sometimes those legislators say that we can’t do it. We’ve proven them to be wrong once again. We can do difficult things because we’re determined to work together, one with another, as opposed to working against one another.”

It does not matter your religious affiliation or sexual orientation; it does not matter whether or not you agree with this piece of legislation; all that matters is that, in reality, this moment affected you. You now have a government that is obligated and willing to protect you on an individual basis. After all, rumor has it that there were tears in the Senate as this bill was passed. Perhaps the importance of this legislation is most evident by its capacity to move each of us.

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