Hatch surprises Washington on gay rights vote

Posted at 9:04 PM, Jul 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-11 00:52:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY-- While he's hardly on his way to marching at the head of a pride parade, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is getting his share of accolades from national gay rights advocates.

Hatch was one of three Republican votes in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. If it becomes law, ENDA would tell companies with more than 15 employees they could not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hatch released a statement to Fox 13 saying he was glad the bill contained a "robust" religious exemption.

“I voted for the bill in Committee because it prohibits discrimination that should not occur in the workplace, it protects the rights of religious entities, and minimizes legal burdens on employers," Hatch said in the statement.

"It's refreshing and wonderful to see the old conservative lion of the Senate, Orrin Hatch, back," said Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis.

But Republicans are likely to see Hatch's vote alongside his support of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, as more evidence he is not as conservative as he claimed in the 2012 campaign.

"He does a lot of good things.  I think in this particular instance I'm very disappointed in him," said blogger and conservative activist Cherilyn Eagar.