Gay rights, religious liberties bills await movement in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 6:42 PM, Feb 05, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's one of the biggest issues on Utah's Capitol Hill that has yet to hit.

A series of bills dealing with gay rights and religious freedom are either stalled in the rules committee, or waiting to be unveiled.

"We're still in discussions with the stakeholders in that effort," House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said of the bills on Thursday.

The bills have traction in the legislature like never before, especially since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced support for LGBT nondiscrimination legislation -- but also wanted it coupled with protections for people's religious beliefs.

But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert was emphatic that a compromise needed to be made between gay rights and religious liberties. The governor claimed that people who have opposed same-sex marriage had been targeted for speaking out.

"Not only have they been targeted by people using their First Amendment right to free speech, but they have been targeted in their workplace. They've been threatened and lost their job and seniority," he said.

Herbert claimed he knew of one case where someone was fired for speaking out against same-sex marriage -- but he refused to say who it was or what happened.

"I'm not at liberty to say right now," the governor said, refusing to divulge details.

The governor told FOX 13 the situation "has been verified."

"We think of anti-discrimination legislation being mostly on the side of the gay community, but there’s some that have been discriminated on the other side that’s inappropriate," Herbert said.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who is sponsoring one of the LGBT nondiscrimination bills said the situation the governor described would be protected under his bill.

"I'm sure this means (the governor) is going to support it, because he realizes the sting of discrimination," he said. "Nondiscrimination laws in housing and employment protect straight people and gay people."

Dabakis said his bill is awaiting movement from the Senate Rules Committee -- meaning no hearing has been scheduled. Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, told FOX 13 on Thursday that his bill dealing with religious liberties was still being worked on with no deadline to unveil it.