Negotiations begin over LGBT nondiscrimination and religious liberties bills

Posted at 6:03 PM, Feb 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-19 23:59:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Negotiations have begun on a compromise bill encompassing both gay rights and religious liberties.

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told reporters on Thursday he had begun meeting with House and Senate lawmakers in an effort to advance legislation that balances LGBT nondiscrimination in housing and employment, while safeguarding religious freedom.

"I’m somewhat optimistic that we’ll move forward with something. It’s going to be very, very difficult, but the challenge is always in the detail," Adams said.

Adams said he's been meeting with a group of lawmakers on a compromise bill:

  • Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, who is running SB100, an LGBT nondiscrimination bill;
  • Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who is running a bill to make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class in Utah's anti-discrimination laws (and the only openly gay member of the Utah State Legislature);
  • Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who is running a religious liberties bill that has been criticized as "a license to discriminate" will be a part of future discussions, Sen. Urquhart told FOX 13.

"Of course, more people will be brought in as we go along," Urquhart said.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said he expected all stakeholders would have a voice in the talks.

"I’ve been involved, by trying to come to some good consensus and I can tell you that all bill sponsors that I’m aware of are involved in the collaborative discussion," he said Thursday.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' recent endorsement of the idea of LGBT nondiscrimination legislation (coupled with protections for religious liberties) underscores the discussions, Adams said.

While Adams and Urquhart both they were confident they could reach a compromise, the Senate Majority Whip acknowledged that there was a possibility nothing could be done this year if they don't reach an agreement.

"Right now, we’re kicking around concepts and seeing where our areas of agreement are and seeing where our areas of significant disagreement are," Urquhart told FOX 13. "And just trying to figure out where do we agree."