Nondiscrimination bill moves forward to House floor for debate

Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-11 00:56:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- After years of getting nowhere with state lawmakers, a LGBT nondiscrimination  proposal cleared another hurdle at the state Capitol, Tuesday.

SB296 survived two days of debate in the House Judiciary Committee and passed in a 9-2 vote.

“That’s what we do in America. We balance rights. We balance liberties, and I think we’re doing a fine job of that in this legislation,” said Sen. Steve Urquhart, the sponsor of the bill.

In 2014, Urquhart could not even get a hearing for similar legislation.  During the session, 13 gay rights activists were arrested for protesting lawmakers’ decision to not take up the issue.

Fast forward to 2015, they were celebrating the work they’ve accomplished since then.

“What a difference a year makes. Minds are opening up and laws are changing,” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah.

The bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment.  While the proposal received the endorsement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early on, it faced concern from lawmakers and the public during Tuesday’s meeting.

The criticism centered on exemptions the bill allows for churches and certain organizations, as well as some small businesses.

"I'm disappointed that this bill or the sponsors of this bill chose not to address adequately the issues of religious freedom,” said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.

The bill now goes to the House floor for further debate.​