Utah conservatives discuss religious liberty in wake of SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage

Posted at 10:09 PM, Jun 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-28 21:19:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- While some celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, others are gearing up for a new legal battleground, saying they want to protect religious liberties in the wake of the ruling.

FOX 13 News with some prominent conservatives from Utah about what efforts could be on the horizon.

"The court did acknowledge that the First Amendment rights that we all have as religious adherents is still respected,” said Cherilyn Bacon Eager, president of the American Leadership Fund.

That right may be still respected, but how will the law re-define discrimination versus religious freedom in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage?

"The majority,  at least, of the Supreme Court said that people that believe in marriage as the union between a husband and wife are similar to people who discriminate on race or other things,” said Bill Duncan of the conservative Sutherland Institute.

Related story: Lawmaker has bill drafted to do away with marriages in Utah

Utah Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-District 32, introduced a bill titled the Religious Liberty Act last legislative session, and it sought to put into writing specific protections for people claiming their actions that may be construed as anti-LGBT were taken in accordance with their faith.

Some argued the bill was flawed, doing more harm than good, and it failed to pass.

"On this we're going to have to agree to disagree,” House Minority Leader Brian King, D-District 28, said of the measure at the time.

Troy Williams, Executive Director of Equality Utah, said he anticipates the fight over that type of bill isn’t over.

"Our friend LaVar Christensen possibly will have another [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] bill like he did last year, but a majority of the Republican controlled senate said, ‘No, we want to actually collaborate with the LGBT community."

At the federal level, Utah Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill this month to protect religious non-profit organizations believing in marriage between a man and a woman from having the government revoke their tax-exempt status.

"We would clearly support that. Are there other things at the state level that we would like to do? Absolutely,” Duncan said.

Conservatives may be facing a new frontier in a battle that is far from over.

"In the court's decision, protecting that First Amendment right, that any legislation that props up that at a state level would certainly be helpful,” Eager said.

FOX 13 News reached out to Rep. Christensen to see if he had plans to introduce a new religious liberties related bill, and he sent an email response saying he is on a family vacation and is unavailable for comment.