SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Saturday as U.S. Congress considers bills regarding equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
The church responded to the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which was passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday. It still has to go to the Senate.
The bill's purpose is to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes." More specifically, it seeks to "expand as well as clarify, confirm and create greater consistency in the protections and remedies against discrimination ... and to provide guidance and notice to individuals, organizations, corporations, and agencies regarding their obligations under the law." It can be read in full here.
In response, the church reiterated its support of legislation that protects LGBTQ+ people, as well as protecting religion and those who practice it.
"Both are possible and clearly required in a just society," church spokesman Doug Andersen wrote.
The church also cited its previous statement made in 2019 on the version of the Equality Act being considered at the time. In it, the church claimed that the bill did not protect religious freedom, and in fact stated that it would "repeal long-standing religious rights."
While Andersen said the church "stand[s] by the previous statements, it was not specified whether the church believes the current version of the bill is detrimental to the rights of religious freedom.
In its 2019 statements, the church said it supported a concept of "fairness for all," which it said the Utah legislature successfully accomplished with anti-discrimination bills that became laws in 2015.
In the church's statement Saturday, Andersen specifically cited a bill from Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) as an example of legislation that fulfilled "both of these critical requirements" (protection for LGBTQ and religion).
Stewart introduced the "Fairness for All" bill (H.R. 5331) in December 2019. It didn't get far, but on Friday, Stewart announced that he was reintroducing it in the 117th Congress. The newest version can be read in its entirety here.
The latest version of the bill has the support of Gov. Spencer Cox.
"I'm grateful for Rep. Stewart's work to find a nuanced and good faith policy that both protects religious freedom and the rights of LGBTQ individuals to be free from discrimination," Cox said in a statement, according to a press release from Stewart's office. "This is the type of commonsense solution that Utah does best."
The Alliance for Lasting Liberty Coalition also gave its support, saying that it is "common-sense legislation that once and for all establishes much-needed civil rights for LGBT persons, and at the same time provides robust protections for religious freedom."
Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, also responded to the two national bills with a statement to FOX 13:
- “As both the Equality Act and the Fairness for All Act are debated in Congress, it is essential that people of good will come together to seek common ground. Utah is a better state today because people from both sides worked together to pass our historic non-discrimination law. We have shown the world that the LGBTQ community can coexist with people of faith. We hope the same spirit of collaboration can be found in Congress as we seek important federal protections for LGBTQ Americans.”