Affirmation Leaders Applaud the Growing Non-Discrimination Consensus

March 5, 2015

Equality Utah President Troy Williams speaks during news conference on S.B. 296 with Elders D. Todd Christofferson and L. Tom Perry.

Equality Utah President Troy Williams speaks during news conference on S.B. 296 with Elders D. Todd Christofferson and L. Tom Perry. Photo: David Newkirk | Equality Utah

On March 4, 2015, S.B. 296, a bill that seeks to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment, was introduced in the Utah legislature. The bill made it out of committee for the first time today. S.B. 296 represents the culmination of years of work by Equality Utah, and is supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The bill prohibits employers, landlords, and property owners from discriminating against job applicants, employees, renters or property buyers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill also prohibits discrimination against employees for views expressed in their private lives either supporting or opposing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. No religious exemption to the anti-discrimination statutes will be allowed for individuals or for-profit businesses.

Randall Thacker, the President of Affirmation, said in response to the introduction of the S.B. 296, “The fact that LDS Church leaders and LGBT rights activists in Utah could find common ground in a bill with strong non-discrimination provisions gives all of us more space to breathe. For those of us who are lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender and LDS, it is reassuring that our Church has gone on record to stand with us against those who would bully us or discriminate against us. It denies would-be discriminators the cover of religious sanction.”

Sam Wolfe, a Southern Poverty Law Center attorney and Affirmation board member said, “Language in the currently proposed bill raises questions about which affiliate corporations or non-profit organizations may be exempt from non-discrimination provisions. Yet there is much to applaud in the bill. The fact that the proposal would not generally grant religious exemptions to individuals or for-profit businesses reassures many in the LGBT community who fear rhetoric about religious freedom might be used to allow discrimination on the basis of individual conscience.”

Affirmation leaders also applauded the inclusion of gender identity in the anti-discrimination statutes. Among other things, employers will be required to afford reasonable accommodations related to gender identity in dress and grooming standards, and in sex-specific restrooms and other facilities.

Neca Allgood, also a member of Affirmation’s board and the mother of a transgender son, said, “The inclusion of gender identity in the statutes puts Utah ahead of a number of states where discrimination against transgender individuals is still legal. Many Americans are still ignorant about this issue, and we’re grateful that the Church, in supporting this law, is playing a constructive role in a growing and extremely important conversation about gender identity issues.”

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