After GOP Legislature Passes S.B. 296, Governor to Sign Key Protections for LGBT Utahns
Legislature also passes heavily-amended and needless S.B. 297;
deeply harmful and hostile H.B. 322 still pending before the state Senate
WASHINGTON – After a marathon evening session, the Utah legislature gave final approval to S.B. 296, a non-discrimination bill extending existing employment and housing protections in Utah law to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was introduced last week, the result of a milestone compromise between LGBT advocates in Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The LDS Church continued to support the legislation as it made its way through both chambers.
“The passage of S.B. 296 is historic—a Republican majority has voted to expand Utah’s existing non-discrimination protections to include the state’s LGBT community for the very first time. Equality Utah, the ACLU of Utah and the bipartisan group of legislators who worked around the clock to move this legislation forward have achieved an incredible and collaborative victory for the people of Utah,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in reaction to the news. “With hours left in the legislative session, however, we’re deeply troubled by the persistence of vitriolic anti-LGBT legislation like H.B. 322. We urge the legislature to adjourn without giving this shameful bill any further consideration.”
Advocates also flagged the passage of an amended version of S.B. 297, a needless bill that allows individual clerks and public officials in Utah to opt out of issuing marriage licenses on an individual basis—as long as they appoint a designee who can issue the license in their stead.
“Legislation like S.B. 297 simply isn’t necessary, and the spirit behind it is deeply disappointing. Individuals who apply for jobs that serve the public should be prepared to serve the whole public equally and without reservation,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
Warbelow offered additional context on why other legislatures should not adopt Utah’s non-discrimination bill as a wholesale model:
“This non-discrimination bill places Utah’s LGBT community on equal footing with other protected classes under Utah state law with regards to employment and housing. However, ‘equal footing’ can vary widely from state to state. We urge all state legislatures considering non-discrimination legislation to use existing civil rights law in their state as a model when seeking to treat their LGBT communities equally and fairly under the law.”