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Utah Senate Passes Anti-Discrimination Legislation that Includes Religious Liberties Protection

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Brian Grimmett/KUER

The Utah Senate passed a statewide anti-discrimination bill on Friday.

Senate Bill 296 would make it illegal for employers or landlords to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Religious organizations and their affiliated universities and corporations would be exempted.

Senator Stephen Urquhart is one of the bill’s sponsors. He told lawmakers that the legislation is a step forward for every Utahn.

“What we’re doing today is we’re moving Utah forward. We’re protecting people. And that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, it includes religious liberties. This is phenomenal day," said Urquhart.

The bill has the support of gay rights groups and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Senator Mark Madsen told his colleagues that he is troubled by what he calls a double-standard.  The LDS Church has endorsed the anti-discrimination language, but it would be exempt from the law as a religious organization.

“I have to try and figure out am I supposed to do as my church says I’m to do? Or am I supposed to do as my church does?” said Madsen.

In the end, Madsen voted for the bill and SB 296 passed the Senate 23-5. It now heads to the House for consideration. 

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