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Legislature Passes Anti-discrimination, Religious Liberty Bills


A historic measure to protect Utah’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender population from discrimination in employment and housing passed the full Utah legislature Wednesday night. So did two other measures that specifically protect religious freedom.

A crowd sitting in the Utah House Chamber cheered as the voting board lit up with support for Senate Bill 296. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senators Steve Urquhart and Stuart Adams is the result of years of negotiations between its sponsors, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gay rights groups. Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah calls it a true collaboration.

“Not only will people have legal recourse when discrimination happens in the workplace and housing, but I think more importantly, 296 tells LGBT Utahns that we belong here,” Williams says. “This is our home.”

Later in the evening, House Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 297, which allows county clerks to opt out of officiating same-sex marriages, as long as someone in the office is available to provide the service.

Republican Representative Bruce Cutler says the bill strikes a good balance.

“No one has to do anything that they don’t want to and the individuals arriving are treated with love and respect which they should be,” Cutler says.

House Bill 322 also passed the House Wednesday night. The bill, sponsored Republican Representative LaVar Christensen adds religious liberty provisions to the Utah Anti-discrimination act. That bill must still be heard by the full Senate. Senate Bills 296 and 297 will now be sent to the governor for his signature.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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