Utah State Legislature drafting Nondiscrimination Bill

The Utah State Legislature is currently drafting a bill for housing and employment nondiscrimination for LGBTs statewide after months of closed door discussions.  Good, right?

Well, here’s the scary part:  one of the sticking points is whether churches as institutions should be exempt from the discrimination ban, or if adherents to faiths should be, as well.

If that’s a sticking point, that does not bode well.  Has such a thing ever been done before, where individual adherents of faiths have been made exempt from civil rights laws, as opposed to just religious institutions?  Basically, that would mean any and all private property would be exempt — say, a business or apartment complex owned by a Mormon.  That’s a shockingly major step backward from what passed in Salt Lake City in 2009.

Let’s be clear here about the Church’s goals.  The Church only supported the SLC law because it explicitly made the Church exempt.  The Church does not support nondiscrimination in employment or housing, as it will fire any BYU teacher who has a same-sex relationship.  The Church only supports nondiscrimination in the sense that it supports others’ beliefs in the public sphere (as per Article of Faith #11); the ultimate goal is to “spread the Gospel” and, frankly, a gay-friendly public sphere is an impediment to that.  So, if you can’t fight the gay-friendliness (the plurality), then you fight the publicness and expand the private sphere (and call it “religious freedom”).

Sure, there would still be nondiscrimination if you work for the city park or live in state-subsidized housing, but the private sphere (where most jobs and housing exists) would be exempt.  The entire private sphere, mind you.

I seriously hope this sticking point does not stick because if it does, it would be a travesty.  I assume what we’ll probably (hopefully) see is an expansion of the SLC model to the state level, or something along those lines.  But I just want folks to be clear about what the Church (or at least, some Church representatives) are aiming for.

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4 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    Wow, if any privately-owned business could claim a religious exemption, then that really would gut the bill (as they said in the article).

    This particular bill aside, it seems crazy to me that a corporation that is not itself a religion should be allowed to claim a religious exemption. So a corporation can be an adherent to a religion? This “corporations are people” thing is really getting out-of-hand…

  2. Alan says:

    Wow doesn’t begin to cover it if such an individualized/privatized exemption somehow makes it into this legislation.

  3. Chris F. says:

    They’ve managed to simultaneously take one step forward and two steps backward. That takes talent.

  4. Alan says:

    Well, we’ll see. I can’t imagine such a provision would actually make it into the bill. On the other hand, the legislature is far more conservative than the SLC city council, and if “religious institution exemption” is the starting point, then they have nowhere to go but more “religious freedom.” This is in contrast to the debates in other state legislatures where the negotiation was to ensure religious institution exemption was present at all.

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