In the upcoming general session of the Utah Legislature, Sen. Stephen H. Urquhart is preparing to reintroduce his “Antidiscrimination Amendments” bill which was denied a committee hearing last year when lawmakers tried to avoid advancing legislation which might have exposed governmental animus toward LGBT Utahns and their then-developing marriage equality.
The bill would provide protection statewide against discrimination in the workplace and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Equality Utah has successfully lobbied for the adoption of similar local ordinances by 20 Utah counties and cities.
Urquhart also sponsored the perennial bill in 2014 as the first Republican lawmaker to do so. He continued the bill’s introduction that had its start in 2008 when Utah Rep. Christine A. Johnson and Utah Sen. Scott D. McCoy introduced twin versions of the bill.
Marriage equality in the state was accepted this year by the U.S. Supreme Court when its justices declined an appeal by Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Attorney General Sean D. Reyes to review an opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit which affirmed a district-court opinion and determined that the state’s constitutional Amendment 3 prohibition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Since then, some state lawmakers have considered ways to accommodate the court opinions while finding ways to protect activities which they consider to be guaranteed by the state and federal protections of religion.
Utah Rep. Kraig Powell is preparing his “Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution — Repeal of Marriage Provision” resolution for a state constitutional amendment presumably to repeal the state’s constitutional Amendment 3. He is also preparing his “Marriage Revisions” bill presumably to emend various provisions in state law by making the provisions comport with the court opinions that laws must treat all married couples equally.
But, Utah Rep. Jacob L. Anderegg is preparing his “Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution — Protection of Religious Rights” resolution for a state constitutional amendment to protect churches from being required to perform same-sex marriages; something that many legal scholars say the state and federal constitutions provide already. Anderegg also has a bill titled “Marriage Modifications” that “affirms a person’s religious freedom to act within the confines of the person’s religious beliefs,” putting into law, “A person authorized under Subsection (1) to solemnize a marriage is not required and may not be compelled to solemnize a marriage when doing so would violate the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs, tenets, doctrine, practices, or the person’s fundamental right to religious liberty.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Dec. 18 that Republican lawmakers met in caucus and are preparing their own versions of various religious-liberties bills which “would allow businesses to refuse service to gay or lesbian patrons, protect an individual’s right to discriminate based on religious grounds, and keep the government from forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages.”