Day 2 of the Legislature was certainly more eventful than Day 1! The LDS Church’s new statement on nondiscrimination is what every Utahn has been talking about. Within the Church’s statement there are elements that we applaud and other elements that concern us. This message lays out where we stand.
What We Support
This is an historic day for all Utahns. For several years, polls have repeatedly shown that an overwhelming majority of Utahns support the passage of nondiscrimination laws that protect gay and transgender people. In our state, we all agree that no one should be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or denied public services, simply because they are gay or transgender.
Yesterday, the LDS Church formally announced that it unequivocally supports the passage of nondiscrimination laws in employment and housing across the United States, and around the world. The Church specifically called upon federal, state, and local governments to pass nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT citizens.
On the subject of employment and housing, the situation is now crystal clear: The People of Utah support Senator Urquhart’s bill. The Church supports Senator Urquhart’s bill. There are only two steps left in this process: This year, the Legislature must pass Senator Urquhart’s bill, and the Governor must sign it. Simply put, it is time. The Church has spoken, and the marriage litigation is over. It is our Legislature’s obligation to pass laws that reflect Utah’s values.
Our Concern with Religious Liberties
In today’s statement, the Church also expressed concerns about the religious liberty of organizations and individuals. In particular, the apostles spoke about whether doctors and pharmacists should be permitted to deny treatment and medication to patients based on their religious beliefs.
Needless to say, Equality Utah strongly disagrees with the Church’s positions on providing access to these vital services. Healthcare is among our community’s most basic needs. We do not believe that professionals should be allowed to use religion as a basis to pick and choose which laws to follow. The laws of society must govern us all.
But whatever one thinks about these issues, it is important to understand that they have nothing to do with employment and housing laws—basic protections that govern how employers treat workers, and how landlords treat tenants. Rather, the Church’s concerns about religious liberty are specifically limited to what are known as “public accommodations” laws—laws that govern how businesses serve customers. Clearly, we have more work to do here.
Our Common Ground
In spite of our disagreements, we still made a great deal of progress today, and there remains a great deal of common ground between us. Time and again, the LDS Church has affirmed that employers and landlords should not be permitted to discriminate against gay or transgender people. And we agree: There is no reason to allow discrimination in housing or employment practices based solely on a person’s gender identity, expression or orientation.
In short, this is a day of good news and bad news. On the one hand, we are profoundly disappointed by the Church’s remarks about doctors and pharmacists, which touch upon our community’s access to vital services. On the other hand, we are deeply heartened by the Church’s support for employment and housing protections. It is our hope that with the support of the Church and the People, we will soon achieve our goal: giving all Utahns a fair opportunity to earn a living and pay the rent.
The Work Ahead
We need your support now more than ever. Your voices must be heard on Capitol Hill. Both Senators Urquhart and Dabakis need your support. We are hosting a citizen lobbyist training on Monday, February 2 at 6pm at the Capitol Board Room #240. Please join us and learn how to successfully engage your Legislators. We have opportunities to phone bank and volunteer at the office, it will take all of us, working together, to make this happen. Please contact to learn how you can get involved.
If volunteering isn’t for you, there are other ways to get involved (as always, you can make a one-time or recurring donation to fuel our vital work, and come show the support of the majority by packing the Capitol on February 14 in the Rotunda for our Freedom Brunch. Do it for love, do it for freedom, do it for fairness!
Join our work to elect fair-minded candidates all throughout the state. Ticket information is HERE.
This is our moment. This is the culmination of years of work from many people. As always, Equality Utah remains deeply and thoroughly committed to achieving a fair and just Utah for everyone—and above all, to securing equal rights and protections for LGBT Utahns and our families. We will always fight for full equality under the law, and we will never settle for anything less. Let’s get to work!