After a much over-hyped PR spin Bill SB296 passed he Utah House on Wednesday. The bill itself to will enact Utah’s first statewide non-discrimination protections for the gay and transgender community, while providing safeguards for religious liberty. (ie. MAJOR Religious exemptions)
The bill itself, which bears a close resemblance to the recently failed and much criticized version of ENDA has been much hyped by many major LGBT organizations because to quote Zach Ford of ThinkProgress: “It may be the best Bill that could pass there.”
S.B. 296, however, is far from a perfect bill. It contains a lot of provisions that are unique to the legal climate of Utah that would not translate elsewhere. Given the ubiquitous presence of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Utah, it may be the best bill that could pass there — and is thus better than no protections. Though it does contain some interesting new ideas that could be adapted elsewhere, it is by no means a model for other states to consider.
For example, the bill only protects LGBT people in employment and housing; it does not address public accommodations (e.g. how businesses treat customers). Thus, as a civil rights bill, it pales compared to the more universal protections afforded other classes like race at the national level. It also falls short of the wider array of protections offered by many other states, and the kind of proposals activists hope to soon see introduced in Congress.
The bill also exempts any employers that constitute “a religious organization, a religious corporation sole, a religious association, a religious society, a religious educational institution, or a religious leader, when that individual is acting in the capacity of a religious leader.” Religious leaders are specifically defined as somebody who is an “authorized representative” of a religious organization. The exemption also extends to any corporation or association that is an affiliate or subsidiary of such a religious organization. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which is quite prominent in Utah because of LDS support, enjoys its own specific exemption
And now after all the trumpeting and priase from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Utah who seem to be the only LGBT people in Utah thrilled about this straw-man “anti-discrimination bil” that protects the Mormon’s more than our own community, the Utah legislation is ALSO advancing a seperate “religious freedom” bill (SB297) which allows the church and its related entities to NOT have to recognize ‘LEGAL’ same-sex marriages and allow public employee to discriminate against by refusing to provide equal access to government benefits.
What a royal clusterfuck. And all brought to you by our LGBT organizations who are willing to accept crumbs so it looks like they are doing something.