Utah gays, Mormons agree on LGBT anti-discrimination law

Utah gays, Mormons agree on LGBT anti-discrimination law
People celebrate as they watch Utah Governor Gary Herbert sign the SB296 bill at the state capitol in Salt Lake City March 12, 2015. Lawmakers in conservative Utah on Wednesday passed a landmark anti-discrimination bill, with the backing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they say will prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation while also protecting religious freedom.

LOS ANGELES - New legislation to protect gays went into effect Thursday in Utah, after approval of a compromise bill backed by the state's homosexual community and religious advocates, including its powerful Mormon bloc.

The measure, which modifies existing laws, protects members of the state's gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual communities from housing and employment discrimination, but certain religious institutions plus the Boy Scouts of America will remain exempt.

The bill was adopted by the state legislature Wednesday and Republican Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill Thursday night, local newspapers reported.

"It is an example of groups with vastly different perspectives working together to create a bill that, while not having everything either side would like, has most things both sides seek," Kent Frogley, president of the board of the Utah Pride Center, told AFP.

In addition to protecting the gay community, the bill also shields workers who express their personal religious beliefs, such as on same-sex issues, outside of the office.

A person "could say 'I don't support same-sex marriage because of my religious views' and by expressing that, they cannot be dismissed" from their job, Frogley said.

Conversely, expressing dislike for the Mormon Church due to its stance on homosexuals would also be protected, Frogley said, adding that "basically, it's a restatement of the First Amendment," which protects freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Gay marriage has been allowed in Utah since the end of 2014, when the US Supreme Court declined to take up appeals in seven states, including Utah, on state-level gay marriage bans that had been deemed unconstitutional.

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