Mormon Church Working With LGBT Leaders on Utah Anti-Discrimination Bill
Officials from the Mormon Church have apparently been working with Utah’s LGBT community in order to create a bill that would protect gays from housing and employment discrimination in Utah, Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, opened a bill file on Thursday, called "Housing and Employment Amendments" and will sponsor the measure if the two parties can reach an agreement. Although 16 cities in Utah have passed similar ordinances, this bill would ban anti-gay discrimination statewide.
"We have been working with many community partners, but we’re not ready to release a bill," Brandie Balken, executive director for Equality Utah, told the newspaper. Although she wouldn’t give details about specific discussions, she did say talks have been going on for eight months and she is confident that a bill will be introduced soon. She added the groups will, "take the time necessary to work on the language until we have the best possible bill."
The move may surprise some, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a strong supporter of Proposition 8 in 2008. Still, within recent years, members of the church have changed their views on the LGBT community, even though the Mormon church opposes same-sex marriage. In 2009, the church backed a similar measure that was passed by Salt Lake City and said it is "fair and reasonable and does not do violence to the institution of marriage." The measure exempted religious institutions from banning discrimination, however.
In December the Associated Press reported that Mormon leaders launched a new website that urged church members to be compassionate towards the LGBT community. LDS officials made it clear that they still view marriage as a union between one man and one woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful but the website urges gay and lesbian Mormons to stay with the church.
"Reconciling same-sex attraction with a religious life can present an especially trying dilemma," church leaders wrote on the website. "Anyone who lives in both worlds can attest to its difficulty. But with faith, love and perspective it can be done."
In June, AP pointed out that more than 300 straight members of the Mormon church marched in the Utah Gay Pride Parade, which marked the first time a large group of Mormons took part in the parade.
While the Mormon church has evolved on their views on gay rights, a spokesman for the LDS Church said the church has been contacted as "one of many community stakeholders."