Utah is moving forward with an LGBT anti-discrimination and religious freedom measure, for which both local LGBT political groups and the Mormon church provided input and have announced their support. The text of the bill is here. As the AP reports:
At a news conference where Utah senators and LGBT-rights activists joined high-ranking leaders of the Mormon church, officials touted the measure as a model for the rest of the country and history-making for Utah.
The legislation, which includes transgender protections, covers employment and housing discrimination but not public accommodations, which could indicate how strong-arming cake bakers and photographers has played out. It also exempts religious organizations [as well as] the Boy Scouts, and includes job protection for employees who voice moral or political views about marriage or sexuality “in a reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing way.”
Nationally, the LGBT left and religious right will be against it. And given many LBGT activists’ opposition to exempting religious organizations, such a deal isn’t likely in future federal legislation. But in red states that currently don’t have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination provisions, it could be a way forward.
Are the compromises worth it to secure employment and housing protections? Jonathan Rauch and the Brookings Institute will be exploring that topic in an upcoming forum.
…on July 8th, we pulled our support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. We simply had come way too far to compromise on such a fundamental principal of fairness and federal equality in the workplace. Instead we redoubled our work for what we really need—strong federal non-discrimination legislation without broad exemptions. I’m happy to report that our opposition, and that of other organizations, worked.
As I noted in an earlier post, “Well, it worked in terms of killing ENDA.”
The following LGBT groups, among others, also withdraw their support for ENDA over its exemption for religious organizations: Lambda Legal; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Transgender Law Center.
Moreover, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he shares “grave concerns” over the religious exemption.
In the decades before 2013, exempting religious organizations from LGBT anti-discrimination statutes was a consensus position. Now, on the federal level, it’s anathema for many national LGBT rights advocates.
And on the local level, ferreting out self-employed service providers who have conscience objections to performing expressive services for same-sex weddings, and using the state to prosecute them for refusing these gigs, is the new activist front for “equality.”
Furthermore. Jonathan Rauch writes that while the Human Rights Campaign lauded the deal:
…one-sided “religious freedom” laws sought (and sometimes passed) by religious conservatives in other states have deepened suspicion in the LGBT world that religious accommodations are intended as a “license to discriminate.” Some LGBT folks now view any such accommodations as a poison pill. That view did not prevail in Utah, whose example suggests that good-faith negotiations and a tangible upside can still attract gay support for compromise.
Update. Passed by Utah’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, and signed into law by GOP Governor Gary Herbert.
Final word. In his Wall Street Journal column (“Utah Shows the Way on Gay Rights”), William A. Galston writes:
By overwhelming majorities, the state legislature adopted a pair of bills that banned discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals in employment and housing while carving out accommodations for individuals and institutions with conscience-based objections to these measures. Individual local officials who object to same-sex marriage are not required to preside over such ceremonies, for example, but each local office is responsible for doing so.
… Neither side allowed the best to become the enemy of the good. Both came to see that protections for LGBT individuals and for religious conscience needed to be enacted simultaneously, as a package.