SALT LAKE CITY -- Past legislative sessions have been filled with demands for a non-discrimination law and concerns about how that would impede religious freedom.
“We shouldn’t be forced to rent to somebody that you don’t want to rent to, that you disagree with,” said Gayle Ruzicka in March of 2013.
But Tuesday, the head of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum was singing a different tune, along with lawmakers in the state.
“I don’t have a problem with protections for all people in housing and employment,” Ruzicka said. “That just has to be written carefully.”
It seemed as though no one could disagree with the announcement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which called on lawmakers to strike a balance between protections for the LGBT community and religious freedoms.
“That is phenomenal,” said Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George.
The move has given new life to Urquhart’s bill, which he has watched his fellow lawmakers kill for years.
SB100 would prohibit discrimination in housing and the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It makes it easier for folks to support this,” Urquhart said. “What the church said is that they're very against that discrimination and they want to actively work to end it.”
But the church’s support doesn’t necessarily guarantee support for Urquhart’s bill at the capitol.
“It becomes a factor. It was one that wasn't there yesterday that is there now. So, I think that you'll have that part of the debate now and the discussion,” said House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.
Included in that discussion are lawmakers who have been focusing heavily on religious freedoms, like Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, who is proposing a bill and resolution that focus on exempting certain people from performing same-sex marriages.
“At this point, I’m not 100 percent certain that my bill, stand alone, accomplishes everything they’re asking,” Angeregg said.
Since the church has spoken, Anderegg believes lawmakers will now have to have a conversation about how to address both issues during the session. Given the diverse views on the topics, there could be several attempts to come to a solution.
“Do we run a single bill that encompasses both? Anderegg asked. “Or do we go ahead and do it piece meal, with two or three or four or five other bills? I just don’t know, yet.”