SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Mormon church-backed anti-discrimination bill that protects LGBT Utah residents and religious rights has to wait another day to clear its second-to-last vote in the state Legislature, after a House committee postponed a vote on the bill until Tuesday afternoon.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee decided Monday evening that despite an hour-long hearing, they needed more time to consider the bill and hear comments from the public. They’re scheduled to take up the matter again Tuesday afternoon and vote on the proposal at that time.
Despite being unveiled less than a week ago, the bill’s support from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped fast-track the measure through the Legislature.
If the full House votes to support the measure before they adjourn at midnight Thursday, the bill advances to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who has pledged to sign it.
Conservative critics of the bill have argued it doesn’t go far enough to protect religious rights, such as the right of an individual to refuse service to a gay couple, and that the proposal creates special protections for gay and transgender people.
LGBT advocates who’ve long pushed for protections at the state Legislature have celebrated the bill, which has secured the kind of broad support from religious groups and Republican lawmakers that they need to a statewide anti-discrimination law passed in conservative Utah.
The Mormon church said it is fully behind the legislation, which follows the principles set out in its call for laws that balance religious rights and LGBT protections.
The church’s support for the measure comes as the faith’s leaders have softened their tone in recent years regarding same-sex attraction. While moving away from harsh rhetoric and preaching compassion and acceptance, the LDS Church insists it is not changing doctrine and still believes sex is against the law of God unless it’s within a marriage between a man and a woman.
The bill is limited to protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and employment. Religious organizations and their affiliates such as schools and hospitals are exempt, as is the Boy Scouts of America, which has a ban on gay adult Scout leaders and has close ties to the LDS Church.
The bill allows for religious people to express their beliefs in the workplace without retribution as long as they are not harassing someone and the speech doesn’t interfere with the company’s core business.
For example, a worker at Planned Parenthood would not be allowed to wear an anti-abortion button at work, according to the bill’s drafters.
It allows employers to adopt “reasonable dress and grooming standards” and “reasonable rules and polices” for gender-specific restrooms and other facilities, as long as they also accommodate transgender people.
Lawmakers say they specifically didn’t define a “reasonable” regulation in order to give employers flexibility to find a solution to their situation.
The bill also doesn’t address thornier discrimination questions about whether a business has to serve someone for religious reasons, such as a wedding photographer who objects to photographing a same-sex marriage.