The Mormon Church is Surprising People on LGBT Rights

March 9th 2015

Alicia Lutes

A pretty major event happened in Utah recently: the state's LGBT community teamed up with the Mormon church to introduce an equal rights bill hoping to eradicate discrimination. 

The legislation, S.B. 296, contains provisions that would prohibit employers "from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation," affording all individuals "the same free-speech protections in their private lives" while also ensuring that property owners and landlords are "prohibited from discriminating against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation," adding that "no religious exemptions from the non-discrimination provisions would be allowed for individuals or for-profit businesses." According to the Washington Post, the bill "is expected to be voted upon before the state session ends next week."

While the bill doesn't cover businesses that refuse to serve the LGBT community and it does not include any language in regarding insurance protections, like many other states, it could be a major win for a state as conservative as Utah. Utah's Governor Gary Herbert has already said that he's "going to sign the bill." And the Human Rights Watch has praised it, too.

"This is an extraordinary moment for the state of Utah, for LGBT Americans, and for the Mormon Church, which, by supporting this legislation, shows a willingness to align with others on the right side of history," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "The desire exhibited by the Mormon Church to work toward common ground should serve as a model for other faith traditions here in the United States."

For years, the biggest fighters against the LGBT community have been religious groups and organizations (for example, Prop 8). So, it's hard to ignore the significance of a religious institution going to bat for an oft-discriminated against minority — particularly when so many of those discriminations have, historically, been have been defended on the grounds of religious freedom. The Mormon church supporting this legislation is yet another sign of a rising sea change of LGBT acceptance.