Governor: ‘Utah may look at more religious protections’

Gov. Gary Herbert

Gov. Gary Herbert Rick Bowmer, AP

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah)

Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah)

PROVO, Utah –— Utah lawmakers may need to look at whether more religious protections are needed after the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday.

Religious protections were not part of the court decision because the legalization of gay marriage came through a court ruling instead of by voters or lawmakers, Herbert said at a religious liberty conference at Brigham Young University.

During his 30-minute address and a question-and-answer session, the governor didn’t endorse or suggest any specific protections that he feels Utah should consider.

Herbert said he didn’t know if he would support a religious freedom law like the one proposed in Indiana earlier this year that prompted boycotts after critics said it could be used to discriminate against LGBT people.

The governor told reporters that he would evaluate possible proposals in Utah before deciding what to support.

He said he understands the concerns of someone like a baker who doesn’t want to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.

But he said it’s a “little untoward” for anyone doing business with the public to pick “which sinner I’m going to serve.”

“Those are some of the tough, complex, emotional issues that we’re going to have to face as we have this new paradigm now when it comes to same-sex marriage,” he said.

The governor said any effort to shore up religious rights should also include considerations about protecting LGBT people from discrimination. He cited the input from religious groups and LGBT advocates that led to Utah’s limited anti-discrimination law passed earlier this year.

The law makes it illegal to base employment and housing decisions on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Herbert said the law may be a good model of cooperation for other states but the specifics may not translate elsewhere due to regional differences. The governor didn’t elaborate.

Some critics of Utah’s law say it focuses too heavily on religious freedoms and is tailor-made for a state where more than 60 percent of the population is Mormon.

Utah’s law is limited to employment and housing and doesn’t address issues such as providing services such as wedding cakes and flowers to gay couples seeking to marry.

Gay rights groups pushed for an anti-discrimination law for years and finally succeeded during the 2015 legislative session with a deal that won the crucial backing of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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