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Utah governor signs Mormon church backed LGBT anti-discrimination bill

Kody Partridge, left, and her wife, Laurie Wood celebrate after the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passes a anti-discrimination bill Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Salt Lake City. The couple were among the plaintiffs in the federal challenge that overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Kody Partridge, left, and her wife, Laurie Wood celebrate after the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passes a anti-discrimination bill Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Salt Lake City. The couple were among the plaintiffs in the federal challenge that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Rick Bowmer, AP

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Before Thursday’s ceremony, a jubilant Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Salt Lake City Democrat and the only openly gay member of the Legislature, was liberally hugging members of the crowd. Dabakis even pulled Gayle Ruzicka, an opponent of the bill and president of conservative family values group Utah Eagle Forum, into an embrace.

“I did not expect this in Utah. I thought we’d be the very last state,” said Douglas Birch, 37, who snapped a selfie with his friend Josh Bingham after the signing.

“I never thought this would happen when I was still under 50,” said Marcie Collette, a University of Utah employee who attended the event to show support for her LGBT friends.

A Colorado native, she said she’s found Utahans to be a compassionate people and hopes the legislation signed Thursday will help the world see that.

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The law makes it illegal to base hiring, firing and other employment decisions on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It also prohibits considering those factors in housing decisions, like whether to rent or sell a house or provide a home loan.

But religious organizations and affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals are exempt from the law, 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 legislation also states that religious individuals can 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.

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