Utah Senate panel gives unanimous approval to LGBT non-discrimination bill

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Several conservative senators supporting the bill said they felt it provides equally strong protections for LGBT people as it does for the religious.

The proposal prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to housing or employment. Religious groups and organizations would be exempt from the requirement, as would their affiliates.

For example, Brigham Young University, a private school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would be exempt.

The proposal also includes a specific exemption for the Boy Scouts of America, which has a ban on gay adult Scout leaders and has close ties to the LDS Church.

Leaders of the church joined LGBT advocates and a bipartisan group of Utah lawmakers on Wednesday to unveil of the bill, a rare mix of support that that will likely propel the bill measure through the state Legislature, where most lawmakers are members of the LDS Church.

The church said Wednesday it is fully behind the legislation, which follows the principles set out in the faith’s recent nationwide call for laws that balance both religious rights and LGBT protections.

Lawmakers said the Boy Scouts were not involved in negotiations and did not request the exemption. The organization was included because of a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing the organization’s constitutional right to exclude gay members. The Boy Scouts now allow openly gay youth.

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Boy Scouts of America national spokesman Deron Smith declined to comment on the legislation Wednesday, as did Utah Boy Scouts leaders.

Beyond banning discrimination based on identity and sexual orientation, the proposal stipulates that employers can adopt “reasonable dress and grooming standards” and “reasonable rules and polices” for sex-specific restrooms and other facilities, as long as those standards also include accommodations for gender identity.

For example, companies could offer a unisex, stand-alone restroom for use instead of a larger restroom with a bank of stalls.

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