Religious Liberty and Non-Discrimination Legislation Set to Debut

Legislation regarding religious liberties and non-discrimination is beginning to trickle out on Utah's Capitol Hill, but there's a long way to go before resolution.

On Wednesday, Senate GOP leaders said they were of the mind that both issues needed to pass this session, or none of them would pass.

"One will not pass without the other," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. "We will not consider one without the other."

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, has been working on trying to combine the issues into one piece of legislation.

"We need to make sure everyone is treated equally," he said. "This is an extremely difficult issue."

Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, has been championing non-discrimination legislation that includes protections for the LGBT community for three years. Senate leadership says they feel the best vehicle for combining the two issues is Urquhart's legislation.

"Right now, there are lots of ideas being forwarded," says Urquhart. "That's a great thing. We need to bring ideas and players to the table to find out which ideas are politically feasible."

Urquhart says we may start seeing legislation come out from the Senate next week. Will the two issues be combined into one bill?

"If it works with three or five bills, let's do that," he says.

On Wednesday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, proposed HB 322, which he says protects religious liberties while preventing discrimination against all Utahns in housing and employment. Christensen's legislation does not specifically mention the LGBT community.

Also on Wednesday, reports surfaced that a single bill containing the two issues may not be possible, and the House may be hedging their bets by reserving a bill file to run a stand-alone religious liberties bill.

President Niederhauser says there's a very real possibility that both issues may not be heard this session.

"The clarity we have today is one will not proceed without the other. If we cannot come to an agreement, then it's possible we leave the session without hearing the bills," he said.