Leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) announced Tuesday they support a
gay protections bill unanimously approved by the Salt Lake City
Council, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do
not do violence to the institution of marriage,” spokesman Michael
Otterson said before city leaders voted on the measure.
introduced by Mayor Ralph Becker makes it illegal to discriminate
based on sexual orientation or gender identity (transgender
protections) in the areas of employment and housing.
The bill sparked an
outcry from conservatives when it was first introduced, including
several prominent lawmakers.
“I don't think the discrimination
they scream about is really real,” conservative Utah State Senator
Chris Buttars, a Republican from West Jordan, told Salt Lake
City-based KCPW radio. “I'm watching that to see what they try to
do, and if they keep pushing it, then I will bring a bill about it.”
Governor Gary Herbert agreed, saying
the measure would put the city on a “slippery road.”
“Where are you
going to stop? I mean that's the problem going down that slippery
road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed
blondes … or people who are losing their hair a little bit,”
Herbert, a Republican, said. “There's some support for about
anything we put out there. I'm just saying we end up getting bogged
down sometimes with the minutiae of things that government has really
no role to be involved in.”
In approving the
law, Salt Lake City becomes the first city in Utah to ban
discrimination based on sexual orientation, a move the Utah
Legislature refused to do earlier this year.
Last year, after
the church supported Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative
that banned gay marriage in California, the church released a
statement saying it supports gay rights that do not “infringe on
the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights
advocates in Utah took the church to mean it would not oppose a
collection of proposed gay rights bills in the Legislature. But the
church's silence on the bills, including one that would have enacted
similar protections, doomed them.
Equality Utah, the
state's largest gay rights advocate, backed the so-called Common
Ground Initiative and has vowed a second attempt next year.
Gay activists won
the endorsement of the church after more than two months of secret
meetings with LDS leaders, who appear affected by more than a year's
worth of protests and demonstrations from gay rights advocates angry
at the church's involvement in Proposition 8.
The church says
Becker's ordinance includes stronger exemptions for religious
organizations than the proposed Common Ground language.