UTAH: State House Overwhelmingly Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

Via Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate:

The gallery was packed as Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, presented the bill. Behind him were his co-sponsors, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, and Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton. “There was a lot of people and a lot of faith that went into this particular bill,” Dee said, crying. An LGBT nondiscrimination bill, which has been attempted for years in the Utah State Legislature, got massive support after it received the blessing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. SB296 was the product of heavy negotiations between its sponsors, gay rights groups and the LDS Church.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, took her fellow lawmakers to task declaring it “embarrassing” that they even had to deal with this in 2015. Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, believed “Utah can be a light on the hill to lead” by passing model legislation. “Homosexuality is not a civil right but equal access to housing and employment is,” Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said. In a 65-10 vote, SB296 passed. The gallery, filled with many members of Utah’s LGBT community, erupted in applause. The vote was so emotional, the House reading clerk could not find the words to start reading the next bill. She wiped her tears and handed the next bill to an assistant to read.

The House also approved a bill that would allow state employees to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages, although someone else in the clerks’ offices will still have to perform them. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will sign the LGBT non-discrimination bill in a ceremony to be held tonight.

RELATED: As you’ll see at the link above, the House also approved a “license to discriminate” bill regarding public accommodations. HB322 is expected to face a tough battle in the final legislative session of the state Senate.