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LGBT anti-discrimination bill passes Utah state Senate

LGBT anti-discrimination bill passes Utah state Senate
As Mormon leaders and others look on, Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams speaks at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City after the anti-discrimination bill was introduced this week in the state Senate. The bill was approved Friday on a 23-5 vote. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

A landmark bill that would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace and housing market, while also protecting religious rights, won approval Friday in the Republican-controlled Utah state Senate.

The measure passed on a 23-5 vote, and is now headed to the House. Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, has said he would sign the bill if it came to his desk.

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Twitter posts from journalists who attended the vote described a standing ovation when the bill was passed.

"We think it's a huge step forward," said Kent Frogley, president of the board of Utah Pride Center, a nonprofit organization that supports the LGBT community. "Not everything we'd like to see is in the bill, same with the other side, but we think it represents something really positive in preserving the rights and protections of the LGBT community."

The bill, which is supported by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is considered by many to be a compromise. The measure provides exemption from the bill's requirements for individual church leaders, religious companies and their affiliates. It also lists the Boy Scouts of America as an exempt organization.

The bill requires employers to adopt "reasonable rules and policies" for sex-specific facilities such as restrooms, shower and dressing areas and to provide accommodations for transgender people. It also allows employers to establish "reasonable dress and grooming standards."

Employees are also allowed to express their religious or moral beliefs as long as it is done "in a reasonable, non-disruptive and non-harassing way" and as long as it doesn't interfere with their company's business.

"The principle that we have urged legislators to address is that of fairness for everyone," according to a statement from the Mormon Church before Friday's vote.

"In a society which has starkly diverse views on what rights should be protected, the most sensible way to move forward is for all parties to recognize the legitimate concerns of others," the statement said. "While none of the parties achieved all they wanted, we do at least now have an opportunity to lessen the divisiveness in our communities without compromising on key principles."

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