MBB Testimony to Utah Senate committee hearing on the Non-discrimination Bill

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MBB Testimony to Utah Senate committee hearing on the Non-discrimination Bill

My name is Doree Burt. Thank you for letting me be here. I wrote my notes down to get through them in a good amount of time, so please excuse my lack of eye contact.

I have no titles, no credentials, but I wear my Eagle Scout mothers’ pins as jewelry, have flags of countries where my children have served and are currently serving LDS missions and maps indicating where their friends are as my home décor. Pretty much, Martha Stewart would be appalled. But these visuals show what I hold dear…family and devotion to acting on beliefs that we are all God’s children and He loves us all equally. Today I bring my Mormon mommy perspective, that’s it, which, I have learned, is very much in line with a lot of the other Mormon mommies I know and worship with.

I am also here as a representative of Mormons Building Bridges, and our over 2,300 members.

Mormons Building Bridges is happy to lend its support for legislation sponsored by Equality Utah that will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in housing and employment. In 2009, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was instrumental in the passage of the Salt Lake City municipal ordinance that guaranteed LGBT people the right to work and have a roof over their heads without being discriminated against. Since then, many other municipalities including Logan (where I have lived for 15 years) have passed similar statutes. Passage of this latest bill will extend these protections to all Utahns.

Mormons Building Bridges is an organization comprised primarily of active Latter Day Saints, devoted to reaching out to the LGBT community and making our congregations safe and welcoming for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Our religion teaches us the Golden Rule; securing basic housing and workplace rights for all our brothers and sisters puts that principle into action. We encourage you, our legislative leaders, to act on Jesus’ teaching to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In a Mormon congregation, we take care of each other’s spiritual and temporal needs. The church welfare program is well known, in fact world-renowned, for helping those who are struggling financially, but there is also often a ward housing chairman, or employment specialist. Imagine how disheartening it would be if your bishop has asked you to help a member find a job or a place to live and because that person is gay it is legal for employers or landlords to turn them away. Mormons Building Bridges is about making all our church programs safe and welcoming for LGBT people–passage of this bill will make it easier for members to address the temporal needs of all our members, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I imagine you wonder about broad-based support. My current church calling, or responsibility, is the YW President over the Cache Valley Area Special Needs Adult Mutual, which comprises about 17 stakes. Tonight we are hosting the most inspirational annual talent show ever. In notifying our advisers that I might be late and asking them to fill in handing out programs and such I told them where I would be, that I would be here tonight. Without exception, they were surprised that a person could be denied housing or employment and all expressed wishes for this non-discrimiation bill to be passed. They all expressed support even when they weren’t asked.

As a religion and a state dedicated to families we nurture education and independence. Please support families by not taking away places for their children to work and live.

To end I’ll quote from mormonsandgays.org an official website of my church. This is what it says:

“Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. Whether sinner or saint, rich or poor, stranger or friend, everyone in God’s small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Latter-day Saints believe that our true commitment to Christian teachings is revealed by how we respond to this commandment. This love is tested every day of our lives. We may know individuals with same-sex attraction in our workplaces, congregations and town halls. As people with hopes, fears and aspirations like everyone else, these neighbors deserve our love.”

That’s the end of that. Then I say this:

The words neighbor and workplaces are used in this official statement. Please vote to give all people equal access to those two things, being a neighbor and not being denied a workplace.

Thank you very much.

It is very odd to me that people will discriminate against other people because of his/her sexual orientation. Should that really matter? If he/she is a good tenant or employee isn’t that the bottom line?

So let’s start now with LBGT discrimination and try to put a stop to it sooner so that hopefully the discrimination won’t get as bad or last as long as the discrimination against blacks.

For example, we don’t discriminate against someone who might go and sleep around a lot on the weekend or someone who likes to party or may drink a little too much. If that person does their job the way he or she should and doesn’t bring that lifestyle to the workplace or affect how the face value of the company looks then it really shouldn’t matter how they choose to live their life.

S.B. 262 does not add additional burden to business. The bill is consistent with protections for other characteristics and only applies to property owners with four or more rental units and businesses with 15 or more employees. A statewide bill simplifies the process for everyone and allows for a faster resolution to potential claims of discrimination. It also allows people who bring a claim to file with the EEOC; something people cannot do under the local ordinances.”

Question: “If Mormons Building Bridges will support this anti-discrimination ordinance, why won’t the organization support same-sex marriage?”

Answer: Mormons Building Bridges is about helping members of the LDS church find ways to show love and support to LGBT people while allowing individuals to align with the position of the church on same-sex marriage if they prefer. Thus far, the LDS church has not supported same-sex marriage; however, the church has given its support for non-discrimination ordinances in Utah, therefore, it seems appropriate for our elected representatives to support this ordinance.

Question: “Are you trying to embarrass the church or force them into backing this measure?”

Answer: No. Mormons Building Bridges is not sponsored by nor do we represent the LDS Church. As such, it is never our intent to either represent the official church or attempt to change or dictate the church’s official stance on any matter.

Question: “Have you changed your mission?”

Answer: No. Mormons Building Bridges has been and continues to be an organization dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to LGBT individuals by building new bridges of understanding and respect, primarily within the LDS community. Therefore, we facilitate communication and organizational efforts that help our gay brothers and sisters feel supported in their life’s path and welcome in our homes and congregations. MBB’s support of this anti-discrimination ordinance is in keeping with this mission.

Question: “Don’t you think people should be able to do what they want with their own property?”

Answer: While we respect individuals’ rights to self-determination, we also feel our religion teaches us the Golden Rule and that securing basic housing and workplace rights for all our brothers and sisters puts that principle into action.