Statement to Utah Legislators on Behalf of Senate Bill 296
We as Latter-day Saint women are at the Utah State Capitol today to show how our faith motivates us to support Senate Bill 296. Because we believe in serving our communities, because we believe that being gay or transgender is not a choice, the time has come for the State of Utah to affirm that housing and employment opportunity is vital to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often people of faith, and plenty of them are Mormons. More and more gay children are coming out to their Mormon families; openly LGBT people are working to find a home in LDS congregations; there are same-sex couples continuing to attend church. These facts change the conversation significantly. Because we believe there is no “us versus them”, that we are one people, that “all are alike unto God” we urge our lawmakers to support this bill.
SB296 would not remove the protections that already exist for religious organizations. The LDS church supported similar municipal legislation in Salt Lake City in 2009 and has retained the right to hire whom they wish and maintain their honor code in schools and dormitories.
Many other cities and towns have since passed ordinances of their own — but a patchwork of municipal ordinances makes compliance difficult and costly. To avoid inefficiency and ensure that all Utahns enjoy the same opportunities, we need a statewide law. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity still happens here. Must our gay and transgender sons and daughters leave Utah to be free from the fear of being evicted or fired at any time?
In the recent LDS church news conference, Sister Neil Marriot acknowledged centuries of “ridicule, persecution and even violence against homosexuals.” “Ultimately” she said, “most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong, and that such basic human rights as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on a person’s sexual orientation.” The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also speaks to the memory of bitter persecution and exclusion; we as members have a special responsibility to those who risk being marginalized. Each person here today represents thousands more Utahns who we know from recent polling support non-discrimination legislation. We hope our presence here will empower others — particularly Latter-day Saints — to email, call, or send flowers to their representatives on behalf of this bill.
Senator Niederhauser and Speaker Hughes, please accept these flowers and cards as a gesture of goodwill that we offer in thanks for your service. Because we believe that we are all God’s children we hope you will vote in support of Senate Bill 296.