States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

[2nd Update 3/12: An amended version of SB 297 (see below) passed the House and then the Senate.]

[Update 3/12: The Utah House passed SB 296 by a vote of 65-10, sending the measure to the Governor, which he signed Thursday night, according to the St. George News.]

State RFRA bills are not the only religious freedom proposals being debated in state legislatures. In Utah, SB 296 would expand the state’s antidiscrimination and fair housing laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but it also expands the exemptions from those laws to include not only religious organizations, but also religious educational institutions, affiliates, societies, associations, and The Boy Scouts of America.

The bill, which also includes protections for employee expressions of religion in the workplace, passed the Senate on a 23-5 vote and is not scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

Good4Utah reports on the unique blend of advocates who came together in support of the bill:

Senate Bill 296 is the result of the all sides coming to the table to find the delicate balance between LGBT nondiscrimination and religious freedom.

“The bill provides robust protections for religious liberties in employment and housing. It provides robust protections in employment and housing for LGBT individuals,” said Senator Steve Urquhart, (R) St. George.

After passing the Senate, the bill was debated in the House Judiciary Committee.

Committee members heard from supporters.

“We support this effort in Utah as we have done for seven long years. We are pleased and gratified this bill has the support of the LDS Church and we hope this bill will soon have the support of each one of you,” said Mariana Lowe, with the ACLU of Utah.

Utah’s House is also considering legislation (SB 297) passed in the Senate that would allow county clerks to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages if they object on religious grounds, provided they find a replacement.