The support or silence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on anti-discrimination legislation in the treatment of gays, lesbians bisexual and transgendered individuals in housing and workplace situations, could determine the fate of whether or not Utah adopts those guidelines in the 2014 session, the bill's sponsor claims.
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said the fate of his anti-discrimination bill may well fall on the shoulders of LDS Church leaders and how they choose to address, or not address the matter in the upcoming session, which begins Jan. 27.
In a phone interview Monday with the Standard-Examiner he noted the church spoke in support of anti-discrimination rules in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County in 2009, when guidelines were established at the local level, but its silence on the matter at the state level the last few sessions has sent another kind of signal.
"There are plenty of people who want to speak for the church," he said of some of his colleagues.
"The church is a significant player on this issue," Urquhart said.
He said many lawmakers, most of whom are LDS, are waiting for the church to lead out on the matter. Urquhart has proposed anti-discrimination guidelines be adopted at the state level -- not simply dealt with at the local level as it has been to date. Currently, 17 municipalities have anti-discrimination guidelines on the books, including Ogden.
Urquhart, who is LDS, said he finds no conflict in the church's stance and his push to have the measure enacted at the state level.
The church issued a short response on the bill through Cody Craynor, a spokesperson, on Monday afternoon.
"The Church has not taken a position on any statewide nondiscrimination legislation," the statement said.
The church's potential role of leadership on the matter also came up Monday morning in another setting. In a briefing of Layton city officials and council members with Davis County legislators, Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said the Utah League of Cities and Towns is waiting for the church's stance before formally adopting a position on whether the matter should be dealt with at the state level, or left to communities.
Crane, who is on the ULCT legislative policy board, said he has discussed the matter with Urquhart personally. He personally believes the matter should be left to municipalities.
"The big impetus on this has to be the LDS Church and their feelings regarding this," he admitted when Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, asked him how the ULCT might address the issue.
An anti-discrimination bill cleared a Senate committee in 2013 by a 4-3 vote but did not come up for vote on the floor of the Senate. Urquhart and other leaders, including Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who is gay, admitted they didn't have the votes to pass the measure.
Crane sees a problem with any anti-discrimination measure at either the state or local level in how potential cases are reviewed and administered. He thinks a resolution might also address the discrimination matter.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, asked Crane if he has seen any evidence of discrimination against the LGBT community in housing or workplace issues in Davis County's largest city.
"Is there a problem with this? If there is will you let us know," Adams said.
In a hearing in the 2013 session, Dabakis said Utah has a reputation that is often used against it. He said adopting the policy statewide would send a signal that Utah is diverse and that companies are welcome to do business here.
In that same hearing, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said he cannot support a policy he thinks gives social acceptance to something he considers immoral.