OGDEN -- The ACLU of Utah and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden will co-sponsor a panel discussion with legal experts and religious leaders Thursday about the rights of all people to religious freedom and equal rights.
"Beyond the Division: Balancing Religious Liberty with Equality for Gay and Transgender People," is the title of the event to be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Elizabeth Hall at Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd.
"We started doing these discussions a year ago," said Anna Brower, development director at the ACLU of Utah. "This is the fourth in that traveling series."
The ACLU did a similar event last April at Salt Lake Community College. Last September, the discussion was held at Utah Valley University in Orem. In March, it was at the University of Utah Law School.
"It's always a little bit different," Brower said. "I think that they've all been successful."
The moderator of the event will be Barry Gomberg, director of Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity at Weber State University.
Featured as panelists will be Fred Gedicks, Guy Anderson Chair and professor of law, Brigham Young University Law School; Clifford Rosky, associate professor of law, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law; Reverend Theresa Novak, Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden; and Reverend Claudia Seiter, Saint Michael's Episcopal Church of Brigham City.
The goal of this panel discussion is featuring legal experts and religious leaders in a thoughtful and respectful discussion of the various rights and interests at play in the movement for equality for gay and transgender people in Utah and around the country, according to information published by the church.
"(The discussions) attract a variety of people," Brower said. "Some people are activists and supporters for equality for transgender and gay and lesbian people and some don't know how they feel about it.
"We've had people of all faiths, including members of the LDS Church, who come to learn about how their faith systems can co-exist with people of different belief systems."
With participation open to people of all backgrounds, Brower said the event attracts a "sort of a different discussion."
"It's not about defending a particular position, it's about how the rules of our country really do leave a space for people of all views to live together under those laws."
She said ACLU's interest in having the discussions was to further its practice of defending the rights of religious people to practice their beliefs throughout the country.
"We have a vested interest in religious liberties," she said. "We are wholly committed to allowing people to live equally in the workplace. There are liberties on both sides of the issue."
She said the idea for the discussions came out of a lot of thought and study.
"We wanted to get away from that gay vs. straight talk and move to where the line between my rights and your rights can be drawn or should be drawn."
She said organizers realize that nobody's ever going to agree all the time, but they wanted to take strides at making the society an "OK space for everyone to live."
"I think the audience drives a lot of the discussion," she said. "The talk about what's going on in their own families and their own wards or parishes, These discussions are going on on all kinds of levels."
Novak said she is excited to participate on the panel.
"It's totally up my alley in terms of religious freedom and human rights for all people, including gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," she said.
"I don't think you can have religious liberty unless you really do have full civil rights for all because the religions are all so different.
"The similarity of the different faiths is the Golden Rule -- that means treating others decently. If you are going to look at what religions ask people to do, it's treat each other decently, even if and especially if they are different."
For more information, call Brower at the ACLU at (801) 521-9862 ext. 100 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.