SALT LAKE CITY -- A yearlong truce has been called between gay-rights advocates and conservative lawmakers so that a legislative committee can have time to study discrimination in housing and the workplace.
"We can return (in 2011) with civility and data and science and move forward in a constructive way for all of our communities," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.
Stephenson said he was approached by Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, about finding a way to handle the atmosphere that settled in over the Legislature after Salt Lake City passed an anti-discrimination ordinance with the blessing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
LGBT advocates wanted to run a number of bills similar to the ordinance, and opponents were lining up bills to kill the city's effort. Now they figure they have most lawmakers' support to not run such bills but to pass one that would provide for the yearlong study.
"The data that comes forward will not have the bias I do," said Johnson, who is openly gay.
Stephenson said many lawmakers are breathing a sigh of relief over the decision.
"These would have been time-consuming bills," he said, with hundreds of protesters of every stripe filling the Capitol for the rest of the legislative session.
There are also the very public and ongoing issues between the gay community and the predominantly Mormon population -- from Utah's own constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004 to the LDS Church's support of a similar ban passed in California last year.
"There is a common desire to ensure that Utah is not the battleground for the nation for these kinds of issues," Stephenson said of the reason for the single bill. "We simply refuse to be that battleground."
The bill requires a legislative interim committee to conduct the study, with early candidates including Business and Labor or Judiciary.
The committee would be empowered to write legislation for consideration by lawmakers in 2011 to deal with any problems that were discovered over the course of the study.
The bill has the support of Republican leadership in the House and Senate, though some conservative members of both those bodies were silent when asked for comment Friday.
Gov. Gary Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said he hadn't seen the bill but maintains the issue is best left to local governments.
That said, Herbert also supports the idea of additional study on any issue before implementing policy on it.