Could Utah's Mormon-Backed LGBT Rights Law Be A Model For Idaho?

Mar 17, 2015

Utah state capitol in Salt Lake City.
Credit Frank Swift / Flickr Creative Commons

After a failed attempt to pass what's known as Idaho's "Add the Words" bill earlier this session, some people are looking to a neighboring state for guidance.

Last week, Utah's Republican-led Legislature passed what's being touted as a landmark gay rights law that has the support of the Mormon Church.

In 2012, more than one-third of Idaho's legislators were members of the LDS Church.

The law is being called "the Utah compromise." It grants protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the areas of employment and housing. It does not address the subject of discrimination in public accommodations. This means a business owner could refuse service on the basis of a customer's sexuality, based on the business owner's religious beliefs. 

The Mormon Church endorsed the bill, clearing the path for it in the Utah Legislature.

During a panel discussion on the subject at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. Monday afternoon, former Utah governor Michael Leavitt -- who is a member of the Mormon Church -- says the spirit of compromise can be applied beyond Utah's borders.

"There is a legislative toolkit that will be available to those in any jurisdiction to at least begin to say, 'This is the place when there's enough pain that we'll ultimately arrive -- why don't we get down to having a conversation about it now.' " 

But like most compromises, not everyone is happy. People on both the left and right say the Utah law is deeply flawed, and shouldn't be used as a model for other conservative states.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio