Recent discrimination against religious individuals and passionate disagreement about same-sex marriage has fostered intense controversy over any legislation that affects LGBT rights. This acidic environment has led to public discussion of proposed policies relying heavily on emotions and slogans instead of facts and analysis.
SB 296, Antidiscrimination and Religious Amendments, is one of these policies. In an attempt to clear up some of the misunderstandings about SB 296, we’ve put together the following Q&A guide to understanding the bill:
How does SB 296 protect LGBT individuals?
– SB 296 protects people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment. (Lines 278-295, 317-448, 897-921, 958-1010)
– More specifically, SB 296 protects LGBTs from being evicted, turned away from housing, fired, not hired, harassed, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against in employment on the basis of being LGBT. (Lines 278-295, 897-921)
– SB 296 does not limit an employer’s right to enforce reasonable dress standards, codes of conduct, or employment qualifications. If SB296 passes, then LGBTs could still be fired or evicted for all the same reasons as everyone else, just not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Lines 296-305, 361-364, 449-462, 675-679, 870-872)
Does SB 296 include exemptions or protections for non-profits and religious organizations?
Yes. Non-profits and religious organizations, including affiliated universities, university housing, and corporations, would be exempted from SB 296 housing and employment requirements. So, churches and their subsidiaries would not be required to hire or house openly LGBT individuals. (Lines 800-828, 846-862, 873-888)
Does SB 296 include exemptions or protections for individuals?
Yes. Here’s how:
– SB 296 housing requirements do not apply to a landlord if two conditions are met: 1. The “dwelling” is designed for four or fewer families. 2. The landlord occupies part of the “dwelling.” For example, people who rent out their basement would be allowed to decide to rent or not on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This exemption also applies to duplexes and 4-plexes if the owner occupies one of the units. (Lines 829-833)
– If an individual is accused of employment discrimination and the Division of Adjudication finds the allegations to be false, then the accuser may be required to pay the attorney fees and other costs of the accused individual. (Lines 609-614)
– As noted earlier, SB 296 does not limit an employer’s right to enforce reasonable dress standards, codes of conduct, or employment qualifications. Under SB 296, LGBTs can still be fired or evicted for all the same reasons as everyone else, just not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Lines 296-305, 675-679)
Does SB 296 require businesses to otherwise transact with LGBTs?
No. Controversy in other states about people having to work as photographers at gay weddings or baking wedding cakes for gay couples has led people to believe that SB 296 may require those same things. However, SB 296 only protects LGBTs from housing and employment discrimination; it does not require businesses or individuals to otherwise transact with them.
Furthermore, SB 296 specifically states that the protections included for LGBTs cannot be interpreted to prohibit an employer from “adopting reasonable rules and policies that designate sex-specific facilities, including restrooms, shower facilities, and dressing facilities…” Assuming of course, that reasonable accommodations are made based on gender identity. (Lines 681-685)
How does SB 296 define gender identity?
According to SB 296, gender identity has “the meaning provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical 106 Manual (DSM-5).” This definition is very specific and can be found here. (Lines 105-106, 760-761))
SB 296 further elaborates with the following language: “A person’s gender identity can be shown by providing evidence, including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity, or other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity, and not being asserted for an improper purpose.” (106-109, 761-764)
Does SB 296 create a special class for LGBTs or give them “special” rights?
That depends on how you look at the issue. What SB 296 does is add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of personal characteristics protected from housing and employment discrimination. This protection already exists on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disability. The protections provided for LGBTs in SB 296 are not really “special” since they are already afforded to so many other groups.
Furthermore, SB 296 specifically states that the bill “shall not be construed to create a special or protected class for any other purpose other than employment and housing.”
Does SB 296 include protections from discrimination for religious individuals?
Yes. While religious status is already a protected class when it comes to employment and housing, SB 296 creates further protections for religious individuals. These protections include the following:
– SB 296 grants individuals the right to express their religious, moral, or political beliefs inside the workplace as long as they do so in a “reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing way.” Individuals may not be discriminated against inside the workplace because they have engaged in this expression of beliefs and commitments unless the expression of these beliefs is directly contrary to the interests of the employer. (Lines 693-699)
– SB 296 prohibits employees from being punished, demoted, or dismissed due to their lawful expression, of political activities, religious activities, or personal convictions outside the workplace unless the expression of these beliefs is directly contrary to the interests of the employer. Additionally, employers cannot refuse to hire someone because they expressed such convictions outside the workplace. These convictions include, but are not limited to, “convictions about marriage, family, or sexuality.” (Lines 700-706)
– SB 296 states that the provisions of the bill “may not be interpreted to infringe upon the freedom of expressive association or the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 1, 4, and 15 of the Utah Constitution.” (Lines 687-691)
Hopefully this clears up some of the muddy water surrounding this important proposal. Do you want to chime in? Leave a comment below, or contact your senator.
*Information compiled by senate staff and interns.