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The long-awaited marriage of religious liberties and prohibitions against housing and employment discrimination may come as early as Tuesday with gay-rights advocates heralding the arrangement and conservative organizations uneasy with the outcome.
"I think we're going to make history together. It's going to be good," said Troy Williams, executive director of the LGBT-advocacy group Equality Utah. "This is unprecedented [in] history, to have the LGBT community and the LDS community coming together. It's pretty amazing."
The bill would prohibit discrimination employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also would have narrow too narrow for some protections on the exercise of religion and religious expression in housing and employment.
On the second day of the legislative session, the LDS Church took the remarkable step of expressing its support for a state law prohibiting discrimination, provided it be balanced with protections for people of faith.
The difficulty during two weeks of meetings between gay and lesbian groups and representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was balancing those competing concepts without the religious-freedom language undermining the discrimination safeguards.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, had proposed sweeping religious-liberties language, which would bar government entities, businesses and individuals from infringing on an individual's beliefs; allow those beliefs to be used as a defense against allegations of discrimination; and let those who feel their religious liberty has been encroached upon to sue in court.
The bill to be released Tuesday will not resemble Christensen's.
Asked if she was satisfied with the religious-liberties protections in the drafts of the measure, Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka said: "Not yet, but we'll see where it ends up."
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, one of the chief negotiators of the legislation, compared trying to bring the parties together to loading "jackrabbits on a flatbed truck," but he is optimistic they'll have a deal Tuesday.
"I think I have enough [in the bill] that everyone is going to be a little unhappy," Adams said, "and that's usually how you get consensus."
He said it is important that the bill get hearings in both the Senate and House, so the public will have an opportunity to weigh in.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, the Legislature's only openly gay member, who helped with the measure, said there was a tremendous amount of hard work on it, but "the fat lady is headed to the microphone."
"It's incredibly important in our community that we make sure that religious liberties are protected, and I think that where we're going does that and it does it very, very well," Dabakis said. "It also protects the LGBT community against discrimination. That's what we set out to do. I think that's what we do and I think it's the most exhausting thing I've ever done in my life."