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Utah Congressman’s Bill Includes Anti-Discrimination Protections For LGBTQ Individuals And Additional Religious Freedom Exemptions

Rep. Chris Stewart at the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Chris Stewart at the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Pool/Getty Images

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As Democrats champion anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community and Republicans counter with worries about safeguarding religious freedom, one congressional Republican offered a proposal on Friday that aims to achieve both goals.

The bill that Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart plans to unveil would shield LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other public services — while also carving out exemptions for religious organizations to act based on beliefs that may exclude those of different sexual orientations or gender identities. Stewart’s bill counts support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but it has yet to win a backer among House Democrats who unanimously supported a more expansive LGBTQ rights measure in May. 

Among other faith-based exemptions to anti-discrimination protections in the bill is an allowance for religious groups such as churches and schools to employ those who align with their internal guidelines, according to a summary provided in advance of its release. The bill also would prohibit religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage from having their tax-exempt status revoked. Despite that resistance from some on the right, Stewart’s bill sparked sharp criticism from progressives who decry its exemptions as large enough to enable ongoing mistreatment of LGBTQ individuals.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll take a closer look at what kinds of protections and exemptions are outlines in the bill, its chances in the legislature and what, if any, legal challenges could be coming in the future.

With files from the Associated Press


Elana Schor, national reporter for the Associated Press covering religion and politics; she tweets @eschor

Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor of law at the University of Illinois where she specializes in religion and family law

Sunu Chandy, legal director for the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. providing advocacy and legal counsel on a number of issues including gender equality and LGBTQ rights; she tweets @SunuChandy