Conscience and Equality

Utah lawmakers pass bill to protect gay rights and safeguard religious conscience

After years of disagreement about the rights of states, communities and the federal government to define marriage, two state legislatures have proposed different means to reconcile the conflicting interests of gay rights groups and proponents of religious liberty. In Oklahoma, H.B. 1125, which was referred to the state Senate on March 16, would create a system whereby the state of Oklahoma no longer issues marriage licenses but simply records the marriage. All marriages in the state would be considered valid to be recorded as long as they are “contracted by a formal ceremony performed or solemnized in the presence of at least two adult, competent persons as witnesses, by an ordained or authorized preacher or minister of the Gospel, priest or other ecclesiastical dignitary.” In Utah, lawmakers passed S.B. 296, which prohibits employment and housing discrimination based on “sexual orientation or gender identity,” and a companion bill, S.B. 297, which protects religious exemptions for clergy and religious organizations that are morally opposed to same-sex marriage.

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