Senate Wants to Take a "Wait and See" Approach on Hearing LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill | Buzz Blog
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Senate Wants to Take a "Wait and See" Approach on Hearing LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

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A bill sponsored in January by Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George to offer nondiscrimination protections in housing and the workforce for LGBT Utahns was shelved from discussion. The concern presented at the time was that there was reactionary deluge of bills related to same-sex marriage being filed and also that testimony on the bills might be used against the state in it's legal battle to bar same-sex marriage.

Now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear any pending same-sex marriage cases, making the practice legal in Utah and other states, the question remains whether the Legislature will hear bills related to same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and religious liberties in the 2015 session.

While Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper who is vying to become the next speaker of the House believes that the Legislature will hear and debate these bills, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy says it's too soon to tell if the bills will be heard.

Urquhart's Senate Bill 100 made progress in the 2013 session when it passed favorably out of committee for the first time since the bill was first proposed in 2008. But it was shelved for the 2014 session despite Urquhart's protests that the bill was unrelated to same-sex marriage and deserved to be discussed and debated.

The failure of the Legislature to hear the bill even prompted protesters to block the entrance of a meeting room in a peaceful protest only to be arrested and later charged with “disrupting the legislative process.”

The nondiscrimination bill was not the only one shelved in the 2014 session, other bills dealing with religious liberties were also held back from being heard.

Draper Republican Hughes, however, said on a Salt Lake Tribune TribTalk interview that the moratorium on these bills was over in light of the Supreme Court's actions, or lack thereof.

“I think these issues will come up, I think you'll hear them in committee and I think there will be a robust debate,” Hughes said.

But in an interview with City Weekly Senate President Niederhauser, however, says it's too soon to tell whether or not the moratorium will be lifted.

He says that more than anything else the decision to hold on the non-discrimination bill and other bills was meant to make better policy by not having legislative meetings jammed with a high volume of reactionary bills. He says he's not sure yet if a similar deluge of will happen in the coming session.

He cites the 2013 session as an example of the kind of session that can be hurt by a legislative log jam—in that year relating to numerous gun bills being filed.

“It was an emotional time with gun issues because of the shooting in Connecticut and people feeling threatened that we were going to take their guns away,” Niederhauser says. The result was too many bills with some being “over the top,” and without enough time to hear, debate and craft good legislation.

Niederhauser says he and his colleagues will have to wait until the session draws nearer to decide if they will hear LGBT-related bills as well as religious liberties bills crafted in response to the same-sex marriage decision. Ultimately he says its about not legislating in the heat of the moment.

“We make better policies when emotions are subdued,” Niederhauser says.

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