Utah group drafting gay-rights bills | AspenTimes.com

Utah group drafting gay-rights bills

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

SALT LAKE CITY ” An advocacy group is asking the Mormon church to support several bills that will be submitted to the Legislature supporting rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Equality Utah said Monday it will help draft five bills for the 2009 session, which starts in January. Three of the bills seek equal treatment for domestic partners on hospitalization, medical care, housing, employment and probate rights.

A fourth bill would create a domestic partner registry and a fifth would repeal the second part of Utah’s marriage-defining constitutional amendment, which Equality Utah Public Policy Manager Will Carlson said has been “misinterpreted to avoid any recognition of gay couples.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported Proposition 8 in California to ban gay marriage there. But Equality Utah said that during the campaign to pass the constitutional amendment, the church said it didn’t object to some rights for same-sex couples.

“Just last week, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose ‘civil union or domestic partnerships,'” said Equality Utah Chairwoman Stephanie Pappas. “We are taking the LDS Church at its word.”

In a statement released following the approval of Proposition 8 in California, officials of the church said they do “not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.”

A church spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it would have no comment.

Previous attempts at passing similar bills have failed in the Legislature.

Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said the church’s statement changes everything.

“They hadn’t said any of that yet. They’ve said that now,” said McCoy, the only openly gay member of the Senate. “This is an invitation to make a reality of what’s been said by the church. … (The church) has said some things that are very encouraging to us, and we’re here to say, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can’t move forward and get to a place where we are in a more fair and just Utah, outside of the marriage discussion.'”

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said that if the Mormon Church clarified its statements regarding same-sex rights, lawmakers might be less reluctant to agree to make changes.

“Equality Utah is probably correct in interpreting those statements from the church,” he said. “It would probably make it an easier argument than it would be without that.”

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