2015 Bills

SB296: Anti-Discrimination and Religious Liberty, Violating Property Rights

This bill passed the Senate 23-5 and passed the House 65-10. It was subsequently signed into law by Governor Herbert.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Following negotiations between legislators, LDS Church leaders, and LGBT activists, new legislation has been introduced to purportedly “balance” competing interests and craft a bill that will allow all sides to allegedly get a little of what they want. Senate Bill 296, sponsored by Senator Steve Urquhart, offers a consensus bill that is nevertheless fundamentally violative of property rights and the freedom of association.

Conservatives have unwisely framed their opposition to “gay rights” on religious grounds, but religious liberty is merely a subset of the right to own and control property, and the right to associate—or disassociate—with people of one’s own choosing. Religious liberty would not exist were it not for this foundation. This bill aims to prohibit landlords and employers from discriminating against a person due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is defined as being provable through “medical history, care or treatment of the gender identity,” or “other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity, and not being asserted for an improper purpose.”

SB296 is further problematic in that it offers institutional protections, rather than individual protections. Employers are burdened under this proposed law, but exemptions are offered to religious organizations including the LDS Church, religious leaders acting in their official capacity, or any organization connected to a religious organization, such as a privately owned university or dormitory property. The Boy Scouts of America is also exempted by name.

Institutions do not have rights—individuals do. The proper role of government is to protect the rights of the people who comprise that government, and not to ignore them while focusing on providing organizational perks to which the individuals themselves are not entitled.

While we recognize that significant effort has been put into this compromise bill, it is nevertheless in direct conflict with the principles of liberty; special interest and religious concerns are not a sufficient basis to infringe upon these core foundations of freedom.

  • Arik87

    Got to love how, during public testimony, they did 3 people who got a ton of time who were in favor of the bill, while those who were against it literally got cut off after a minute or less. 

    Sad. It’s not about discrimination. It’s about property rights. 

    No, you don’t have a right to make other people act in a way that is beneficial to you. If yo want that right, sign a contract. 

    But a right to make other people protect you is not inherent. That’s a positive right, and truly a non-right. 

    The only rights that are truly rights, and therefore truly equal for all, are negative rights – rights which one can exercise without imposing upon others a specific way to act or think. 

    It’s shameful.

  • JimL

    What about the “rights to housing and work” of heterosexual unmarried couples who want to “shack up,” they are left out of this framework. And BYU is not about to start practicing what they preach, sadly.

  • Joseph Sorensen

    In what sense is this bill “violative of property rights”?

    Isn’t it just as accurate to argue that it is restorative of property rights?  Weren’t the property rights of each person included in one of the classes protected by anti-discrimination FIRST violated by way of taxation?

    Business and property owners, and every American citizen, first violated property rights by utilizing tax funded infrastructure to facilitate our businesses and property access.  

    Isn’t SB 296 just furthering the RESTORATION of property rights by guaranteeing the benefit of those tax facilitated businesses and properties back to the LGBT individuals?

  • Joseph Sorensen

    On a less rhetorical note:
    This is one of those inevitable incongruencies caused by democratic forms of government.  As so often happens, an ISSUE has taken precedence over a FORM.
    It has been stated elsewhere on this site that there is an objection to anti-discrimination legislation in general, and that in this instance the objection is to any expansion of the definition or of those to whom the definition applies.  This FORM oriented position, already violated by existing anti-discrimination code, now comes face to face with the ISSUE of fairness.
    Employers and property owners are currently prohibited from denying me employment or housing based on the fact that I BELIEVE in a prophet who claims to have spoken with God and angels, and who who used seer-stones to write prophecies that inform my worldview.  However they are not prohibited from denying employment our housing to someone who BELIEVES that there is a contradiction between their own eternal identity and the genetic constitution they received at birth.
    Some might say that the concern is not one of belief but of PRACTICE, that it’s not with orientation or identity but with the practices that those imply.  Even then, an employer or property owner is currently prohibited from denying me employment or housing based on my PRACTICE of kneeling down at night and speaking to someone I can’t see, or my PRACTICE of making decisions based on direction by a Holy Ghost who is my constant companion.  This practice has led me to leave several different jobs, and to opt out of housing situations earlier than I had initially discussed with either concerned party.  My PRACTICE of listening to a Holy Ghost might make me more suspect and less reliable to an employer or property owner, but they cannot deny me.
    All I’m trying to say, is that we are involved in the nebulous debate of an ISSUE, fairness, and all we can do is go around and around in circles.  We have adopted a FORM, anti-discrimination legislation, that condemns us to stepping on each others toes. This bill has been reduced to a “Message Bill”–listening to the press conference and committee hearing make this painfully evident–meant as an apology for all the smashed toes and hurt feelings.
    The more broad FORM that we embrace, democracy, is built on the notion of protected classes, the most obvious being the majority class, whatever its construction.  The US founders tried to balance this by mixing forms of government so that minority classes would also be protected, but this just further entrenched the notion of class protection.  As we all agree, property protection is the only legitimate function of government; and it is therefore evident that insofar as we are operating on the notion of majority rule–class protection–no matter how many minority protections we introduce, we do not have a legitimately functioning government.
    All of our actions toward one another in the governmental sphere are illegitimate.  The best they can be is kind.
    As I have mentioned in response to a previous blog on this site, we lost the high ground, the prerogative to discriminate the second we levied taxes on one another.  Every one of us has been taxed by the majority class, has been the victim of initiated force, and so every one of us deserves as much recompense in the way of minority class protection, that we can possibly scrape out.  Our flawed FORM has collided with the ISSUE of fairness, and has thereby brought us into conflict with an even higher FORM–JUSTICE.
    I don’t disagree with Libertas’s position or efforts; at least Libertas is focusing on FORMS.  We are just trapped by an over-arching form that makes the whole thing really discouraging.  I applaud Libertas for starting somewhere.
    The core concern certainly is property rights.  The challenge is that we have all violated each others property rights and now we are left to try to sort it all out and restore justice.  There is no easy answer.

  • aredesuyo

    “for the praise of the world.”

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