What’s the big deal with the statewide nondiscrimination proposal that would add the terms “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes in Utah state code for employment and housing? Doesn’t that sound fair? Why is Sutherland Institute expending so many resources to run TV commercials that raise concerns about the proposal? The answer is simple, and the dangers are real – and you can help (see the end of the article to learn how).

This nondiscrimination proposal may seem innocent enough, but Sutherland Institute is running these commercials because such a change to state law would have serious impacts on Utahns’ First Freedoms. That is because these special rights for gays and lesbians often come at the expense of the freedoms of others, which is not fair at all.

Case in point: Just this past Friday, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries decided that a bakery in the state violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when it said it would not make a cake to help celebrate the couple’s same-sex marriage. The right of the bakery’s business owners to use their talents in accordance with their religious beliefs is trumped by the rights of the lesbian couple to compel any bakery that serves the public to bake them a cake for their wedding.

That’s just one of dozens and dozens of instances where First Freedoms such as freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the right to make a living are trumped by special rights given to the LGBT community via state law. There’s Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado, who in December was ordered by a judge to go against his religious beliefs and bake cakes for same-sex couples or face fines or even potential jail time. Then there’s Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jonathan, photographers in New Mexico who were told in August by the New Mexico Supreme Court that being forced to use their artistic talents in ways that went against their freedom of conscience and religion was not a violation of their freedom of speech but, instead, “the price of citizenship.

To further illustrate the inequity of these laws, let’s take the case of the photographers in New Mexico and slightly alter the facts. Instead of being Christian business owners, let’s say the owner is Progressive Pete, proud owner of Progressive Pete’s Photography. One day, Progressive Pete is asked by a group of gun-loving, camo-wearing, deer-crazy hunters to photograph their next deer hunt. One thing you have to know about Pete: He believes hunting is immoral. He loves animals. So he refuses to accept their business. He tells them he knows a photographer just down the street who would be happy to photograph their deer hunt for them. The hunters refuse, citing New Mexico state law, and file a complaint with the state. Progressive Pete is then fined for refusing to accommodate the hunters’ request. This, of course, is absurd. But it serves to illustrate the problems with such state laws.

All of these state laws that give higher priority to special rights for gays and lesbians have their basis in laws that give protected-class status to gays and lesbians on the basis of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” The bill defines those terms as “an individual’s internal sense of gender, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth … [and] may include individual’s self-identification, as well as the individual’s gender-related appearance, mannerisms, and other gender-related characteristics. Sexual orientation means an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.”

How does a court decide a claim of discrimination on the basis of an “internal sense” or “perceived” notions? How can an employer or landlord defend herself against what an individual is thinking about his sexuality, and what that individual thinks the landlord was thinking about the individual’s thoughts when the alleged discrimination occurred? This is just another of the many problems associated with a law based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”

This is why Sutherland and many state legislators do not agree that such a change to state code is a proper or effective way to address any real discrimination that might be occurring in the state. As a side note, of the 18 municipalities in Utah that have passed such ordinances, only three such complaints have ever been filed, and all three were dismissed as unsubstantiated. If discrimination is a real problem, we can address these issues without taking away freedoms from all Utahns to give special rights to others.

What is real, what is happening, is that residents of states that have passed such laws are actually losing their First Freedoms. For more examples, head to FairToAll.org.

In addition to running TV commercials, Sutherland is also hosting free events across the state to give supporters of religious freedom and the natural family the opportunity to gather in support of First Freedoms and to learn more about these critical issues facing our state. To stand up for this cause, you can click on one of the links below to secure your free tickets to events in St. George, Lehi (Thanksgiving Point), and Logan. The Thanksgiving Point event will also feature live entertainment from the American Heritage Lyceum Philharmonic alongside a beloved Utah musician (whose name is under wraps). Together, we can protect everyone’s First Freedoms while finding real solutions that are fair to all.

Click here for free registration to The First Freedoms Forum at Thanksgiving Point (Lehi)

Click here to register for The First Freedoms Forum at the Logan Golf and Country Club

Click here to register for The First Freedoms Forum at Entrada at Snow Canyon