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Anti-discrimination bill on hold in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - Anti discrimination and freedom of religion bills are on hold in Utah, but that doesn't mean the debate has ended. In fact it's heating up.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - Anti discrimination and freedom of religion bills are on hold in Utah, but that doesn't mean the debate has ended. In fact it's heating up.

The attorney general called for the moratorium on the anti-discrimination bill uncertain of what message it might send as the same-sex marriage case works through the courts.

One state senator says it is dirty politics and is calling out what he says is a conflict of interest with the attorney leading Utah’s case.

An anti-discrimination bill offering the LGBT community protection in the work place and in housing seemed to have momentum going into the legislative session.

"The LDS Church came out clearly, strongly for nondiscrimination in Salt Lake City, the Chamber of Commerce is for nondiscrimination, 73% of the state is for nondiscrimination," said Senator Jim Dabakis (D).

The bill has gone silent within the walls of the capitol and Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis says the logic of waiting on the same sex case in the courts is just an excuse.

"As a way to weasel out of dealing with it what the legislature did is say it's the same as gay marriage, so we're not going to talk about either of them."

Dabakis says it's the far right that is controlling the conversation and he says a relationship between the lead attorney on Utah’s same sex marriage case, Gene Schaerr and the Sutherland Institute, which is lobbying against the anti-discrimination bill, is a conflict of interest.

"At the same time he came here to work for the state of Utah with one hat, went to the Sutherland Institute and put on another hat and they promised him some financial renumeration in the future."

Sutherland Institute President, Paul Mero has a different explanation and says there is no conflict.

"We have a formal agreement for him to become a fellow after the case is finished, after the last brief is filed. At that point there would be a relationship."

Mero says his organization had nothing to do with encouraging the moratorium. He says it's just the opposite, they want the anti-discrimination bill to be heard, because it would open the door to other bills intended to counter it.

"We want religious freedom bill heard this session at the legislature and unfortunately the moratorium that killed Senator Urquhart's anti discrimination bill also killed Sutherland supported religious bills."

The session is far from over and it is possible this bill could still be heard.
Governor Herbert says he's open to the discussion. He supports anti-discrimination ordinances in place in 18 municipalities across the state, but questions the need for a state wide law.

The attorney general did not return calls for comment.
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