Mormon Church Backs Utah Gay Rights Bill

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Salt Lake City, Utah passed legislation Tuesday banning discrimination against gays with an historic endorsement from the Mormon Church.

It marked the first time the Utah-based church has publicly supported gay rights legislation, despite its steadfast opposition to gay marriage. The church played a key role in California's recent Prop 8 ballot measure.

Passage of the Salt Lake ordinances make it illegal to fire someone from their job or evict someone from their residence, because they are lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.

"The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage," Michael Otterson, the director of public affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

"What happened here tonight I do believe is a historic event," Brandie Balken, director of Equality Utah, which works on gay rights legislation.

But Otterson said the endorsement was not a shift in the church's position on gay rights, and he stressed it "remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman."

Last year, the Mormon Church issued a statement saying it supports gay rights related to hospitalization, medical care, housing or probate as long as they "do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches."

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