Reports that attorneys for the LDS Church are meeting with representatives of Utah's gay and lesbian community raise the welcome possibility that the church will put its weight behind a proposed statewide ban on housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Without that support, any such legislation would almost certainly be thrown into the same recycling bin that, year after year, provides raw material for reconstituted bills that, year after year, get tossed by the Legislature's Republican majority.
Nevertheless, there is ample reason to hope that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will sign off on legislation that mirrors Salt Lake City's anti-discrimination ordinance that the church endorsed in 2009, and that 16 other Utah cities and counties have, in large part, duplicated in ordinance or policy.
Given the Legislature's antipathy toward the LGBT community, only the LDS Church's imprimatur could wring approval of a statewide ban from a body that is around 90 percent Mormon.
The faith's closely watched involvement comes with a context that underscores for Mormons and everyone else the absolute distinction the church draws between same-sex marriage and legislating basic fairness on behalf of the gay and lesbian community. For the church, gay marriage poses a threat to the heterosexual family unit that is basic to Mormon theology. Though the faith is just one of many that draw an indelible line separating them from acceptance of same-sex marriage, none has matched its vigor in reinforcing that line.
In 2008, the LDS Church fielded a superbly organized army of volunteers backed by $20 million in member donations that proved pivotal to passage of California's anti-gay marriage ballot proposition and constitutional amendment. The Utah church was widely vilified as homophobic and condemned for its heavy meddling in a California issue.
While continuing to defend Prop 8 in a case pending before the Supreme Court, the church has reached out to gay and lesbian Mormons in significant ways: acknowledging a biological basis for same-sex attraction and extending full fellowship to any gay member endeavoring to live a single, celibate life.
Whatever the context, the church's support of local anti-discrimination ordinances has benefited many Utahns. But its support for a statewide ban would benefit all Utahns, gay and straight alike.