This year, for the first time, we raised a rainbow flag at our home in honor of Pride Month. It prompted good discussions with my older kids about what the flag stands for and why we are displaying it. These talks were helpful both in trying to teach my kids to practice inclusiveness and as a reminder that we respect the dignity of all people.
As an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my faith has led me to support the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The Equality Act would do just that.
Two of the regularly repeated tenets of the church are “we are the children of God” and “all are alike unto God.” These two aspects of the gospel are deeply intertwined. We are all part of a heavenly family and our Heavenly Parents love each of us equally.
Our Church’s President Russell M. Nelson, who I consider to be a prophet, stated clearly that “We truly believe that we are brothers and sisters - all part of the same divine family.” As such, I believe that it is our duty to make sure that all of our brothers and sisters are able to enjoy the same privileges and blessings that we enjoy.
This is the reason I spent two scorching years in northeastern Brazil teaching people of Christ, and it is the reason I entered public service. I want to make sure that all of my brothers and sisters can live in our great country and enjoy all of its wonderful amenities and experiences free from discrimination and prejudice regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion and, yes, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Equality Act codifies these beliefs by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that businesses that are open to the public treat all people equally and fairly. As a member of the church and someone with pioneer heritage, I am painfully aware of what the early members of the church went through. Expulsion, bigotry, hatred and the worst kind of violence were regular occurrences for members in the early years of the church.
I believe no one should ever endure that kind of exclusion, just because of who they are, how they pray, or who they love. Our common humanity calls us to be more inclusive; for me, it is also an act of faith. I believe it is what my Heavenly Parents would do and want me to do.
Unfortunately, not all people share the belief that all people should be able to enjoy and share the same freedoms. Because of this, our state of Utah recognized that we needed to put into law protections for vulnerable individuals who were experiencing regular discrimination and passed SB 296 in the 2015 legislative session, which was supported by the church. This bill’s language expertly shows that legislation can protect religious freedoms alongside other nondiscrimination protections.
I believe that the Equality Act builds upon these same protections for all. It updates federal law to include explicit protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in employment, housing, education and public spaces. It would also expand religious protections to a broader array of businesses and services, thus better guaranteeing our religious freedom.
This is something that I strongly believe because I want to ensure that all people have the privilege of worshiping “how, where, or what they may.” And while I wish that this did not have to be legislated, I also recognize that members of the Church believe in “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” and that these protections will extend to all of us.
King Benjamin, in what I regard as the perfect sermon on being Christlike, taught that it is our responsibility to teach our children to “love one another, and to serve one another.” The Equality Act at its core conveys that same teaching. And it is what I teach my children when explaining why we now fly a rainbow flag to honor Pride Month.
Andrew Stoddard, Midvale, was born and raised in Utah, is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a husband, father to four boys and a state representative from House District 44.