LDS Church says it supports Rep. Chris Stewart’s alternative to the Equality Act

Critics have said the Utahn’s proposal is a setback for LGBTQ rights.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a news release Saturday maintaining its opposition to the Equality Act and endorsing Rep. Chris Stewart’s alternative bill, which he says will protect both LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.

“We stand by our statements from 2019 and reiterate the church’s support for equality and fairness,” the release states. “We could support legislation that provides protection for LGBT persons as well as people and institutions of faith. Both are possible and clearly required in a just society.”

In 2019, the Utah-based faith said it was concerned that the Equality Act, which is intended to protect LGBTQ rights at a federal level, didn’t safeguard religious freedom. The church warned the act would impose secular standards on religious activities, defund religious charities and devastate religious education.

Stewart, a Beehive State Republican, proposed an alternative, called the Fairness for All Act, which is patterned after 2015′s so-called Utah Compromise. It offered protections for the LGBTQ community while also providing safeguards for religious liberty.

Stewart said his proposal similarly would shield LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination while also allowing schools to follow religious standards without being defunded and small-business owners to refuse to participate in activities contrary to their beliefs.

Civil and gay rights groups said Stewart’s bill would roll back existing protections that prevent discrimination based on race and sex.

The Equality Act is back on the table this year. It has passed the House but is seen as unlikely to pass a divided Senate. Stewart has also reintroduced his bill.

The LDS Church reaffirmed Saturday that it backs measures that protect LGBT people as well as religious individuals and institutions.

“The church supports legislation, like that introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart, that accomplishes both of these critical requirements,” it said, “and is confident that a balanced, fair, and unifying approach can be achieved.”