Fairness for All in a Post-Obergefell World

The Utah Compromise Model

In November of 2004, Utah added thirty-four words to its Constitution affirming that the State’s legal position on marriage would exclusively recognize the union of a man and a woman, and the legislature believed we had protected and bullet-proofed traditional marriage. Then, the Tenth Circuit held the state constitutional provision inconsistent with the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With bills protecting religious liberty moving through the state legislature concurrently with bills providing antidiscrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations to the LGBT community, Utah was headed for a train wreck.

The Utah Compromise, as embodied in Senate Bills 296 and 297, solved this seemingly irreconcilable conflict. The Compromise married antidiscrimination provisions for LGBT communities with protections for religious liberty, and through the legislature’s balancing of competing interests, crafted a solution that satisfies all stakeholders in a respectful and balanced measure. The lessons learned in the formation of the Utah Compromise are valuable going forward, and provide a template for other states looking to provide LGBT antidiscrimination protections while respecting religious liberty. This is the best way forward.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.