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Boy Scouts Exempt From Utah Bill to Protect Gays From Discrimination

New legislation in Utah would protect LGBT people from discrimination at work and in housing, but would allow an exemption for the Boy Scouts.
Image: Members of the Boys Scouts of America march in a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City, Utah
Members of the Boys Scouts of America march in a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 2, 2013. JIM URQUHART / Reuters file

A bill introduced in the Utah Senate on Wednesday would protect gays and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace and housing — but would provide exemptions for religious groups and a youth organization popular in the state that bans gay adults: the Boy Scouts of America.

The biggest membership support for the Boy Scouts of America comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2013, 437,000 Mormon youth participated in the Boy Scouts – more than any other religious or civic group, according to BSA data.

The Senate bill excludes the “Boy Scouts of America or its councils, chapters or subsidiaries” from the definition of an employer.

When asked about the legislation and if the BSA had a role in it, the organization's national spokesman Deron Smith said: “We don’t have anything to add at this time. Our focus remains on providing the foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training to young people in Utah.”

Scout Executive Rick Barnes, head of the Great Salt Lake Council, told NBC News by email: “We have not been involved with the crafting of this bill” and didn’t reply to further questions.

Gay rights groups in Utah have applauded the overall legislation, which The Salt Lake Tribune said would be the first in the state to provide such protections for LGBT people and only came together after long negotiations. Attorneys from the LDS church participated in the drafting of the legislation, the newspaper reported.

Still, the LDS church has in recent months excommunicated members who have spoken out in favor of gay rights.

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