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Gay Protections Pass in Utah County

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With an 8-0 vote, the Salt Lake County council Tuesday gave preliminary approval to legislation that would protect individuals from being fired or being turned away from housing on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"It seems to be noncontroversial," said Democratic council chairman Joe Hatch (pictured) on the expedited vote, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

While receiving bipartisan support in the council, the ordinances did draw criticism from the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based conservative think tank. The new ordinances make exceptions for religious institutions, small businesses, and landlords with few units, but the group also wants exceptions for religious individuals who object to hiring or housing someone because of a person's sexual orientation.

"If a gay employee or gay tenant can unilaterally invoke the protections of these ordinances, unconditionally, isn't it only fair and reasonable that a person of faith should be allowed to unilaterally invoke the same laws' protections, unconditionally, just as that person's church is allowed to do?" said Sutherland president Paul Mero in a press release on the group's website.

The ordinances will apply to approximately 170,000 people. After Tuesday's vote, the county council must formally approve the measures in January before they can become law.

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