Utah is one step closer to a state Fair Housing Act, but only after inserting language Thursday to mollify concerns by Brigham Young University that the new state law would prohibit segregated housing by sex.
"The intent is to allow them the same benefit they enjoy under federal law," said House Minority Whip Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, "and to allow the same privilege to other institutions of higher education if they so choose."Lawmakers passed a Fair Housing Act two years ago, but the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development ruled it was incompatible with federal law.
But in drafting a new bill, lawmakers neglected to insert language allowing religious institutions, like BYU, to dictate whether off-campus housing, owned by private landlords contracting with the school, can be segregated by sex. That separation grows out of the school's honor code mandating moral and modest behavior.
BYU currently enjoys such privileges under a 1978 agreement with the federal government.
The language included states segregated housing can exist "for reasons of personal modesty or privacy, or in the furtherance of a religious institution's free exercise of religious rights under the First Amendment."
A House committee passed the bill out favorably for consideration by the full House.