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Conservative US State Approves Legal Protections for LGBT Residents

FILE - Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Feb. 5, 2015.

Governor Gary Herbert of the western U.S. state of Utah is expected to sign a bill into law Thursday that will ban discrimination against the state's gay and transgender citizens, while also protecting religious groups who are opposed to homosexuality.

The state's legislature passed the bill Wednesday by an overwhelming vote. Utah's legislature is dominated by Republican Party members.

The bill protects people from discrimination in employment and housing based on their sexual or gender identity. Religious organizations and their affiliates, including charities and colleges, are exempted from the measure. The Boy Scouts of America, which has banned gay scout leaders, is specifically exempt.

Employees who openly discuss the religious or moral beliefs in the workplace are also protected under the bill.

The measure has been called "the Utah compromise," after a long period of negotiations between the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church that dominates Utah, and gay rights advocates. The Mormon church is doctrinally opposed to homosexuality, but has softened its public tone on the subject in recent years. Its support for the bill eased its passage through the Utah legislature, as many of its members are Mormons.

Utah will become the 19th U.S. state, along with the District of Columbia, to enact legal protections for their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens.