Why does Washington Post label one religious freedom law 'controversial' and another 'historic?'

In the media storm over a religious freedom law passed in Indiana, the Washington Post repeatedly used the term "controversial" to describe the measure (examples here, here and here).

However, the Post prefers other words to characterize a gay rights bill passed in Utah, including "landmark" and "historic."

In a story this week, the Post goes behind the scenes of the legislative compromise in Mormon-dominated Utah:

The lede:

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s historic compromise aiming to balance gay and religious rights had yet to be unveiled, but on that fateful night last month, it was already unraveling.
A handful of legislators and other negotiators were seated around a squat wooden table in the blue-and-gold Senate lounge, struggling to resolve the remaining — and seemingly irreconcilable — differences between gay rights activists and the influential Mormon Church. Tempers were flaring.
“The tornado and hurricane and typhoon arrived in that room that night and the wind was blowing, and the tree of our whole effort was down at 45 degrees,” recalled Sen. Jim Dabakis (D), the state’s only openly gay legislator.
But the two sides, drawing on an unlikely trust nurtured during years of quiet rapprochement, were able that night to reach a breakthrough.
Within days, they sent a bill to the state legislature — and a message to a politically riven nation that compromise was possible, even on one of the most divisive social issues, even in one of its most conservative states.

That's quite a dramatic opening.

Keep reading, and the newspaper explains:

In the end, the negotiators in the Senate lounge had recognized that their differences were limited. The church wanted the Boy Scouts treated like religious organizations and exempted from the bill’s employment regulations. It was a compromise on which all could agree.

The rest of the story is part history lesson explaining how far the Mormon Church has come on gay rights and part cheerleading contest to see how positively the Post can portray the compromise.

But from a journalistic perspective, here's what missing: any real meat to explain how this legislation is different — and from the Post's perspective, better — than the Indiana law that caused such a firestorm.

How exactly does the Utah law protect religious freedom, along with gay rights? The Post provides scant details.

What do national advocates for religious freedom say about the Utah law? Do they support the legislation as written? Or do they have concerns? The Post doesn't answer such questions.

In fact, a previous Post story indicates that the Utah law fails to address one of the key questions making headlines elsewhere:

The bill, which has been called the “Utah compromise,” aims to protect people in the LGBT community from employment and housing decisions based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, while still shielding religious institutions that stand against homosexuality. It does not deal with the more controversial question, however, about whether a business can deny services because of religious convictions, such as a wedding photographer who objects to shooting a same-sex wedding.

This is one of those stories where less puffery and more reporting by the Post would contribute mightily to the national dialogue.

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