After decades of rejection, in a surprisingly progressive move announced on Tuesday at its headquarters in Salt Lake City, the Mormon church backed LGBT rights — but with the condition that their religious freedom be protected. It's an interesting effort on the Mormon church's part to safeguard both LGBT rights and religious freedom.
Mormon leaders said at the press conference Tuesday that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would support legislation that gave protections to the LGBT community in housing, employment and other policy areas, so long as said legislation protects religious freedom as well. The issue at hand is an attempt to address the church's relevance in a nation seeing the growing acceptance of the gay community and same-sex marriage, but at the same time protecting the competing interest of its congregants' ability to practice their religious convictions.
Present at the news conference were some of the church's most powerful leaders — Elders Dallin H. Oaks, Jeffrey R. Holland and D. Todd Christofferson, members of the leadership group The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Church’s Young Women general presidency, reported TIME. Marriott told reporters:
This nation is engaged in a great debate about marriage, family, individual conscience and collective rights and the place of religious freedom in our society. The debate we speak of today is about how to affirm rights for some without taking away from the rights of others.
The Mormon Church preaches that sexual relations, besides that between a lawfully wedded man and woman, are contrary to the laws of God, thereby opposing same-sex marriage, and Tuesday's announcement does not alter the church's doctrine, said Oaks during the press conference.
But while fighting the legalization of gay marriage, the church has strived to distance itself from an "anti-gay" label. Particularly stung by the backlash for its covert support for California's Proposition 8, the church also, in a seemingly counteractive move, endorsed the boy scout's plan to admit openly gay youths, while over the years encouraging Mormons to be more accepting and compassionate to the LGBT community.
While in line with the church's increasingly relaxed attitude toward the gay community, its support for LGBT rights also lends its argument for religious freedom more weight. Oaks told reporters on Tuesday:
When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser.
Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender... It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals.
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