Mormon Church Leaders Pledge Support for LGBT Community, with Religious Freedom Caveat
During a press conference last week at the Mormon Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, leaders pledged their support for anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community, as long as the laws also protect the rights of religious groups.
“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,” Elder Dallin Oaks said. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”
Catholic bishops and Southern Baptists have also recently complained about religious groups being attacked, like when a Mormon gymnast was pressured to step down as an Olympic liaison in 2011 because of her support on California’s Prop 8, which banned gay marriage in 2008, Oaks said.
“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,” Oaks said.
However, though they vow to not discriminate against the LGBT community, the Mormon Church doesn’t change their opposition to gay marriage.
“But we are suggesting a way forward in which those with different views on these complex issues can together seek solutions that will be fair to everyone,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, said.
According to a survey conducted in 2012 by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, two-thirds of Mormons think homosexuality should be discouraged by society. The Church’s policy is that while same-sex attraction is not a sin, acting on it is.
Openly gay state senator of Utah, Jim Dabakis, said “Amen” to the Church’s “historic announcement.”
“I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination” Dabakis said. “Now, let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work and pass a statewide nondiscrimination bill.”
According to Oaks, though, the announcement is not a national nondiscrimination campaign, but an attempt to keep gay rights and religious liberty on the same level.
Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said that as a public policy, the Church’s announcement is “deeply flawed” because doctors, landlords and business owners could still discriminate as long as they cited a religious reason.
The Mormon Church and its 6.5 million members is one of the largest in the country that offers support of LGBT anti-discrimination laws, just behind the United Methodist Church. Both the two largest Christian denominations, the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention have opposed ENDA (Employee Non-Discrimination Act). None of the groups condone same-sex marriage.