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LDS and LGBT rights

LDS and LGBT rights

A “rare” press conference was offered today by the leaders of the Mormon church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. CNN reports,

Mormon leaders pledged to support anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as long the laws also protect the rights of religious groups.

In exchange, the Mormon church wants gay rights advocates — and the government — to back off.

The Daily Beast characterizes the church’s press release as “a landmark move… changing its posture towards gays.”

The church has decided to support anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians in the realm of housing and employment. The church also announced that it it comes with the condition that no one can be forced to perform actions if he or she has religious objections. One example, a doctor who refuses to artificially inseminate a lesbian couple. Utah is facing two bills that protections for each group. Political watchers in the state have noted that both measures would be likely to pass if the LDS Church got behind it.

On its own website, the church reports that,

Elder Oaks said: “Because we are frequently asked for our position on these matters, the Church asserts the following principles based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and on fairness for all, including people of faith:

  • We claim for everyone the God-given and Constitutional right to live their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience, without harming the health or safety of others.
  • We acknowledge that the same freedom of conscience must apply to men and women everywhere to follow the religious faith of their choice, or none at all if they so choose.
  • We believe laws ought to be framed to achieve a balance in protecting the freedoms of all people while respecting those with differing values.
  • We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation.”

Church leaders said that both sides of the debate over religious freedom and nondiscrimination should treat each other with respect.

Leaders also confirmed that church policy on marriage equality has in no way changed.

Sister Marriott said during the press conference that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that sexual relations other than between a man and a woman who are married are contrary to the laws of God. “This commandment and doctrine comes from sacred scripture and we are not at liberty to change it,” she said. “But, God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all of His children equally and He expects us to treat each other with love and fairness.”

CNN reports that after the press conference,

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and a Mormon, said he will work to “ensure that legislation designed to promote greater equality includes robust religious exemptions and nonretaliation provisions.”

Read the Daily Beast story here, the CNN report here, and find the LDS website here.

Posted by Rosalind Hughes


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David Redden

Obviously the LDS church’s current stance (don’t discriminate unless it’s your religious conviction) has a number of problems that have already been pointed out, but I thought I’d share an experience.
Back in I think the latter half of 2013, one of the hot topics was a Colorado bakery that refused to bake a cake for the celebration of a gay wedding. The question was whether the bakery owner’s religious convictions should trump Colorado state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
At the time, I was a Mormon teaching the adult Sunday School class at an LDS church. We were studying some writings from early LDS Church leaders when I came across this in the materials: “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others.” That’s from a book called Doctrine & Covenants, which the LDS Church regards as scripture and sells bound together with the Bible and Book of Mormon.
After reviewing the quote with the class, I posed this hypothetical: A Mormon woman goes to a flower shop, and in the process of placing a large order, discloses that it is for a Mormon celebration, and invites the flower-shop owner to join in the festivities. The flower shop owner politely declines the invitation, and then also politely declines the large order, stating that her firmly held religious beliefs forbid her from providing services that would in any way further the Mormon church.
I asked the class whether the flower shop owner’s religious opinions had prompted her to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. The answer was a resounding yes. I pushed them to articulate a counter-argument—it doesn’t have to be a good one, you don’t have to believe it or think it’s right, just make a counter-argument, however lame, that no rights or liberties had been infringed upon. Crickets.
I contemplated asking them two more question: 1) whether it would be different if the person was refused services for being gay or because the flowers were for a gay wedding, and 2) if so, why it was different. But I didn’t go there; it wasn’t the right forum.
I am still curious though. While Mormon leadership has apparently provided its answer to the first question, I’m still scratching my head regarding the second. To me, it seems like immutable characteristics such as sexual orientation, which has no demonstrably harmful effect on society, should be afforded greater protection than mutable characteristics such as religion. How do I know religion is mutable? Well, a few reasons. For example, the Mormon church’s own practices have changed (see, e.g., polygamy no longer permissible, people of African heritage now allowed in the Mormon priesthood). Also, I’m now Episcopalian.

Paul Woodrum

I guess half a loaf is half a loaf, except when it isn’t.

Selecia Young-Jones

I was thrilled when I got the CNN blast on my phone and now that I have had a chance to read this…So glad that I will be seeing The Book of Mormon on Wednesday, where this religion belongs, on stage in a comedy.

I will treat you as an equal if you don’t cause a ruckus…those uppity gays…sound familiar?

JC Fisher

“One example, a doctor who refuses to artificially inseminate an [interracial] couple.”

How does it look that way?

Discrimination is always wrong. Period. No deal, LDS.

Nick Porter

I believe this is a fair and reasonable request that would allow everyone to live and let live.

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