Mormon LGBT rights support angers gays and conservatives
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 1/30/15, 02:30 pm
Mormon leaders announced support for laws designed to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination while also pressing the importance of religious liberty in a press conference Tuesday.
Their position, which attempted to strike a balance between gay rights and religious freedom, elicited both support and criticism from every angle.
Four leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including three elders from the governing Twelve Apostles, appeared at the rare press event. They expressed concern about “increasing tensions and polarization” between religious freedom advocates and advocates of gay rights, saying their position should “affirm rights for some without taking away the rights of others.”
The announcement, calling for protection for gay and lesbian individuals against housing and employment discrimination, encouraged supporters of anti-discrimination measures that have stalled for years in Utah’s legislature.
“What the LDS church did today was historic,” said Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis, who is openly gay and was raised Mormon. “This was a bold, strong, principled statement. … Today we are seeing the fruits of civility and respect.”
But the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest gay advocacy group, called the church’s endorsement “deeply flawed.” HRC released a statement criticizing the Mormon position because it claims doctors, pharmacists, and business operators would still be allowed to refuse to serve LGBT individuals because of religious convictions.
The Mormon leaders said clearly that church doctrine had not changed: sex outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is against the laws of God. Institutions and individuals should still be allowed to live according to that belief, they said.
“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,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing, or public services because of race or gender.”
But the elders also said God is loving and merciful, and their public support for LGBT rights affirms the fact that God’s “heart reaches out to all of His children equally and He expects us to treat each other with love and fairness,” said Sister Neill Marriott, a female leader in the Mormon church.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the Mormon position“well-intentioned, but naïve.” Moore said the announcement has garnered hostility from gay rights organizations and disappointment from social conservatives, as he expected: “I do not think, in most instances, sexual orientation ought to matter in housing or employment, but of course the proposals to address these concerns inevitably lead to targeted assaults on religious liberty.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.