The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently come out in favor of same-sex marriage, despite church policy supporting only marriages between men and women.
The recent statement on Tuesday was likely the clearest expression of support for same-sex marriage from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to this date, marking a significant reversal from decades of attacks on the rights of the LGBTQ community in the US.
According to the church, the Respect for Marriage Act is “the way forward,” according to which interracial and same-sex weddings would remain recognized nationwide as long as they were legal in the state where they are celebrated.
An addendum to the measure defending religious freedom was made public by a bipartisan group of senators on Monday. It confirmed that religious institutions must be able to refuse “services, facilities, or merchandise” for LGBTQ weddings if they choose.
After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, it was speculated that reversing Obergefell, the 2015 ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage, is next on the chopping board. The Respect for Marriage Act was drafted in direct response to that danger.
The church further said in a news statement that its beliefs regarding marriage between a man and a woman are “well known” and “shall remain unchanged.”
“We are appreciative of those who continue to work to make sure the Respect for Marriage Act has sufficient protections for religious freedom while abiding by the law and upholding the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” the statement read further.
The church’s comments follow the addition of an amendment by the act’s sponsors to the House-passed legislation that forbids religious institutions, including faith-based universities, from offering “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” The act also could not be used to change any organization’s tax-exempt status.
According to the church announcement, the proposed act is the best course of action and can help mend ties and develop a greater understanding to protect the ideals and freedom of religious practices along with the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Fourteen years ago, in an effort to block same-sex marriage, the church rallied its supporters and donated heavily to Proposition 8 in California. Seven years later, the Supreme Court decided to make LGBTQ unions legal. Since then, it seems that Latter-day Saint leaders have changed their discourse to focus on protecting religious freedom rather than opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
For instance, the church rejected the Equality Act in 2019 on the grounds that it lacked any such protections. Instead, it endorsed the Fairness for All Act, which strengthens protections for religion.
While some conservatives are preparing to resurrect this struggle, the decision by Latter-day Saints to accept the Democratic-backed law signals a profound breach with other elements of the religious right.
This apparent change is consistent with earlier instances of development and adjustment in the teachings of the leaders of the Latter-day Saints in reaction to shifting societal standards.
The Church’s recent proclamation also adheres to the principles of the “Utah Compromise,” which was supported by the church and ratified by the legislature, protecting LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination.
Nathan Kitchen, the president of Affirmation, an LGBTQ Latter-day Saint support group, said on Tuesday that his organization appreciates the work (the church) is doing with LGBTQ groups to secure housing and employment rights and its support to codify marriage equality in the United States.
Surprisingly, Latter-day Saint families receive fewer safeguards and equality for their LGBTQ children within the church than what is provided to them by the laws of the country. This indicates that there is a huge divergence. The LGBTQ members of the church say that failure within their spiritual home cannot be made up for by victory in religious freedom.
Bipartisan sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Susan Collins, D-Maine; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz have together issued a statement that read, “We’ve created commonsense language to confirm that this measure fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberty and various beliefs while keeping intact the constitutional rights of individuals to freely practice their religion.”
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