Mormon church calls for gay rights and religious freedoms

January 28, 2015 1:56 pm
The Mormon church has issued a call for new laws that protect gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination while
somehow also protecting those who suffer repercussions for asserting
their religious beliefs toward these people.

Mormon Young Women’s Presidency member Neill Marriott at the church’s
announcement on religious freedom and nondiscrimination. Photo / AP

Mormon leaders did
not explain just how it would draw lines between gay rights and
religious freedoms, and it’s unclear how much common ground the church
will gain with this campaign.
The church insists it is making no
changes in doctrine, and still believes that sex is against the law of
God unless it’s within a marriage between a man and a woman.
“We
must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or
values,” the church announced at a rare conference including three
elders from a high-level Mormon governing body called the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles.

But the new approach could profoundly change political
calculations in the Mormon strongholds of Utah, Idaho, Nevada and
Arizona, where the church and its members play a large civic role.
In
Utah, where most state lawmakers are Mormon, the announcement was
cheered after years of failed efforts to pass anti-discrimination
measures.
“What the LDS church did today was historic,” said state Senator Jim Dabakis, who was raised Mormon and is openly gay.
“This was a bold, strong, principled statement … today we are seeing the fruits of civility and respect.”
The gay rights group Equality Utah also applauded, saying LGBT rights can co-exist with freedoms of religious individuals.
But national advocates on both sides were dismissive.
The
Reverend Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention called the
Mormon leaders “well-intentioned, but naive” about animosity toward
religious exemptions.
And Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, called it “deeply flawed”.
The
First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom “does not give any of
us the right to harm others, and that’s what it sounds like the
proposal from the Mormon church would do – it would allow a doctor to
refuse to care for a lesbian because of his religious beliefs, for
example”, said James Esskes, who directs the LGBT project of the
American Civil Liberties Union.
The campaign is the latest
example of a shift in tone on gay rights by The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, which counts 15 million members worldwide.
They
have moved away from harsh rhetoric in recent years, and are preaching
compassion and acceptance of gays and lesbians now that gay marriage is
legal in Washington DC and 36 states including Utah.

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