Scroll To Top

Mormon Church: Let's Make a Deal on LGBT Antidiscrimination Law

Mormon Church: Let's Make a Deal on LGBT Antidiscrimination Law


Mormon leaders say they'll support LGBT nondiscrimination legislation -- if it includes religious freedom protections.

The Mormon Church made a surprising statement today, announcing support for LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws at the local, state, and federal levels -- but that support isn't unequivocal.

"Convening a rare press conference on Tuesday at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Mormon leaders pledged to support antidiscrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as long the laws also protect the rights of religious groups," CNN reports.

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

By "back off," the CNN story indicates that Mormon leaders mean they object to the outcry and repercussions that have been faced by some people with religiously based anti-LGBT beliefs (such as former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich). As leaders perceive those repercussions as threats to religious freedom, they stipulated that they will only support LGBT nondiscrimination laws that also include religious protections.

"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, a member of the church leadership body known as the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said at the press conference, CNN reports. "Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender."

Members of the Mormon Church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, largely oppose homosexual behavior and marriage equality. However, there are LGBT people and allies within the church who have a different view, and there is an organization called Affirmation for LGBT Mormons and their supporters.

Among LGBT activists, the church is infamous for its role in throwing support behind Proposition 8, the ballot measure that in 2008 eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. (That right was restored with a Supreme Court ruling in 2013.) Eich stepped down from the top spot at Mozilla after uproad about his donations in support of Prop. 8.

The church, however, has supported LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination legislation in the past; its endorsement of such an ordinance in Salt Lake City in 2009 was key to the measure's approval by the City Council.

How LGBT advocates react to the church's announcement today will likely depend on how broad the religious exemptions are in any given piece of legislation. Several activist groups have withdrawn support for the current version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying its exemptions would allow religiously affiliated employers to discriminate in jobs that are not religious in nature.

When it comes to public accommodations, the state of Mississippi has adopted, and some other states continue to consider, legislation that would allow businesses to turn away customers who offend the owner's religious sensibilities, such as same-sex couples ordering goods for a wedding. Such measures have been dubbed "license to discriminate" laws by opponents.

However, Utah state senator Jim Dabakis, the only gay state member of the legislature, responded positively to the announcement.

"I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination," he said in a press release. "As a religious institution, Mormons have had a long history of being the victims of discrimination and persecution. They understand more than most the value and strength of creating a civil society that judges people by the content of their character and their ability to do a job.

"Since serving as a Senator, and as the only LGBT member of the Utah legislature, I can say one of the joys of the job has been to meet and enjoy the company of LDS officials. I know that together, we can build a community that strongly protects religious organizations constitutional liberties and, in addition, creates a civil, respectful, nurturing culture where differences are honored and everyone feels welcome. Now, let's roll up our sleeves, get to work and pass a statewide Non-Discrimination Bill."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Stevie St. John