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LDS Church backs LGBT nondiscrimination and religious freedom bills

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is supporting nondiscrimination bills involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people -- while at the same time calling for protections for people of faith.

In a rare news conference on Tuesday morning, LDS Church leaders announced their support for LGBT nondiscrimination legislation.

"God is loving and merciful," said Sister Neill Marriott of the LDS Church's Young Women's program. "Jesus ministered to marginalized outcasts."

"It's for this reason that the church has publicly favored laws and ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment."

But the church also complained of people being branded "bigots" for speaking for their faith.

"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 Oaks, a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

"It is one of today's great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals," said Elder Oaks.

Watch the LDS Church's news conference here:

MORE: Utah leaders respond to LDS Church nondiscrimination announcement

The LDS Church insisted that it has not changed its doctrine, which opposes same-sex marriage and insists that sexual relations should be between a man and a woman only.

However, the LDS Church appeared to be softening its tone toward the LGBT community.

"I'd say we're more sensitive than before. Our tone may be different. Our beliefs don't change our doctrines are what they are," said Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, in an interview with FOX 13's Ben Winslow.

"We sense this is an opportunity where we can come together where there is a chance to balance competing interests and rights respectfully and find a solution."

Church leaders insisted that an LDS physician, for example, should not be forced to provide the "morning after" pill or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. Asked by FOX 13 if municipal clerks should be required to perform same-sex marriages, Elder Oaks called it an "individual judgment."

"That's an individual judgment to be made according to the law and the conscience of the individual whatever his religious faith or lack of it," he said.

The announcement by the LDS Church sent shockwaves across state politics, where a majority of representatives in the Utah State Legislature are Mormon.

"The statement made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is an additional and important step to help us find common ground on these important issues," Governor Gary Herbert said in a statement. "It will be helpful in our effort to resolve these difficult and emotional matters. I firmly believe that, in order to protect the personally held values of people on all sides, any advancement of non-discrimination legislation should be coupled with legislation to safeguard protections to religious freedom."

"I am confident that, as elected officials, we can work together with religious, business and civic leaders as well as the LGBT community to craft policies that treat all people with dignity and respect."

Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, who is sponsoring the LGBT non-discrimination bill again this year, told reporters he believed "a major stakeholder just jumped into this debate today" with an endorsement for his bill.

At the LDS Church's news conference were members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, as well as the conservative Utah Eagle Forum.

Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka later told FOX 13 she was "happy" with the Church's stance. Ruzicka has historically opposed nondiscrimination ordinances.

"The Church said what we all believe," she said. "It was great to have the Church make it so clear the protection of individual rights, rights of freedom and conscience... it just hasn't been there in all these issues."

Ruzicka said she still opposes "gender identity" in nondiscrimination bills and worried about the wording of such bills.

"They've got to come up with the right language that does not violate other people's rights," she said. "It can't be the language they're using right now."

The ACLU said it had some initial concerns about the LDS Church's stance.

"The ACLU of Utah does express some concern over the limited scope of public accommodation protection supported by the LDS Church, namely only restaurants, hotels and transportation.  Equality means that gay and transgender people should have full protection in public accommodations on par with race, gender, religion and other categories," the group said in a statement.

Senator Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, the only openly gay lawmaker in the Utah State Legislature, applauded the move.

"I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination. As a Church, Mormons have a long history of being the victims of discrimination and persecution," he said in an email to FOX 13. "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."

The conservative Sutherland Institute also supported the LDS Church's stance.

"Sutherland Institute has long called for protection of religious freedom for individuals and organizations. This principle must be reflected in any proposed legislation. Residents of Utah and citizens everywhere are entitled not just to belief, but also to the free exercise of their religious beliefs and moral conscience—both in private and in public," the group said.

The national gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, called the LDS Church's move "deeply flawed."

"We share the church’s commitment to freedom of religion. We embrace the principles of the First Amendment and believe churches do and should have the right to make determinations about who fills their pews. But non-discrimination protections only function when they are applied equally,” HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement.  "It should be stated that there are countless LGBT Mormons, and Mormon allies, who support equality, not in spite of their faith but because of it."

The LDS Church did support a housing/employment nondiscrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City back in 2009. Elder Oaks did not wish to address whether the LDS Church's statement could be construed as support for federal protections for the LGBT people (known as ENDA), as they are not commenting on specific legislation.

"We believe that what we have said will be informative for the public at large and help people understand the balance we endorse," Elder Oaks told FOX 13.

77 comments

  • S

    I was badgered by the Mormons from day one. I don’t care what their opinion is on anything. They made growing up here a living Hell. Not all of them are bad, but the ones I dealt with from Kindergarten to 12th grade were discriminating against me because I wasn’t LDS. If they were more open minded, they’d be looked at better. For now, you have weird liquor laws and your undies are funny looking. Blah, blah, blah, faith and all that other stuff that you guys are going to throw at me. I don’t care. I spoke my peace.

    • Arcraea Marlenia

      It would be nice if you would be more respectful to others’ religions. I don’t bash your religion, please don’t bash mine. Thank you.

      Also, would you have written that if your real name was on it?

    • kuabci

      Sooooo now *you’re* discriminating against people because they *are* LDS… You know what that makes you, right? Oh, what is that word?… I’m pretty sure it starts with an H.

      Seriously, you are so missing the boat here. If you were more open-minded you would be “looked at better.” And what business is it of yours what anyone else’s underwear is like?

      I won’t even bother mentioning faith, it’s obvious anything with the slightest bit of depth will be totally lost on you.

    • Megan

      Piece…. spoke your piece…. Come on now. How many times per year do you say that and not even know which word you are using, or meaning to use if the intent is to use the phrase correctly? English is not that hard.

    • monsteroftheblonde

      Please keep in mind that we’re just people too. The church has guidelines and ways that we teach that God wants us to live, but nobody’s perfect. You get kind and cruel in every group. The teachings of the church are to love all, and to welcome all. I am sorry that you had a bad experience, but it wasn’t in accordance to the way that the LDS church teaches us to treat other people.
      The vast concentration of members in the community is going to affect voting, and therefore laws. That is why the liquor laws are different here than in other states.
      To members, the garments represent covenants made with God. You can’t see them, so I don’t understand why it bothers you.

  • Dave

    “I… entered into a covenant with thee… then washed I thee with water… and I anointed thee with oil… I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk… thou didst prosper into a kingdom, …and thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty… But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by… Thou … hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms… and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters…Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame… For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride.” Ezekiel 6:8-9, 46, 52
    “The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” Isaiah 3:9

  • Dave

    Force employers to hire Mormons and to hire gays? Neill Marriott says: “…such basic human rights as securing a job or a place to live…” But employment and housing, like insurance, are not rights… only life, liberty, and property are. I don’t have a right to make you hire me if there’s no contract between us. Ah, coercion. Sounds like the Mormon Church is warming up to the initial plan proposed to take away the agency of man. This one is straight from the old playbook. A “democratic society” she says? But this is a republic, Mama. (“…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” — James Madison. And she wonders why we face so many mysterious incompatibilities regarding human rights!) How many falsehoods can you pack into one press conference? And sorry Mama, that hypnotic whispering tone will not “invoke the spirit” into testifying that falsehoods are true. She says, “How do we affirm rights for some” in other words, the rights of the heterosexual community to continue plunder the public rights and the public treasury in support of its agenda, “without taking away from the rights of others,” namely the rights of the homosexual community, to do the same. Such are the quandaries of legalized universal plunder (Bastiat), which better men in the Mormon Church used to denounce. And when Ezra Taft Benson did, and took heavy fire for it, some of those very same Mormon leaders today didn’t have the courage to come to his support back then when this calamity might have been averted, because the world would “point the finger of scorn” at them. Reap the harvest.

    She says “basic human rights” such as jobs and housing “…should not depend on a person’s sexual orientation.” Should the right to adopt children depend on it? “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones… it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and…”
    And lady, please don’t bring Jesus into this. From my reading, he was not in favor of the plan of coercion.

    Mormons, enjoy the next little while “…when all men shall speak well of you!”

  • wasserball

    The Mormons finally realized their LGBT position stinks, and concede by their acknowledgement. I don’t think the LGBT should continue to identifying them as an discriminatory organization.

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