Mormon church leaders announced support on Tuesday for legislation that would protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from job and housing discrimination. In exchange, the church asked that the laws also provide protection for the religious beliefs of those who oppose homosexuality.
“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 of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' governing Quorum of Twelve Apostles, according to Fox 13 Salt Lake City. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”
For the first time, Mormon leaders definitively condemned discrimination against LGBT individuals after “centuries of persecution and even violence against homosexuals,” according to the Associated Press. However, church doctrine still holds gay marriage and sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman to be sinful. Moreover, church leaders still wish to apply Mormon beliefs to hirings and firings within their own organizations and for laws to protect those who adhere to these beliefs in health care and government, such as a physician who will not perform an artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.
Still, the announcement is considered a major departure from the LDS church’s previous hardline stance against gay marriage, including its support for California’s Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal in 2008. “Accommodating the rights of all people — including their religious rights — requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness,” Elder Jeffrey Holland said. “Politically, it certainly requires dedication to the highest level of statesmanship. Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point-scoring or accusations of bigotry.”
Church leaders threatened online Mormon activist John P. Dehlin with excommunication earlier this month for his public advocacy for same-sex marriage and the ordination of women, the New York Times reported. Dehlin faced the discipline if he did not renounce his beliefs and remove podcasts critical of the Mormon church from the Internet.