Mormon church voices support for same-sex marriage law

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday it would support proposed federal legislation to protect same-sex marriage, marking the latest support from conservative-leaning groups for the measure.

The Utah-based faith, with nearly 17 million members, said in a statement that church doctrine would continue to view same-sex relationships as against God’s commandments. Still, it said it would support the rights of same-sex couples as long as they didn’t infringe on religious groups’ right to believe as they please.

“We believe this approach is the way forward. When we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom, along with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to restore relationships and foster greater understanding,” the church said in a statement on its website.

Support the Law on Respect for Marriage Congress is considering the Church’s latest move to take a more welcoming stance toward the LGBTQ community while adhering to its belief that same-sex relationships are sinful. Still, attitudes toward LGBTQ people — including those who grow up in the church — remain painful for many.

Patrick Mason, a professor of religious studies at Utah State University, said the church’s position was both a departure from and a continuation of its previous positions — respecting laws while still working to protect religious freedom and ensure they are not be forced to perform same-sex marriages or grant them official ecclesiastical approval.

“This is part of the general theology of the Church which is essentially upholding the law of the land, recognizing that what they dictate and enforce for their members in terms of their behavior is different from what it means to be part of a pluralistic society,” he said.

Faith resists same-sex marriage and sexual intimacy, but it has taken on a more welcoming attitude towards LGBTQ people in recent years. In 2016, it stated that same-sex attraction is not a sin, while insisting that acting on it was.

The bill, which has received support from Democrats and Republicans, will be voted on in the Senate on Wednesday, with a final vote this week or later this month. It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, with Judge Clarence Thomas issuing a concurring opinion indicating that a previous Supreme Court decision protecting same-sex marriage could be in jeopardy.

The legislation would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed. It would also protect interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “gender, race, ethnicity or national origin”. It makes it clear that the rights of individuals and companies are not affected.

Utah’s four congressmen—all members of the Church—each expressed support for the legislation earlier this year.

The church’s public stance is in stark contrast to 14 years ago, when its members were among the largest campaigners in support of California’s Prop. 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman in response to cities like San Francisco allowing marriage. licenses for same-sex couples.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said it was “exciting” to see the Church join the coalition in support of the legislation.

“Despite the differences we may have, we can always find common ground for laws that support the strengthening of all families,” said Williams, who grew up as a church member.

The faith opposes laws that would make it illegal for churches not to allow same-sex couples to marry on their property. But it has supported state efforts to pass laws prohibiting employment and housing discrimination as long as they clarify respect for religious freedom.

The Respect for Marriage Act does not fully codify the U.S. Supreme Court decision that enshrined a federal right to same-sex marriage, nor does it spell out all the religious freedom concerns of those who object to it.

Faith groups see it as a means of getting through protections of religious liberty that they have failed to do in the past, said Tim Schultz, the president of the 1st Amendment Partnership.

Schultz’s organization advocates for religious freedom on behalf of a coalition that deals with that issue—a coalition that includes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Gay marriage has gained wide appeal in our culture, in large part because it has not trampled on people who believe in traditional marriage,” he said.

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Associated Press News Editor Brady McCombs contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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