At a press conference in Salt Lake City earlier this morning, Mormon leaders announced, in a surprising reversal of church policy, that they will now support anti-discrimination laws which protect the LGBT community they have long fought in court and from their pulpits.
Elder Dallin Oaks, speaking for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said:
“We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”
While this may sound too good to be true, the Mormons do want something in return. Specifically, they want the LGBT community and governmental agencies to leave them alone and call a mutual truce. This despite the fact that earlier this month the church sought to excommunicate a critic of its stance against same-sex marriage, charging him with apostasy.
Make no mistake, the LDS are still vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage, which they say is “contrary to the laws of God,” and have actively worked across the country to keep it from passing in statewide referendums such as California’s Proposition 8. But they will drop their stridency on the LGBT issue as long as they are allowed to discriminate when they see fit, provided no one makes a fuss over it.
Later in his statement, Elder Oaks declared:
“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. Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”
So let’s see if I have this right: the Mormon church will now support equal rights for LGBT couples, but not the right to marry, and all they want in return is a blanket protection which would make them immune from prosecution or protest when, for example, a Mormon doctor refuses to artificially inseminate a lesbian couple or a bakery owner will not bake a cake for a same-sex union because it violates his religious beliefs. Sound like progress to you?
LGBT advocates have been calling for compromise with the church for years, but it is unclear if they will–or should–be amenable to what was announced earlier today.
This article was previously published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org