Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City

In a surprising move, the Church of Latter Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, has said that it supports a proposed Salt Lake City law which would grant housing and employment protection benefits to gays and lesbians.

The Church issued a statement expressing its support for the ordinance, which has exclusions for religious bodies. It was read out by Michael Otterson, managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs, at the hearings being held to consider the measure.

“In drafting this ordinance, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organisations, for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements,” said Otterson.

While supporting the ordinance, the Church also made it clear that its position on same-sex marriage had not changed.

“The Church supports this ordinance because it is fair and reasonable and does not do violence to the institution of marriage. It is also entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters. The Church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Church of Latter Day Saints has come under fire for being one of the biggest financial contributors to supporting the Proposition 8 measure in California which effectively banned same-sex marriage in that US state.

Affirmation, a group of Gay and Lesbian Mormons, applauded the Church’s endorsement of the ordinance. “We pray that the words spoken tonight are to be followed up with positive action,” said Assistant Executive Director Micah Bisson.

“Too many millions of dollars have been spent; the Church has been the punch-line of too many jokes,” added Executive Director David Melson. “This is an opportunity for the Church to take a position of leadership, to declare an end to the hostilities that have divided our country and our families, to welcome all of God’s children into the Church of Jesus Christ.”

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