Gay right activists protest outside the Newport Beach California Temple against the church’s anti gay marriage stance in 2008.
America’s leading LGBT rights group has acknowledged the historic new Mormon support for LGBT anti-discrimination laws, but it’s not convinced.
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, held a televised news conference on Tuesday, urging the US to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected from discrimination, as long as “religious freedom” is also protected.
“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,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks in a press release.
The leaders said that non-discrimination laws should strike a balance “in protecting the freedoms of all people, while respecting those with differing values.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) commented that the move was symbolic and “deeply meaningful to Mormon families with LGBT members” and would “provide encouragement to LGBT youth in the church.”
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said, however, that “as a matter of public policy, it appears deeply flawed.”
She pointed out that non-discrimination laws would have little value if people were exempt from them if they simply cited their religions views.
“Doctors would still be allowed to deny medical care. Pharmacists would still be allowed to refuse to fill valid prescriptions. And landlords, as well as business operators, would still be allowed to reject LGBT people. All in the name of religion,” said the organisation.
Warbelow explained: “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.”
In recent years, the church has been presenting a kinder and more accepting stance towards LGBT people. The announcement reflected that, but, said HRC, “falls far short of embracing full inclusion and equality for LGBT people.”
“All Americans should have the right to be employed, receive housing and services in environments free of discrimination,” Warbelow added. “We await the day the church embraces that fully, without any exceptions or exemptions.”
Despite Tuesday’s announcement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to oppose same-sex marriage rights and believes that sex should only be between a husband and wife.
Speaking at the news conference, Sister Neill Marriott called gay marriage “contrary to the laws of God,” adding that, “This commandment and doctrine comes from sacred scripture and we are not at liberty to change it.”