LDS Church announces support of LGBT rights, reaffirms religious rights

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Public affairs managing director Michael Otterson introduces the press conference from the Conference Center at Temple Square. (Elliot Miller)
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LDS Church leaders announced their support of legislation to protect both LGBT and religious rights at a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 27. The press conference took place on the second day of the Utah Legislature’s 2015 session.

“Today, state legislatures across the nation are being asked to strengthen laws related to LGBT issues in the interest of ensuring fair access to housing and employment,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. “The leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on record as favoring such measures.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, all of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, shared remarks.

Elder Christofferson emphasized that the Church was not announcing any doctrinal changes but shared his concerns about tensions between advocates of LGBT rights and those of religious rights. “We are suggesting a way forward in which those with different views on these complex issues can together seek for solutions that will be fair to everyone,” he said.

Sister Marriott said societal tensions are nothing to fear unless they become extreme. “We’re at our best as fellow citizens when the push-pull of different viewpoints, freely and thoroughly aired in national debate, lead ultimately to compromise and resolution and we move on as a nation, stronger than before.”

Sister Marriott reaffirmed the Church’s stance that God’s laws prohibit sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and woman. But she said LGBT individuals should not be restricted from securing jobs or obtaining housing. “God is loving and merciful,” she said. “His heart reaches out to all of his children equally, and he expects us to treat each other with love and fairness.”

Elder Oaks spoke about the erosion of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. He outlined a series of attacks on religious freedom including occurrences in which Christian students were denied club recognition because they required their leaders to uphold their religious beliefs and the subpoena of a pastor’s sermons and notes. An LDS Olympic athlete who supported California’s Proposition 8 was denied the privilege to lead the American delegation to the Olympics.

“It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals,” Elder Oaks said.

Elder Oaks then outlined four principles that assert the Church’s position on LGBT and religious rights:

  • God and the Constitution ensure everyone the right to live their faith as long as it doesn’t harm others’ health or safety.
  • Both men and women have the freedom to follow a religious faith or not.
  • Laws should be framed to protect everyone’s freedom while respecting differing values.
  • The Church rejects all persecution, whether it’s based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstance, gender or sexual orientation.

“We call on local, state and the federal governments 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,” Elder Oaks said.

Elder Holland spoke next, addressing the protection of religious rights to allow religious leaders to teach their beliefs at the pulpit and for Church-owned schools to enforce their honor code. He emphasized the importance of allowing Latter-day Saint physicians to refuse to perform abortions or artificial insemination for lesbian couples when there are other physicians readily available and willing to do so.

“We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process,” Elder Holland said. “The determination of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be responsible citizens while also defending religious liberty remains undiminished.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at a press conference to announce the Church's stance on LGBT and religious rights. Elders Dallin H. Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson and Sister Neill Marriott also spoke at the conference on Jan. 27. (Elliot Miller)
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at a press conference to announce the Church’s stance on LGBT and religious rights. Elders Dallin H. Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson and Sister Neill Marriott also spoke at the conference on Jan. 27. (Elliot Miller)

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for United States legislation that protects religious freedoms and outlined five key points on the subject:

1. The Church will support legislation where it is being sought to provide protections in housing, employment and some other areas where LGBT people do not have protections, while ensuring that religious freedom is not compromised.

2. The Church believes that a “fairness for all” approach, which strives to balance reasonable safeguards for LGBT people while protecting key religious rights, is the best way to overcome the sharp divisions and present cultural divide in our nation.

3. The Church is alarmed at the erosion of religious freedom. 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. This is just as wrong as persecution or retaliation against LGBT people.

4. This appeal for a balanced approach between religious and gay rights does not represent a change or shift in doctrine for the Church. It does represent a desire to bring people together, to encourage mutually respectful dialogue in what has become a highly polarized national debate.

5. In this approach, neither side may get all that they want. We must all learn to live with other who do not share the same beliefs or values.

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