Feb 14, 2023 - Politics

LDS church "clarifies" support for marriage equality law

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported a 2022 federal marriage equality law because it "protects the tax-exempt status" and other privileges of religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage, a church leader announced last weekend.

  • "The focus of the Church's efforts was not on same-sex marriage, but on ensuring the act contained the necessary protections for religious freedom," church apostle Dallin H. Oaks said Saturday.

Why it matters: The church won praise from LGBTQ+ rights advocates last November after backing the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to recognize same-sex marriages that take place in other states.

  • Some progressive Mormons said the move signaled a "dramatic" softening of the church's historically aggressive opposition to gay rights.
  • Instead, Oaks said, the church was more interested in protecting itself from legal action as it refuses to perform same-sex weddings.

Details: Oaks explicitly denied that the church's stance had changed, adding the law's effect was "misunderstood” as news outlets focused on the part that "affirmed same-sex marriage."

Catch up quick: Oaks previously called for a new legal "balance between religious freedom and nondiscrimination."

Of note: The church publicly supported the Respect for Marriage Act after Congress added religious freedom exemptions amid fears from some conservatives that the IRS could revoke the tax-exempt status of religious groups that oppose marriage equality.

  • They pointed to Bob Jones University, which lost its tax exemption in 1983 because of its ban on interracial dating. The church at the time filed a legal brief siding with the university on religious freedom grounds.

Between the lines: While progressive members celebrated the church's support for the act, some conservative members said church leaders backtracked on sacred doctrine — and those appear to be the members Oaks hoped to reassure.

  • "Some of our members have expressed concerns that the new national Respect for Marriage law is in conflict with the Church’s teachings against same-sex marriage," Oaks said, explaining the reason for his remarks.

Meanwhile, Oaks also said church members should "strengthen our unity, not … glorify our diversity."

  • The comments have drawn criticism from members and others who argue church culture is too conformist and exclusive.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

No stories could be found

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more