LDS church "clarifies" support for marriage equality law
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."
- Church members in same-sex marriages may be disciplined, according to the church's General Handbook, and church-affiliated universities ban same-sex dating.
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.
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