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Mormon, Catholic churches stand firm against same-sex marriage; some Utah faith leaders celebrate ruling

First Published      Last Updated Feb 18 2016 08:59 pm

Faith » Other state faith leaders welcome the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Like religious adherents across the nation, Utah faith groups were divided in their reactions to Friday's Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. — some were disappointed, others exhilarated.

Utah's two largest religions, the predominant LDS Church and Salt Lake City's Catholic Diocese, maintain that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and neither church is about to bend its teachings or its opposition to gay marriage.

The high court has jurisdiction in civil laws, but not over heavenly decrees, they argue, and both faiths want to keep it that way.

"The court's decision does not alter the Lord's doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release. "While showing respect for those who think differently, the church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice."

Given the Constitution's freedom-of-religion protections, enshrined in the First Amendment, the ruling does not force churches to recognize same-sex marriages.

That means, of course, that marriages performed in LDS temples will continue to be between only faithful men and women. Mormons view such marriages as lasting for eternity.

LDS leaders teach that same-sex attraction is not a sin, only acting on it is.

Top Mormon officials, including apostle D. Todd Christofferson, also have said Latter-day Saints who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their church memberships or temple privileges.

The Salt Lake City Diocese, which oversees Utah's 300,000-plus Catholics, said the court's ruling does not end "the debate over the definition of marriage."

"As Catholics, we seek to uphold our traditional belief in marriage as a sacrament, a well established and divinely revealed covenant between one man and one woman, a permanent and exclusive bond meant to provide a nurturing environment for children and the fundamental building block to a just society," the diocese said in a statement. "Although we respectfully disagree with those who would define marriage otherwise, we firmly hold that all persons are loved by our compassionate God and deserve the respect and dignity that is inherently theirs as human beings."

Utah Catholics "acknowledge the right of our nation's highest court to provide for a well-ordered society," the statement added, "by establishing laws that protect the common good and safeguard the civil and contractual rights and privileges of its citizens."

At the same time, however, the diocese urged Utah "lawmakers and judges to respect those institutions that are beyond state and federal jurisdiction, institutions such as sacramental marriage that transcend civil law and whose origins precede the existence of the state and go beyond its competence."

Imam Muhammed Mehtar, who leads services at the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City, took much the same approach.

"It is our duty to teach that which is good and refrain from that which is poor in choice," Mehtar said. "God wishes us to continue procreation for the sake of sharing good, kind, loving values."

By that, the imam means in "traditional" male-female led families.

Still, Muslims live in a country "whose values are secular," Mehtar said. "In such an environment, we feel that when individuals make choices that are contrary to us, we will try to defend them, their safety and well-being. We will never say, 'Hurt gays and lesbians, or take away their rights, or that they are less human than we are.' "

Muslims should simply say, he explained, that "we have different values."

Other people of faith cheered the ruling.

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