For decades, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints battled any effort to legalize same-sex marriage as a threat to society, one that ultimately could destroy families.
This week, however, the Utah-based faith issued a stunning statement, supporting a proposed federal law that would codify same-sex marriage.
In its news release, the church reiterated its doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman but embraced the Respect for Marriage Act, which includes “appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”
The response on every side was swift and passionate, with bloggers and tweeters weighing in.
Here is a sample.
“So why is it a big deal that the LDS Church came out in support? [It is] the first time the church has acknowledged the civil legitimacy of same-sex marriage. In the past, the church has recognized some fundamental individual dignity of LGBTQ people, but made a normative argument against same-sex marriage. Here, it recognizes the legitimacy of such marriages and publicly supports legislation that requires that civil recognition. …The support of an institution that has historically opposed same-sex marriage sends a signal. That signal goes to members of the church, but it also goes to other institutions that have historically opposed same-sex marriage and to Mormon politicians and to Mormon and non-Mormon LGBTQ individuals. …The church’s response isn’t perfect. …But it definitely represents a step forward.”
— Law professor Sam Brunson, on By Common Consent
“In some ways, this position is unprecedented. While the LDS Church has for several years advanced its ‘fairness for all’ approach to LGBTQ rights — endorsing anti-discrimination legislation in areas like housing and employment in exchange for religious exemptions that mean those protections don’t apply to religious institutions — it has never, until now, endorsed a law regarding same-sex marriage. …While the church has acknowledged that the Supreme Court decision made marriage equality ‘the law of the land,’ supporting federal legislation that protects same-sex marriage is a significant move. In other ways, of course, it’s the same old story: The church is taking a pragmatic step.… Since 2015, the tide of public opinion has moved in favor of gay marriage … in September 2022, a poll by Deseret News & Hinckley Institute of Politics reported that 72% of Utahns supported legal protections for same-sex marriage. This battle has been lost.”
— Blogger “Elisa,” on Wheat & Tares
“I understand folks’ unwillingness to acknowledge that the church can make changes for the better, but institutions are morally neutral — & an institution like the church is ultimately only as evil as the decisions it makes. This is a good decision. Not the end by any means — but good.”
— University of Utah student Calvin Burke
“Hate it — it provides a legal shield for loads of anti-LGBT discrimination by people and institutions (all in the name of ‘religious liberty’).”
— Aaron Y Nelson
“Religious exemptions are necessary when there is a separation of church & state. They’re not new. Examples: clothing, vaccinations, workers for certain jobs, wine for Mass, etc. We have freedom of religion & freedom to choose our beliefs b/c of said separation. This makes sense.”
— Camille Lynn Jaque
“There’s evidence in national data…[including] a sizable sample of Latter-day Saints and you can see the change over time. Latter-day Saints have moved on this issue of accepting gay marriage, where there is currently a majority of all Latter-day Saints who would say it’s OK. That’s particularly true among young Latter-day Saints. It’s something I see all the time as I interact with college students at BYU. I don’t see any opposition to the idea [of same-sex marriage] at all. They mostly shrug their shoulders and wonder what the big deal is. Part of it is that every single one of them has a friend from high school or a family member or somebody they know who is LGBT and they are as comfortable with it as they are with anyone else.”
— BYU political scientist Quin Monson, on “Mormon Land”
“Maintaining their position sitting on the fence. Acknowledging the federal right to marry — while reinforcing that they believe ‘real’ marriages should be between man/woman.”
— LaReesa Knight
“The church can no longer claim to be politically neutral. They have been moving left ever since the blowback from Prop 8 in California. Compromise will never be enough for the other side and support for this bill will eventually come back to bite the church.”
— Stan Lindsay
“I yearn for a future in which the @Ch_JesusChrist will recognize LGBTQ+ marriages. That’s — very clearly — not today; and I’m not sure it will ever happen (sadly). But I’ll take a small victory. (And a much needed shift from the dark Prop 8 days.)”
— John B. Holbein
“While this is clearly a very different approach from the one the church took during DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] and Prop 8, I actually don’t think this is very surprising or even that much of a shift from the church’s recent approach. …The top leaders’ approach to church and state and the Constitution is a little more nuanced: President [Dallin] Oaks, in particular, has repeatedly expressed the idea that part of the church’s belief in the rule of law is the idea that in the United States, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution and that while we may disagree with its decisions, we are bound to respect them as the supreme law of the land. …So Obergefell means that gay people have a constitutional right to civil marriage in the United States, and with that settled, it is not all that surprising that the church would support legislation that reaffirms that right….The basic fact that gay people in the United States have a constitutional right to civil marriage is not something that the church appears to have any desire to challenge.”
— Attorney Jared Cook
“It’s a stunning development but not an entirely surprising one. And I think perhaps the biggest takeaway is that it provides a model for how other similarly conservative religious institutions might act. I doubt that most of them follow suit. But I do think this position by the LDS Church affirms religious liberty in its best way and not how it is cynically used by most conservative religious actors these days. The LDS position announced today shows that marriage equality did not harm religious freedom — in fact, it did the opposite. The LDS Church can continue to oppose same-sex marriage and not perform them and it will, rightly, pay no legal price for that.”
— Neil J. Young
“14 years after Prop 8 & 7 years after the LDS Church labeled ppl in same-gender marriages apostates, they have come out in favor of legislation protecting same-sex marriage. I’m STUNNED.”
— A gay Latter-day Saint