Gordon Monson: Hesitant Latter-day Saints, at last, have the reinforcement they need to embrace same-sex marriage

After all, their church now supports it — at least when it comes to public policy.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Couples marry in 2013 after a federal judge in Utah struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson celebrates The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for backing the federal Respect for Marriage Act, saying it now allows members to openly support same-sex marriage.

Humans who happen to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who want to fully embrace fellow humans of all sexual orientations and their right to marry, without pushback from their faith leaders, have reason to celebrate.

Hallelujah! Latter-day Saints can go ahead and bake a wedding cake and sell it to a gay or lesbian couple without reservation or reproach. I wanna shout!

The church’s announced support of the Respect for Marriage Act, a federal bill that would protect individuals’ rights to same-sex marriage, in addition to safeguarding religious freedoms, is loaded with concessions.

It matters not, at this point, whether church leaders had to grudgingly compromise to protect their doctrinal rights. What matters is it has conceded that same-sex marriages are good to go, according to the law of the land, if ultimately passed, throwing a rope around intentions among some conservative corners to outlaw those marriages.

That’s quite a modification, given the church’s not-so-long-ago Proposition 8 efforts in California to make such unions illegal, efforts that backfired on the church, making it something of a pariah in the public’s eye. That thing was shortsighted and ill-fated from the beginning, and history will not and does not smile fondly upon it.

I remember a schoolteacher friend, a devoted Latter-day Saint living in California, who said she was teaching her middle schoolers on one occasion when one of the kids came up to her afterward and asked, “Why is your church trying to tear apart my family?” She said it was the first time she could think of when she was embarrassed to be a Latter-day Saint.

She wasn’t alone.

This new position is more loving, more advanced thinking.

And while the doctrine proclaiming that marriage should be between a man and a woman exists still, for the time being at least, the church’s backing of the bill protecting same-sex marriage is enough of a tip for all Latter-day Saints to jump aboard the good wagon without regret.

What does that do exactly?

It allows faithful members of every Latter-day Saint congregation, every Latter-day Saint family to throw their legal support behind not just same-sex marriage but also LGBTQ individuals all around. They can accept and embrace everyone, without reservation.

No duh, right?

Well, what’s been plain to a lot of folks around the country and around the world hasn’t always been so obvious to Latter-day Saints, based on the church’s position. Its oft-touted and oft-taught family proclamation, the one that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, has hurt and divided more than a few faithful Latter-day Saints, some who have family members and friends who are gay and who want to feel fulfilled in this life, feel the same opportunity for love in all its manifestations as heterosexual folks feel.

The doctrine may not have changed, but the church’s support for protecting the rights of LGBTQ couples in marriage is far more than a footnote.

It is more a foot in the door.

It is permission, for those inside the church who need such approval, to support those who love whom they love, regardless of gender.

Not sure how often Latter-day Saints in the past have felt comfortable vocalizing that support. Now, according to the proposed and supported codification of same-sex marriage, they can, as they support what the church has supported.

It may be convoluted and contradicting, but it is a joyful step in a progressive direction for a faith organization that preaches love for all, love for neighbors of every sort, but that sometimes has a strange way of showing it.

Certainly, many Latter-day Saints — not all — are eager to not just accept their family and friends who are LGBTQ but also to outwardly and openly rejoice in their wedded happiness.

And maybe those Latter-day Saints will be unafraid to speak about it among themselves and in church meetings, remembering the faith’s push for the bill, hanging better hope on it, whether it’s God’s law or the law of the land that God’s church supported.

Either way, it’s a far, far cry from the dark days of Prop 8.

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gordon Monson.