In today’s press conference, LDS leaders encouraged church members to support anti-discrimination legislation while continuing to oppose marriage equality.  You can find a very local perspective here, slightly less local here or downright global perspective here.  A few quick highlights:

  • LGBT people deserve the same basic rights as all individuals:  equal access to housing, legal protections, employment and dignity.
  • Religious freedom, usually meaning freedom from having to provide equal access to religious benefits to all people, must also be protected. [1]
  • Individuals should be able to continue to discriminate in providing services they object to, regardless of the law, according to remarks made by E. Oaks. [2]
  • People on both sides of the divide should respect each other and not take potshots or revenge against one another over political disagreements.

The airtime given to the grievances of religious individuals who feel their freedom is infringed upon when they as individuals are forced to provide services to gay people was the one regrettable aspect of this announcement.

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” said Elder Dallin Oaks

Perhaps it was a necessary rhetorical concession as so many people living in a religious bubble seem to think it’s a real problem, not the natural social consequence of their intolerant behavior.  Are there instances of individuals being held back unfairly due to their opposition to gay marriage?  Maybe.  But that’s a question of being on the wrong side of history.  Society’s a bitch.  We can’t just stop the world and get off because we don’t like how this is going.  And as for democracy losing out when dissenting voices are marginalized, well . . .

Putting the freedom of privileged individuals to discriminate in their personal and business endeavors without consequence on par with the rights of marginalized individuals to have access to basic benefits such as employment, housing, and legal protections feels like a poke in the eye to those who already support anti-discrimination (and even worse to those who have personally suffered from discrimination).  It also has the negative side effect of making the church’s support for anti-discrimination legislation seem needlessly begrudging rather than heartfelt and sincere.

“I’d say we’re more sensitive than before. Our tone may be different. Our beliefs don’t change our doctrines are what they are,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson

“God is loving and merciful.  Jesus ministered to marginalized outcasts.  It’s for this reason that the church has publicly favored laws and ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment.”  Sister Neill Marriott.

Whatever you may think, it’s a good day when the church feels compelled to stand against discrimination of minorities and to call upon church members to set aside their hurt feelings to follow the golden rule.  I guess it’s back to basics in Mormonism, folks.  The worth of souls is great. Mostly.

What’s your take?

  • Is this a long-overdue, welcome reminder for church members to cease discriminating against gay family members and gay people in the community?  Or just another retrenchment?
  • Should church members be protected by the law if they refuse to perform legal services on the basis of conscience?  Or is this providing religious exemption to individuals rather than to churches as legally intended?
  • Was the selection of Oaks (a former judge who has been very vocal in opposing gay marriage) & Christofferson (whose brother is gay) significant?  Does this show the two polar opposites (working together) among the Q15 on this topic?
  • Is this debate Ameri-centricity and Utah-politics at its worst, demonstrating yet again that we can’t grasp the world beyond our bubble?  Or is this a matter of international importance because where US politics go, there goes the world?

Discuss.

[1] The church has discontinued LDS adoptions, and many speculate this is so that they will avoid a situation in which they must grant equal adoption access to gay couples.  This seems like a distant future possibility, but one that has given many pause.  The church’s stated reasons for getting out of this business were financial, not ideological.

[2]  Examples cited include a doctor refusing to provide fertility assistance to a lesbian couple, a pharmacist refusing to provide a morning after pill, or a municipal clerk refusing to perform a same-sex marriage.  What’s disturbing about this is that these are merely individuals in the public sector, not working for a religion that would give them immunity under the religious exemption clause.  If an individual objects, it would be the role of their employer to determine if it is reasonable to have another employee perform that function or not.  If this refusal to do the job is deemed unreasonable, then the discrimination should rightfully jeopardize that person’s ability to do the job for which they were hired.  Small business owners performing work in the public sector are not exempt from anti-discrimination laws just because they dislike homosexuality.  Those individuals who violate the law as an act of conscience may in fact suffer real consequences, and that’s not discriminatory any more than it’s discrimination if the IRS disagrees with how you pay your taxes.