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Mormons and Gays Find Common Ground in Utah

(RNS) With the passage Tuesday (Nov. 10) of nondiscrimination laws in Salt Lake City that expand gay rights, Mormon officials and gay activists have found a patch of common ground.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gay organizations both advocated for the laws, which prevent discrimination in housing and employment. That shows there are some issues on which conservative religious groups and gay rights supporters can agree, said Will Carlson, director of public policy at Equality Utah, a gay rights organization.
“I think there’s this myth of God vs. gay,” he said. “This week helps to dispel that myth, at least at some level.”
Michael Otterson, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, appeared among dozens of speakers before the Salt Lake City Council, saying the ordinances are “fair and reasonable,” and do not harm heterosexual marriage.
“The city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations,” Otterson told the council.
Carlson said it was “really inspiring” to hear Otterson’s comments.
“Especially in Utah, a lot of LGBT people were raised LDS,” he said.
“It was very cathartic to hear the LDS church say that they agree that people shouldn’t be fired for being gay or transgender.”
After the passage of California’s Proposition 8, a divisive initiative that banned gay marriage and received significant financial support from Mormons, Equality Utah had sought LDS church officials’
support for other gay rights initiatives, including probate, insurance and health matters.
LDS church spokeswoman Kim Farah said her church’s support of the ordinances was not a response to Equality Utah’s requests. Instead, she said, church officials affirmed the ordinances because “the city managed to draw a bright line between religious freedom and family issues and civic issues like housing and employment.”
She said the church has not committed to any upcoming legislative proposals.
“The church reserves judgment on any future legislation,” she said.
“We are not prepared to speculate on something we haven’t seen.”
Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, said he hopes “the LDS church will commit the same level of resources to ensuring full employment protection to everyone as it did to deny marriage equality to loving, same-sex couples in California.”
The Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based conservative think tank, expressed disappointment in the church’s action.
“As a public relations opportunity, the LDS church’s statement before the Salt Lake City Council may assuage the minds and soften the hearts of advocates of ‘gay rights’ in Utah,” the institute said. “As a policy statement, it is problematic. The approved ordinances before the Salt Lake City Council are unsound in principle, clarity, and effect.”
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • pagansister

    WOW! Now in Mormonland they have decided that gays can’t be fired for being gay or be denied housing. I’m so impressed! :0) However…no marriage…”bad, bad”.

  • nnmns

    I wonder if anyone knows how much of this is based on morality and how much is based on PR. Anyway it’s a good step, if not long enough.

  • pagansister

    Yes, nnmns, I agree it’s mostly PR after the messy PR from California’s Prop 9.

  • nnmns

    You’ve been holding my posts “for approval” all evening. When do they get inspected. And how do you decide whose posts to hold?

  • witchrayc

    Not all religions object to Gay Marriage, so I am concerned that our government is failing to keep church and state separate by voting for laws that follow some religions moreys. Marriage means that people are trying to have long time relationships where they can share with their spouses all the benefits of married couples.
    If some government types feel that marriage is the perview of religious groups, then they need to stop allowing Justices of the Peace to marry people, as well as city leaders. One or the other!
    Equal Rights equals No Fights.

  • Mordred08

    pagansister: “Now in Mormonland they have decided that gays can’t be fired for being gay or be denied housing.”
    Maybe they were forced to by the Velvet Mafia. You know, like the medical and psychiatric communities supposedly were?
    But I should be nice. This is a step in the right direction. To show my appreciation, I will do my best to refrain from “magic underwear” jokes.

  • Confessoressa

    Guilt is such a motivation.

  • Chall8987

    The Velvet Mafia? Are we for real here? The Psychiatric and Medical professions were threatened in the 70s and 80s by a small minority that the mainstream of society pushed into the shadows. That makes a ton of sense.

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