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Mormon Church voices support for U.S. same-sex marriage bill

The Salt Lake Temple in Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The Mormon Church said Tuesday that it supported federal legislation seeking to protect same-sex marriage rights, but it cautioned that the church’s doctrine stating marriage should be between a man and a woman remained unchanged.

In a marked shift from decades of attacks on LGBTQ rights, the statement was perhaps the clearest declaration of support yet on same-sex marriage from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church said it believes the Respect for Marriage Act is “the way forward.” The bill would require same-sex and interracial marriages to be recognized across the United States as long as the marriage was valid in the state in which it was performed. It faces a procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday.

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A bipartisan group of senators announced Monday an amendment to the bill protecting religious liberties, including a provision confirming that religious organizations would retain the right to deny “services, facilities or goods” for weddings if they so chose.

The church said it was “grateful for the continuing efforts” to ensure that the legislation included such provisions “while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”

It added: “As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.”

The statement follows other shifts from the church in recent years, including support for state anti-discrimination legislation and a 2019 reversal of its policy not to baptize the children of LGBTQ parents. In 2015, when the policy sparked uproar among LGBTQ Mormons, the church said “our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment.”

In 2008, the church also backed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. It told California Mormons at the time: “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”

Taylor Petrey, a religion professor at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, said the church’s “shift to supporting same-sex marriage as a legal matter is a reversal of decades of official policy and teaching, though it reflects the direction that the general membership of the church has been trending over the past decade.”

The church says on its website that while the law may evolve, any such changes “do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established.” It also says that “consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.”

Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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