Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Tuesday (Jan. 27) for passage of laws granting statewide protections against housing and employment discrimination for gay and lesbian Utahns — as long as those measures safeguard religious freedom.
The move, one LGBT advocates have been pushing for years, provides a major boost for the prospects of of a state nondiscrimination statute. Such proposals have been bottled up in the legislature for years — despite the church’s historic endorsement of similar protections in Salt Lake City ordinances in 2009.
Utah’s predominant faith issued the plea for such measures at all levels of government during a rare news conference.
“We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country,” said church apostle Dallin H. Oaks.
Mormon officials “believe laws ought to be framed to achieve a balance,” Oaks said, “in protecting the freedoms of all people, while respecting those with differing values.”
The LDS Church preaches that sexual relations — other than those between a legally married man and woman — run contrary to the laws of God and thus opposes same-sex marriage.
State Rep. Jacob Anderegg, who is sponsoring legislation to protect religious individuals’ ability to refuse to marry same-sex couples, spoke about the importance of the church’s position Monday, before the landmark announcement.
“Let’s be frank: The 800-pound gorilla in the room is: Does the LDS Church get behind it?” said Anderegg, a Republican. “If the LDS Church gets behind it and gives its blessing, then 81 percent of the body who are LDS will likely get behind it. And it’s not because the church is coming out and saying, ‘Vote this way or that way,’ but an endorsement from them does carry weight.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
(Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for the Salt Lake Tribune.)