Recently the US passed an act called The Respect for Marriage Act. This act requires the U.S. federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial civil marriages. It also protects religious liberty. Almost surprisingly, Latter-day Saint leaders supported the act.
Support is a Dramatic Reversal
Taylor Petrey, a religion professor at Michigan’s Kalamazoo College and author of “Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism,” called the church’s statement “a dramatic reversal of previous teachings.”
Dating as far back as the 1970s, he said, the faith has combated efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, which it framed “as a threat to children, churches and the nation as a whole.”
These efforts reached a crescendo 14 years ago when the church put its members and its money squarely behind California’s Proposition 8 to oppose same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing those unions came seven years later. Since then, Latter-day Saint leaders appear to have largely pivoted away from messaging around opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage and have emphasized instead their concern around protections of religious freedom.In a stunning move, LDS Church comes out for bill that recognizes same-sex marriage
Church doctrine still supports only man-woman marriage, but scholar says the news reflects a “dramatic reversal of previous teachings.”
Why did the Church support The Respect for Marriage Act?
Some were hopeful that in supporting the Act, the church was softening its stance on same-sex relationships. But we learned from President Oaks when he clarified the Church’s position in a statement. The support of the church all comes down to an amendment that protects religious liberty in the Act. The Church is in no way supporting any Respect for Marriage even though they supported the Act. The Act affirms the right to gay marriage, but it also affirms the right to continue to oppose gay marriage and refuse to perform these marriages based on religious beliefs. They didn’t want to be caught in a pickle where the government would require them to perform a same-sex marriage in a holy temple.
Some of our members have expressed concerns that the new national Respect for Marriage law is in conflict with the Church’s teachings against same-sex marriage. We see a need to clarify the Church’s position on that new law.
At the time the national Respect for Marriage Act was adopted, the Church publicly reaffirmed our Church doctrine approving only marriage between one man and one woman.
Marriage bills previously proposed in the Congress made no attempt to protect religious freedom. The Church came out in favor of amendments that added religious freedom protections to the proposed Respect for Marriage Act. The amended bill was signed into law, but its overall effect was misunderstood because many news stories focused on only the part of the act that affirmed same-sex marriage.
The Respect for Marriage Act did restate same-sex marriage as the law of the land, but that added little because that law was already in effect under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. The focus of the Church’s efforts was not on same-sex marriage, but on ensuring the act contained the necessary protections for religious freedom.
As signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act included valuable provisions to assure that no federal or state laws could be used to harm the religious or conscience rights of faith-based institutions or their members. In the end, the total law ensures that religious organizations, religious schools and their staff do not have to perform or host same-sex marriages or celebrations. It protects the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. It protects the grants, licenses, contracts and accreditation of religious schools. And it specifically provides that its own provisions cannot be used to violate anyone’s rights to religious freedom. Putting such protections in the federal law was a big step forward. We will be alert to proposed future state action and legislation as we continue our defense of religious freedom.President Oaks’ statement on the Respect for Marriage Act
TL;DR – “Some may be under the impression that by supporting this law, we aren’t anti-LGBTQ. I assure you, we are as anti-LGBTQ as we always have been” (h/t u/justaverage)
President Oaks makes it abundantly clear that the efforts and support from the church were merely rooted in the amendment securing additional “religious freedoms”. This clarification comes after the positive publicity portraying the Church as an advocate of the initial bill, leaving many members confused because it was such an abrupt change.
One would think that the church could be open-minded with its history of plural marriage and polygamy and polyandry that same-sex marriage could find a place within the doctrine too.
What has your experience been with the church and same-sex attraction or marriage? Share your story at wasmormon.org.