I am incredibly overjoyed by the news that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has come out in strong support of a new Salt Lake City ordinance protecting homosexuals from discrimination in housing and employment. The New York Times has the story here “Mormon Support of Gay Rights Statute Draws Praise”
(Side Note: The New York Times is supposed to be the best in terms of journalistic standards….What’s up with using Mormon on first reference and only using the official church title in the third paragraph. That’s pretty shoddy.)
Up to this point in time, the church had issued tepid approval of acts protecting the rights of GLBTQ individuals in theory, but had done little to actually support such acts. In Utah, lack of approval from the church usually equals legislative death. A position stating that the church ““does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights,” was far far too vague and indecisive. Almost a year ago, I wrote an op-ed in my campus paper urging the church to come out in active support of Equality Utah’s moderate and reasonable legislative agenda. It is disheartening to see that those bills failed despite the support of popular Former Governor Huntsman. Moreover, there is a lot of ground to cover as Salt Lake City is the first city in Utah to pass such basic protections. At the time, I was very disappointed to see the church’s absolute silence. Today is at least a first step in the right direction.
The rhetoric of church spokesperson Michael Otterson was especially encouraging.
Otterson made it clear that this is a moral issue in that it deals with vitals needs of individuals such as housing and employment “”The issue before you tonight is the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinance also attempts to balance vital issues of religious freedom.”
Moreover, Otterson reiterated the church’s position of respect “I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree – in fact, especially when we disagree. The Church’s past statements are on the public record for all to see. In these comments and in our actions, we try to follow what Jesus Christ taught.”
I was incredibly pleased by this statement as an indicator that common ground will be looked for when possible and compromise is possible.
I hope that this open backing has the widespread impact of helping to finally lead to the passing of common sense legislation that also protects the right of religious groups.