The Mormon Church and LGBTQ Rights: New Strides Towards Progress?
Something that has been very controversial in recent years within religious movements of all varieties is the issue of LGBTQ rights and the conflict that is created for many religious people as a result. An article by Emma Margolin, “Mormon Church Seeks ‘Balance’ Between Gay Rights and Religious Freedom” MSNBC, January 27, 2015 ( http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/mormon-church-seeks-balance-between-gay-rights-and-religious-freedom) discusses recent support of leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints towards anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people living in Utah. The article also addresses the fact that church leaders support the rights of religious people who oppose homosexuality, an attempt at remaining balanced within such debates. Briefly mentioned within Margolin’s piece are recent moves to restrict LGBTQ rights within the U.S. and the role the Mormon Church has had in regards to these attempts at legislation (Proposition 8, most notably).
The issues presented in this article are very important in regards to the ways in which religious attitudes impact the real lives and rights of many people. Particularly the attitudes of New Religious Movements which are usually not wholeheartedly embraced by mainstream religions but which often share many core beliefs with their older, established predecessors (i.e. regarding ‘controversial’ topics such as homosexuality). It is especially interesting that the Mormon leaders would make a public statement of support for something the Church has previously condemned. This leads to the question of whether the statements they made this week were in fact a genuine move towards acceptance of LGBTQ individuals within the Church (and thus, greater Utah society) or whether they are merely an attempt to seem less bigoted (which has become a common political tactic in recent years especially within groups that are seen as ‘fringe’). It does come as somewhat of a surprise that leaders in the Mormon Church would be the ones to address these issues in such a way, while many other ‘proper’ Christian denominations such as the Catholic Church are far harsher and less accepting of the prospect of LGBTQ rights. Given that the Mormon Church itself is a relatively new sect and is treated by many people as a strange, extreme, and even laughable offshoot of mainstream Christianity, the potential for a more inclusive world view is seemingly there. If the intent is genuine, it would be a major step forward for LGBTQ rights in a state which has previously been very conservative in this area. As unfair as the influence of religion on politics in the U.S. often is, moves like this show that perhaps attitudes among even conservative members of society are becoming more progressive and inclusive. Although the article does point out that prominent Utah lawmaker Jacob Anderegg apparently does not agree with the statements by the Church, the Mormon Church and particularly its leaders have a massive influence in Utah so this recent support may be enough to help soften opposition to equal rights measures.