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Mormon Church Leaders Call for LGBT Protections

Andrea Smardon
LDS Church leaders Jeffrey Holland, Dallin Oaks, Neill Marriott, and Todd Christofferson convene for a press conference at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Tuesday for new laws to protect gays and lesbians… as long as those measures also protect religious freedom. The move may help the prospects for a statewide nondiscrimination statute in Utah.

In a rare news conference, Mormon Church leaders said it’s time to break the stalemate between advocates of religious freedom and those seeking laws to protect LGBT rights. Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called for a balanced approach.

“We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from our own while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values, and behaviors in the process,” Holland said.  

Church apostles said they support protections in housing and employment for LGBT people. At the same time, they want laws that will safeguard against what they see as an increasing encroachment on religious liberties. Elder Dallin Oaks would not endorse specific legislation, but he said the church does want to influence the tone of the debate.

“There’s an urgency in a contentious atmosphere such as we have between advocates of religious freedom and advocates of LGBT rights to have a voice for balance and fairness and interaction with consideration for differing points of view,” Oaks said.

The Church’s support of state-wide non-discrimination was welcome news at the Utah State Capitol. Republican Senator Steve Urquhart has proposed several anti-discrimination bills in previous sessions. He hopes remarks by Church officials will finally help get legislation passed.

“Now that we have good dialogue and everyone represented, we’ll do what we do up here. We’ll come up with a solution that works. And in this case that means that it will protect LGBT individuals in their employment and their housing and it will also protect the important religious liberties that people hold,” Urquhart says.

Meanwhile, Republican Representative Jacob Anderegg is sponsoring two pieces of legislation that would allow religious leaders and public officials to opt out of officiating same-sex weddings.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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