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Mormon Church’s New Policy Hurts LGBT Families
On November 5, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an updated policy to church leaders that has met with severe backlash both within the church and from the LGBT community. Two major tenets of the new policy directly affect the status of the LGBT community within the church: one states that married LGBT members should be considered apostates subject to church discipline, while the second bans children of same-sex couples from receiving church blessings, including baptism.
Since the new policy started making headlines, the church has met with vocal opposition, especially from members of the church who believe the new policy is, in addition to anti-LGBT, anti-family. In the days immediately following the news of the policy, over 1000 members of the church (and possibly as many as 2500) have announced their intention to leave the faith, gathering in Salt Lake City to protest the policy and fill out paperwork officially resigning from the church.
Mormon History of Anti-LGBT Bias
Unfortunately, the new policy is not the first instance of the Mormon church’s anti-gay bias. For years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has maintained that same-sex marriages are not true marriages, often establishing policies that toe the line between outright discrimination and a position that might be described as “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
- Subject to Discipline – While the church publicly stated that it welcomed gay and lesbian members in 1999, its official policy still considered “homosexual relations” as transgressions subject to discipline from within the church.
- Can be Cured – Additionally, the church maintains an official position that homosexuality can be “cured” and that what it calls “homosexual inclinations” can be overcome or repressed so that members can avoid sin.
- Proposition 8 – In 2008, the church was a major force behind Proposition 8, raising nearly half of the funding behind the campaign against gay marriage and successfully banning gay marriage in California.
The church’s vocal opposition to gay marriage is largely related to theology: for Mormons, salvation and family are inextricable from each other, with the highest degree of heaven set aside for married couples and their families. Re-defining marriage, at least in the eyes of the church leaders, undermines the doctrines upon which the church is built.
How the New Mormon Policy Impacts Families
While the new policy is a major blow to married gay and lesbian couples within the church, the most significant effect of the new policy may be on their children: the new policy allows the children of married gay and lesbian couples to be baptized at the age of 18, with the caveat that they must renounce homosexual behavior. Effectively, this means dividing families, causing children to renounce their parents. The policy has also raised a number of questions related to church doctrines and how gay and lesbian married couples are expected to raise their children within the church:
- Ban the Gay One– A concern, which the church hastily attempted to address, is the status of children who have one gay or lesbian parent: in a clarification, a church leader said the ban would only be in effect if the gay or lesbian parent is the “primary caregiver.”
- Family Not Valid – Gay and lesbian Mormons who still wish to raise their children within the church will not be able to fully bring their children into their faith, which means on a theological level that their family will not be bound together in the eyes of the church.
- Children Ultimately Punished – One of the core tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the innocence of children, yet denying baptism based on the sexual orientation of a child’s parents seems to directly contradict this idea.
For gay and lesbian Mormons, the question of whether to remain in the church and raise children within the faith is a huge decision, especially since the church is so focused on marriage and families yet refuses to make a place for them. This tension is nothing new for LGBT church members, but the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage means that many more lesbian and gay Mormons will be forced to choose between faith and family.
Will Mass Resignation Turn the Tides?
The vocal opposition to the new policy shows that many Mormons believe the church has taken its stance on gay and lesbian members a step too far, undermining families who wish to raise their children in the faith. What remains to be seen is whether church leaders will listen to the protests of their congregants: will backlash and resignations result in abandoning this policy, or will further clarifications only soften the policy while maintaining its harmful effect on families?
What’s clear is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is at a major crossroads, and can be certain that its next move will be heavily scrutinized, both from a political and theological standpoint.