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Mormon Church’s Shift On Gay Rights Follows Series Of Defeats In California

National News Tribune News Service

Mormon Church’s Shift On Gay Rights Follows Series Of Defeats In California

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By Maura Dolan and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The pledge Tuesday by the Mormon Church to oppose housing and job discrimination against gays follows years of piercing church losses in California over gay rights, including one last week.

The church opposed a new rule to bar California judges from becoming leaders in the Boy Scouts of America because the organization prohibits gays from being Scout leaders.

In letter after letter to the California Supreme Court, Mormons complained the policy would interfere with Mormon judges’ freedom of religion. The church sponsors Boy Scout troops and members are assigned leadership positions as part of their religious duties.

“The scouting program is an integral part of the church’s training of young people,” wrote Susan H. McCollum of Santa Barbara, Calif. “There are many people in each ward (congregation) who, as part of their required service in the church, must register as a member of the Boy Scouts of America.”

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Steve Mapes wrote: “Whether or not it is intended, the effect of this modification would serve to disenfranchise LDS members of the Bar and Bench from Judicial Service.”

But the California Supreme Court voted unanimously last week to adopt the new rule anyway.

That fight over judges followed a drawn-out battle over gay marriage in California. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a leader in advocating for passage of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state until courts overruled it, and Mormons were encouraged to support and contribute to the campaign.

Many of those supporters said they suffered threats on their lives, property vandalism, boycotts of their business and even lost jobs.

The church was caught off guard by the fury Proposition 8 provoked.

“Ever since then, they have tried to be clear that with the exception of same-sex marriage, they support the full range of civil rights for all citizens,” said Patrick Mason, director of the Mormon studies program at Claremont Graduate University.

Some gay rights leaders were not convinced of the church’s sincerity, but Kate Kendell, head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, found the statements history-making.

“The Mormon Church is in a different place than it was during Prop. 8,” Kendell said. “There is an ongoing campaign to make a very strong course correction from where they were.”

Kendell, who grew up Mormon in Utah, was there Tuesday giving a speech at a ribbon cutting for a gay and lesbian resource center.

“The church has probably been influenced by Mormons living in places like Southern California, who want the church — particularly after the bruising experience of Prop. 8 — to actually live the values of kindness, acceptance and empathy that they believe are at the heart of the faith,” Kendell said.

About 768,000 Mormons lived in California as of 2013. The largest Mormon temples in California are in West Los Angeles and Oakland.

Still, the divisiveness of the Proposition 8 battle lingers. Andrew Pugno, who served as a lawyer for ProtectMarriage, which supported the measure, said he thought the church’s move “speaks to the need to better address religious freedoms in California.”

His group has sued state officials for requiring the campaign to disclose the addresses and employers of those who contributed to the proposition, many of whom declared under oath that they had received death threats.

Two Mormon temples and a Catholic Knights of Columbus building received envelopes containing a white powdery substance, according to the lawsuit.

Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, which organized boycotts of donors who supported Proposition 8, said he worried the church’s focus on religious freedom might mean they want a license to discriminate, despite their words of conciliation. Still, he called Tuesday “a great day.”

“When they speak like they did today, their 6.5 million members in the U.S. will change their minds accordingly, so that is huge and that is going to impact a lot of lives,” he said.
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Staff writer Jeff Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Photo: Kevin Goebel via Flickr

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22 Comments

  1. idamag January 28, 2015

    I live among the Mormons. I was a Baptist and resigned because of the racism I heard in church. Even though I do not believe in the Mormon doctrine, I think they are closer to being real Christians than many other churches. They aren’t as hateful as some. All of their youth are required to do unpaid service hours and take care of elderly peoples’ yards and other types of service. I recently had a bout of serious illness that made me home bound and there were Mormons there for me. It is the Mormon boys who rake my leaves and offer to shovel my walk. Matthew 7:16: “By their fruits shall you know them.”

    Reply
  2. Gendarme January 28, 2015

    Seems like the Mormons are joining the trend of Republican politicians who are suddenly claiming to be for the poor, discriminated against, and minorities after years or decades of proving that’s not true. Only after getting their way (or in the politicians’ case, elected) will the masks come off and the old true hatred show its face. Don’t trust these people as far as you can throw their magic underwear.

    Reply
    1. idamag January 30, 2015

      If you really knew the Mormons, you would know they change with the times. They always have.

    2. DaleVM14W February 6, 2015

      Your a poofter just waiting for poofter nuptuals, right?

  3. EdMcConkie January 28, 2015

    I am a loyal Democrat and strong supporter of President Obama. More importantly, I am a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints (Mormons). So I am very disheartened by the National Memo posing as the extreme right of the GOP and even the Tea Party via the above article on addressing my Faith’s recent call for a better balancing of rights. Your take on this is so erroronerous and extremist that it sadly qualifies for your own “This Week in Crazy” list.

    On this issue, apparently, the National Memo has license to fabricate and mimic the Tea Party in it’s never-ending fight against compromise. PLEASE don’t start picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution that you like or don’t. We see more than enough of that from the the fanatical right. No right is absolute. You folks are so much better than this.

    Compromise has been and always will be good government.

    Reply
    1. jakenhyde January 29, 2015

      @Ed McConkie….Makes no difference what your politics are or for whom you voted, the mormon church is a cult and you are required to do what your handlers in Salt Lake City tell you to do. That’s what makes you a “devout” mormon.
      If you think compromise is so great, then tell me why the church is still planning to excommunicate John Dehlin for supporting gay marriage and did excommunicate Kate Kelly for starting a movement to allow women into the hierarchy of the church?
      Those slobbering old men who run the church have no intention of compromise. If you think they do, then you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes as have many other mormons.
      I’ll wager that if you were to take your “compromise” ideas to the church bosses, you too would be faced with excommunication.

      1. EdMcConkie January 29, 2015

        Dear Jakenhyde:

        Glad to hear yours or anyone else’s opinions. I hope things are well in your life and you find what we all are wrestling for in this too often brutal life: PEACE.

        I apologize if my previous posting gave offense to you. That was not my intent. Be well, my friend.

        Warmly,
        Ed McConkie

        1. jakenhyde January 29, 2015

          Thanks for your reply. I must tell you that I wrestle with nothing when it comes to finding peace. I live in a most serene and peaceful area of the Rocky Mountains of SW Montana. The majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the nature herein assures a most peaceful existence.

          1. EdMcConkie January 29, 2015

            Good to hear it. I envy you although winters are probably brutal. Do me a quick favor sometime and take in a long deep breath on my behalf as I continue to chew SLC’s inversion.

          2. jakenhyde January 30, 2015

            @Ed…..I live in the extreme SW part of Montana. We jokingly call it Montana’s banana belt. Our winters have been relatively mild for the last several years. Five days ago it was 65 degrees…..very un-January-like. We only get below zero a couple of times a year.
            Butte, on the other hand, is on the west side of the divide from us and is down in a hole….a la Jackson, Wyoming. And a couple of weeks ago their wind chill was -43 degrees.
            You are right, however, our air is crystal clear and fresh. Only time our air gets fowled is late summer when we tend to get some lightning started forest fires. And any fires to the west of us…Oregon, No. Calif., etc. do the same thing.

  4. Joseph Kelsall January 29, 2015

    I can’t believe that people still fall for this fraudulent religion.

    Reply
  5. jakenhyde January 29, 2015

    Anyone who believes that the mormon church has really changed their position on gays has either been blinded by their faith(mormon faithful), or are easily duped by these used car salesmen(forgive me used car salesmen). Nothing has changed.
    The wolf has simply exchanged its white sheep’s clothing for black sheep’s clothing.

    Reply
    1. neeceoooo January 29, 2015

      so true

    2. idamag January 29, 2015

      I live among them and I believe it.

  6. White Army January 29, 2015

    One has to wonder about the source of Obama’s vitriolic hatred for Christians and Christianity.

    Reply
    1. jakenhyde January 29, 2015

      Wonder away White. Only the misinformed Fox News(main source of this whole idea) watchers think that Mr. Obama hates christians.
      He’s a christian himself. Even though baggers and Fox News would have you believe otherwise.
      Have you forgotten the republican witch hunt after J. Wright’s(Obama’s christian pastor) supposedly anti-American rant several years ago?

    2. good_night_good_luck January 29, 2015

      really
      save me jeeebus, from your followers.

      1. idamag January 29, 2015

        If white army is an example of Christianity, why would anyone want to be Christian?

    3. idamag January 29, 2015

      What in the H does that have to do with the Mormon Church stance on homosexuality? You twits that cannot read come on here spouting your scripted and canned rhetoric when you aren’t smart enough to read the article and comment on it.

    4. idamag January 29, 2015

      BTW people like you are as far away from Christianity as one can get,

  7. plc97477 January 29, 2015

    Sounds like Mittens is trying to better his chances with the glbt folks.

    Reply
  8. Axle Rows February 3, 2015

    It’s my opinion that Barack Obama lies when he claims to be a Christian.

    Reply

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