SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday it would support proposed federal legislation to safeguard same-sex marriage, marking the latest show of support for the measure by groups of conservative tendency.
The faith of nearly 17 million members in Utah said in a statement that church doctrine would continue to consider same-sex relationships to be against God’s commandments. However, he said he would support the rights of same-sex couples as long as they did not infringe on the right of religious groups to believe as they choose.
“We believe this approach is the way forward. As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom along with the rights of LGBTQ people, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.” , the church said in a statement posted on its website.
Support for the Law respecting marriage is being considered in Congress as the church’s latest step to take a more welcoming stance toward the LGBTQ community while standing firm in its belief that same-sex relationships are sinful. Still, his stance toward LGBTQ people, including those growing up in the church, remains painful for many.
Patrick Mason, a professor of religious studies at Utah State University, said the church’s position was a departure from and a continuation of its past positions, respecting the laws but working to safeguard religious freedom and ensure I know that they will not be forced to act on people of the same sex. marriages or grant them an official church sanction.
“This is part of the general theology of the church which basically underpins the law of the land, recognizing that what they dictate and enforce for their members in terms of their behavior is different from what it means to be part of a society plural,” he said.
Faith opposes same-sex marriage and sexual intimacy, but has taken a more welcoming stance toward LGBTQ people in recent years. In 2016, he stated that same-sex attraction is not a sin, though he maintained that acting on it is.
The bill, which has received support from Democrats and Republicans, is scheduled for a test vote in the Senate on Wednesday, with a final vote as early as this week or later this month. It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, with Justice Clarence Thomas issuing a concurring opinion that said an earlier high court decision protecting marriage between people of the same sex could be threatened.
The legislation would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and require states to recognize all marriages that were legal wherever they took place. It would also protect interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.” It makes clear that the rights of individuals and companies would not be affected.
All four of Utah’s congressmen, who are all members of the church, supported the legislation earlier this year.
The church’s public stance is a stark contrast to 14 years ago, when its members were among the biggest campaign contributors in support of California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman woman in response to cities like San Francisco that granted marriage. licenses for same-sex couples.
Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, said it was “exciting” to see the church join the coalition in support of the legislation.
“Despite our differences, we can always find common ground on laws that support the strengthening of all families,” said Williams, who grew up a member of the church.
The faith opposes laws that would make it illegal for churches not to allow same-sex couples to marry on their property. But he has been supportive state efforts to pass laws prohibiting employment and housing discrimination as long as they clarify respect for religious freedom.
The Respect for Marriage Act does not fully codify the U.S. Supreme Court decision that enshrined a federal right to same-sex marriage, nor does it detail all the religious freedom concerns of its opponents.
Religious groups see it as a vehicle to pass religious freedom protections they haven’t been able to in the past, said Tim Schultz, president of the 1st Amendment Association.
Schultz’s organization defends religious freedom on behalf of a coalition concerned about the issue, a coalition that includes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Same-sex marriage has gained broad appeal in our culture in large part because it has not trampled on people who believe in traditional marriage,” he said.
Associated Press news editor Brady McCombs contributed to this report.