The Mormon Church has scrapped the worst of its anti-LGBT policies, in an unexpected U-turn.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Thursday (April 4) that it would roll back a policy targeting LGBT+ people and their family members
The controversial anti-LGBT policy, which was rolled out in 2015, said that Mormons who enter same-sex marriages would be considered “apostates” and excommunicated from the church.
The policy had also banned baptisms for children of same-sex couples.
Mormon Church reverses anti-LGBT policy
The abrupt reversal in policy announced this week scraps the harsh anti-LGBT rules entirely, explicitly permitting baptism for children of “LGBT parents.”
Same-sex marriage will no longer be grounds for excommunication under the new rules, though it will still be considered a “serious transgression.”
A statement explained: “Effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptised (…) if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptised child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.”
It adds “Previously, our Handbook characterised same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy.
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“While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline.
“Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
Mormon church leader: We want to reduce hate
Explaining the policy reversal, President Dallin H. Oaks said: “The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families.
“In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill.
“We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications.”
The decision follows years of protests from LGBT+ Mormons and allies, who have long called for reforms to the church’s policies on LGBT+ issues, and staged mass resignations when the initial policy came into effect in 2015.
The church has long opposed LGBT+ rights reforms, but there have been some signs in recent years that its stances are softening.
An LGBT-inclusive hate crime law was finally able to pass in Utah this year after the church, which dominates politics in the state, said it would not oppose the proposal.
The church also said it would not oppose a separate bill to ban conversion therapy in Utah, though that proposal ultimately failed after it was blocked by Republican lawmakers.