A new rule enacted by the Mormon Church last week would classify church members in same-sex marriages as apostates, triggering disciplinary action and potential expulsion from the church. But another policy change has people up in arms. According to revisions of the Church of Latter-day Saints handbook, children of gay couples would be barred from membership until adulthood, and then only if they disavow the practice of same-sex marriage and cohabitation.
The move spurred outrage among supporters of sexual equality within the church. In a statement, the LGBT-advocacy group Affirmation said the amendment brought, “a flood of reactions from LGBT Mormons,” and their friends and family, who expressed being left in states of “grief, shock, disbelief and spiritual confusion." Affirmation said the policy change was “a difficult event to witness,” but the organization will continue looking to the future with hope.
The decree reinforced the Church’s denouncement of gay marriage in the wake of a June ruling by the US Supreme Court that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
Mormon Church doctrine states: “Even though individuals do not choose to have [same-sex] attractions, they do choose how to respond to them,” which is not allowed under any circumstances, nor is sex out of wedlock.
”Ever since [California Ballot] Proposition 8 [which banned gay marriage in the state], there have been attempts by the church to reach out, to formulate relationships with LGBT Americans,” Matthew Bowman, a historian and author of “The Mormon People” told The Washington Post. “This policy seems to be a step away from that.”
The church’s new regulations stand in contrast to changing positions of many other churches as acceptance of homosexuality becomes more common in the United States.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found American religions divided on gay marriage. The past two decades have seen the adoption of same-sex marriage by various orders, including Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, Quakers, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ.
Many churches have wrestled for years with the issue. The Episcopal Church changed its definition of marriage in July to allow clergy to perform same-sex weddings. And the Presbyterian Church (USA) in March approved gay marriage for members.
The world's largest religious body, The Roman Catholic Church, still prohibits gay marriage, though Pope Francis has taken a somewhat more accepting tone on homosexuality, famously saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Last month, the Vatican held a three-week-long summit of discussions on family issues and decided to maintain its policy prohibiting gay marriage.
Some faiths are going further on equality. Last week, the Jewish Reform Church announced new policies that would welcome and support transgender congregants, including gender-neutral facilities and language.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Mormon Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in a statement that the new ban on membership for children of gay couples is intended to prevent children from being “placed in a position where there will be ... conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.”