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Mormon church announces acceptance of Respect for Marriage Act: Bill would legalize marriage equality nationwide

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Photo by Rick Bowmer / AP
Photo by Rick Bowmer / AP

The Mormon Church now says it supports the federal Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify the US Supreme Court ruing in Obergefell.

In a press release posted on the church's website, the Mormons say their doctrine "related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged," but they will accept legalization of same-sex marriages.

"We are grateful for the continuing efforts of those who work to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act includes appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters," the church said in its press release.

The Mormon Church notoriously put money and volunteers into the 2008 California Prop 8 campaign, to outlaw same-sex marriages. More recently, the church opposed the Equality Act, a 2019 attempt to codify LGBTQ protections into federal law, arguing that it provided "no protections for religious freedom."

Now, however, church leaders seem to have rethought their political position.

"We believe this approach is the way forward," the church's press release explained. "As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding."

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is surrounded by reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Romney voted to advance a bill in the U.S. Senate, that if passed, would codify same-sex marriage nationwide — Photo by J. Scott Applew  

The church's change in thinking comes after Respect for Marriage Act sponsors added an amendment to the House-passed bill exempting religious organizations from providing "services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage."

The amended legislation also stipulates that it can't be used to alter the tax-exempt status of any organization.

"For instance," according to a fact sheet from the office of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), "a church, university, or other nonprofit's eligibility for tax-exempt status...would not be affected by this legislation."

The amendment also specified that the measure did not extend to polygamous marriages.

The Utah-based church's position is in keeping with the so-called Utah Compromise, which protects LGBTQ individuals from housing and workplace discrimination while also safeguarding some religious rights.

In October, Mormon religious scholar and law professor Nate Oman publicly speculated that there may be theological justification for same-sex "sealings" in Mormon temples. "Sealing," in Mormon theology, is an eternal marriage valid in the afterlife as well as on earth and has only been offered to opposite-sex couples.