An estimated 4,500 gay rights advocates gathered outside the headquarters of the Mormon church Thursday evening to protest recent remarks from a church leader that homosexuality is an immoral condition that can be cured.
The demonstrators, mostly dressed in black, laid down on the ground and twice encircled Temple Square, a ten acre complex in downtown Salt Lake City.
The protest was response to remarks by Boyd K. Packer, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on Oct. 3 during a sermon against same-sex marriage and pornography.
Packer said that the LDS Church would always oppose same-sex marriage, that gays and lesbians could change their sexual orientation to straight, and compared homosexuality to “a habit or addiction that is unworthy,” calling same-sex attraction “impure and unnatural.”
The ill-timed remarks come on the heels of the suicides of at least six teenagers over the past month, all victims of anti-gay bullying or harassment.
“We represent all colors of the rainbow tonight. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight, black, white, latino, Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and atheist – but we all stand firm in one thing, stop destroying our children,” said organizer Eric Ethington, who blogs at PrideinUtah.com.
“And to the youth of the church: Never let anyone tell you that you need to be any different than who you are. There are thousands in this state alone who will love you and accept you. You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are!”
The Human Rights Campaign has called Packer’s comments “inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric.”
“Unless Elder Packer or the Mormon Church’s hierarchy corrects these inaccurate statements immediately, individuals will interpret them to mean that the church condones discrimination or harassment against LGBT people and others struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identify could rationalize the statements to continue their self-loathing or bring harm to themselves,” the HRC said in a statement.