Mormon leaders call for ‘balanced approach’ in clash between gay rights, religious freedom

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rick Bowmer, AP (File)

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.Rick Bowmer, AP (File)

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon church leaders are making a national appeal for a “balanced approach” in the clash between gay rights and religious freedom.

The church is promising to support some housing and job protections for gays and lesbians in exchange for legal protections for believers who object to the behavior of others.

It’s not clear how much common ground the Mormons will find with this new campaign. The church insists it is making no changes in doctrine, and still believes it’s against the law of God to have sex outside marriage between a man and a woman.

But church leaders who held a rare news conference Tuesday said “we must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values.”

The language of the new campaign mirrors a website the church launched in 2012 instructing Latter-day Saints to be more accepting and compassionate toward gays. The church made clear then and now that it still opposes gay marriage and insists on its right to apply its own rules within church-affiliated charities, schools, businesses and properties, even those that provide services to non-Mormons.

The church announced the campaign in a rare news conference including three elders from a high-level Mormon governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Church leaders condemned discrimination against gays in stark terms, speaking of centuries of “persecution and even violence against homosexuals.”

“Ultimately, most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong, and that such basic human rights as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on a person’s sexual orientation,” said Neill Marriott, a member of the church’s Public Affairs Committee.

Mormon leaders still want to be able to hire and fire workers based not only on religious beliefs, but also on behavior standards known as honor codes. Gays and lesbians would have to agree to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.

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