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Calling The LDS’s Bluff

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2008

On the day after election day, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a triumphant press release crowing about their smashing success in stripping gays of their rights in California and permanently assigning gays to second-class citizenship in Arizona and Florida. But they insisted that they weren’t anti-gay, or even opposed to some rights for gays and lesbians:

… the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

Well now Equality Utah and Sen. Scott McCoy, Utah’s first openly gay state Senator, is taking the LDS Church at their word and calling their bluff. Using the very same points raised in the Mormons’ press release as their legislative agenda, Utah state Senator Scott McCoy and state Rep. Christine Johnson will introduce five bills for the 2009 general session of the Utah legislature.  They are (PDF: 32KB/3 pages):

  1. Hospitalization & Medical Care
    Most gay people with insurance cannot insure their family. This bill will mandate that insurance plans, which extend benefits to an employee’s spouse, also cover an employee’s partner. When insurance plans cover families, they should cover every family member.
  2. Fair Housing & Employment
    Currently, it is legal to fire a person from her job or evict a person from his home just for being gay or transgender. The Fair Housing and Workplace bill will expand on HB 89, introduced by Representative Christine Johnson in the 2008 session. It will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics employers and landlords may not consider when making employment or housing decisions.
  3. Probate Rights – Wrongful Death Amendments
    The death of a loved one is painful. When someone dies, we can protect the family’s financial security by removing barriers to inheritance and insurance. As part of this effort, we will continue to support Senator Scott McCoy’s Wrongful Death Amendments legislation.
  4. Domestic Partner Rights & Responsibilities Act
    The term “marriage” has proven to stir up many conflicts. Aside from marriage, we can do much more to help committed couples care for each other. This bill creates a statewide domestic partner registry as exists in California and attaches rights of inheritance, insurance and fair housing.
  5. Repeal of part 2 of Utah’s Amendment 3
    A registry that covers inheritance, housing, and insurance is not the legal equivalent of marriage. Yet the second part of Amendment 3 has been misinterpreted to avoid any recognition of gay couples. Laws that deny basic protections under the law should be repealed. This bill will repeal the portion of Amendment 3 which states “no other domestic union; however, denominated, may be recognized as marriage or be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”

If the LDS leadership is serious about their rhetoric about not being anti-gay, they have a golden opportunity to try to put some action behind their words. Mike Thompson, Equality Utah’s Executive Director invited the LDS church to do just that by asking these very pointed questions:

The LDS Church has stated that it does not oppose same-sex couples receiving such rights as “hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights?” Will the LDS Church be willing to support efforts to secure these rights?

Is the LDS Church willing to assign a member of its Presidency of the Seventy to lead Church efforts to secure these rights, just as it did with Proposition 8?

As it did in California, will the First Presidency draft a letter to Utah Latter- Day Saints in support of rights and protections for gay couples?

As it did in California, will the First Presidency ask for this letter to be read to all Utah congregations on a specified date?

Will the First Presidency ask that all members of the LDS Church do all they can do, including “donating their means and their time”, to assure that gay couples receive such rights as hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights” — just as it asked its members to do in support of California’s Proposition 8?

Will local Church leaders provide information to its members about how to get involved in supporting such rights, just as it did in California?

Finally, we ask members of the LDS Church, will you ask your church leaders to support these efforts?

In other words, are the LDS leaderships protestations that they aren’t anti-gay real? Or are they just empty words uttered in the face of a backlash?

Comments

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Timothy Kincaid
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Another fair question might be:

Has the Church ever, since its inception, in any state or locality, to any extent whatsoever supported “rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights”?

Has there ever been an instance in Utah in which they did not actively oppose such efforts in the legislature?

Patrick
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

“are the LDS leaderships protestations that they aren’t anti-gay real? Or are they just empty words uttered in the face of a backlash?”

- my money’s on the latter, although I don’t consider them empty words, I consider them dishonest words intended to deceive people.

cowboy
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

It will be interesting what happens in January 2009 when the Utah State legislature will be in session.

Thank you, Mr. Burroway for illuminating this.

I think the Utah Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Institute are rapidly crafting some interesting responses to these five bills as we type. In spite of what the LDS Church officially takes a stand might not translate when the rabidly, homophobic Senators and Representatives (mostly Mormons) are making their closed-door, back-room deals up on Capitol hill.

A slight majority of voters just barely re-elected bigot Chris Buttars back to represent them.

It will be interesting to see if Sen. Buttars’ health will be an issue again this year. He’s probably fuming now with this news from Equality Utah.

Take your pills Sen. Buttars. Take more of your pills before January.

Emily K
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

If the bills are protested by the LDS, they will look like complete fools and hypocrites. What positive thing could come out of saying this extremely public and concrete statement, and then completely turning around and going back on it? Nobody is talking about marriage in these bills, either. They’re talking about reciprocal benefits.

Cowboy? Any thoughts?

Lynn David
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

They’ll find something that conflicts with the “LDS church’s constitutional rights.”

But I’m not sure religions necessarily have any constitutional rights. People have rights, among them the freedom of religion. It is the people of a faith which are due any rights not the faith as a corporate entity. Corporate entities have rights in law, but not the basic human rights.

Willie Hewes
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Class!

Excellent move, go Equality Utah!

dairyqueen
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

I can’t wait for them to go against what they have stated! There not Anti-gay. Whatever.

Jason D
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

“But, but, but, but, but”

cowboy
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Ms. K,

I think I remember a discussion last year when the Utah legislature had serious misgivings with domestic partnerships. Anything resembling “marriage” by same-sex individuals was strictly forbidden by Utah statutes and thus we had a squabble when the Mayor of Salt Lake City (and the City Council) wanted to provide equal benefits to its city/county gay workers. (I think this was discussed here on BTB earlier this year.)

Just like the LDS Church has distanced itself from responsibility for the quackery foisted upon gay students at BYU, I am sure the LDS Church General Authorities will provide a craftily worded explanation of why they say one thing and then do something else. They have a powerful Public Relations firm from New York working with them and a cache of legal advisors, that would make any Fortune 500 business take note, to work on the details and semantics.

I look forward to seeing how these five bills progress through the legislative process. I am hoping that our local media (including the one owned by the LDS Church: KSL TV) keeps tabs on this. This is not something that will be swept under the rug or saved to the very last minute of the legislative session. Not if I can help it.

cowboy
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Oh..and I do hope you’re going to the rally in front of the new LDS Temple in New York? You can not only protest their involvement with Prop 8 but their practice of baptizing Jews by proxy in that same building.

Mark C
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

The Generals in the LDS Church have really painted themselves into a corner by their statements over their “non-objection” (unlike total support) for gay folks having rights with regard to hospitalization, fair housing, employment, etc.

Does this translate into them actually supporting changes in favor of gay rights? Hardly.

Personally, I can’t wait to watch this all unfold. I’m bringing popcorn.

SharonB
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

OF course the LDS church was lying. Don’t hold your breath; they didn’t mean a word of it.

They are liars for jesus, like most of the religious right.

Emily K
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Cowboy,

I will be protesting at Philadelphia’s City Hall on Saturday. Their by-proxy baptism – especially of Jews killed in the Holocaust – is despicable, yes. Unfortunately you can’t force people to change their ways, you can only show the error of them; and I have a feeling they have no intention of changing their ways – and we Jews have definitely shown them their error.

It all reminds me of a joke: G-d created Mormons so that Christians would know how Jews feel.

cowboy
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

We had a beloved Jew who worked to get our Utah Symphony to being a top-notch entity here. We even named the concert hall after him: The Abravanel Hall. Maurice Abravanel was truly a wonderful, gifted and patient man. I am indebted to him and his work to get some of us hicks-from-the-sticks interested in classical music.

The reason I’m mentioning this and this may sound strange; I hope you understand where I am coming from. I’m going to do a bit of defending the Mormons on this baptism-by-proxy thing they do.

There is a special spot in Mormon’s hearts for the Jewish lineage. It’s genuine admiration and respect. They mean no distraction from the horrible history and actions Jews had to endure in the Second World War. Truly, they are honest in their desire for Jews to understand them on this issue. In their minds, this highly sacred and reverent ceremony in the Temples is done with the utmost love for Jews. It was never meant to diminish any of the legacy and traditions so steeped in the Jewish culture.

Please remember they innocently meant no harm and malice towards Jews.

Just as, I think, some Mormons innocently meant no harm to gays for supporting Proposition 8.

It’s hard to explain.

Stefano A
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

This is off topic but…

Cowboy, an important part you didn’t mention is the Mormon contention that “the dead in the afterlife can always reject the baptism.”

While within their own theology and minds it may “make sense” and be done “out of love” and not maliciousness, it’s still the height of conceit.

And it doesn’t discount that how in their negotiations with the Jewish community over the past several years the Mormons did purge their records of some names and agreed to stop the practice unless a Jew in the direct line of geneology submitted the information for a proxy baptism the Mormon’s still continued to do so without such submissions which is what has led to this further schism.

Stefano A
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

Nor for a more on topic comment…

While I admire Equality Utah and their attempt to reach out in this way, I have my doubts it will work.

While it may seem a small point of symantics to point out the difference between “are not opposed” and “will support” or “will advocate for”, I think the Mormons will only opt for the “will not oppose” phrase as an indication they won’t campaign the way they did for Prop 8, but I don’t think that’ll mean they’ll advocate for such laws or actively encourage “yes” votes on them when push comes to shove.

John
November 12th, 2008 | LINK

And after we get those 5 rights, they need to sign up for the approximately 400 others at the state level (this was the number cited during the Hawaii vote, if I recall), and another 1000 at the federal level. Step by step, right by right, slowly we win back what the constitution said was ours (everyones)….

Inside perception of the church « Irresistible (Dis)Grace
November 29th, 2008 | LINK

[...] perhaps it might reevaluate its position on gay civil unions if only marriage could be preserved, people wanted to press the church on that [...]

Dorsey
September 17th, 2009 | LINK

I think LDS culture is getting a little better at acknowledging the sacrifices mothers make for their families, but we’ve got a long way to go on acknowledging the sacrifices that fathers make.

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