The Mormon Church has undergone a shift on marriage equality, preferring to stay away from the front lines after its temporarily successful effort to pass California’s Proposition 8. Now the Church is taking a new tack, using the upcoming debate over marriage equality in Hawaii to focus protecting the Church’s rights”religious liberty” instead of stopping the marriage equality altogether.
In a letter to the faithful, state Church leaders are asking members to let legislators know where they stand on same-sex marriage. While the letter doesn’t insist people lobby against marriage equality, it does note that the Church’s policy supports only traditional marriages.
However, no matter how people feel about marriage equality, the Church wants members to lobby for “a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith” so that religious groups would be spared “from requiring to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.”
The part pertaining to religious institutions is a standard protection offered by bills that have legalized marriage equality. The second part is not: in essence, bakeries, florists and caterers would be able to refuse to provide services on the basis of sexual orientation, which is illegal in Hawaii.
Quin Monson, a political scientist at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University, told Religious News Service that the letter was a “significant” change from past tactics. Instead of relying on fearmongering tactics, the letter to “signal a kind of resignation that there’s a shift in society that we can’t stop,” Monson said, “but we can ask for exceptions.”