Joining a diverse coalition of faith communities, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed with the United States Supreme Court an amicus brief, the focus of which is religious freedom and the many ways it is connected with the definition of marriage.
A commentary posted April 13 on LDS.org states that the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right nationwide and whether individual states must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The ruling is expected in late June.
The state of Utah, with Church endorsement, recently passed two bills that simultaneously protect religious freedom and ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the areas of housing and employment. “Fairness for all was the call around which all parties rallied. This compromise demonstrated that opposing viewpoints can come together to achieve agreeable ends. While the specifics of the Utah law may not translate into every locality around the country, it was the approach that was significant. The Utah Legislature demonstrated that the tension between religious freedom and gay rights does not have to be a battle in which the victor takes all and the defeated get nothing. Instead, we can live together with our deepest differences.
“So why would The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints support LGBT rights in housing and employment on the grounds of fairness for all but oppose same-sex marriage?”
The commentary states that the Church cannot and does not seek to force others to live their lives in a certain way. “We bring our values to the public square and make our case through the same democratic channels available to everyone else. We can no more prohibit same-sex partnerships among the general population than we can mandate against heterosexual cohabitation before marriage. In a pluralistic society, we make space for the rights and opinions of others, persuasively argue for laws that uphold moral principles based on our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage our own members to live by those principles.
“Yet, as explained in the amicus brief, the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country does far more than grant same-sex couples the right to the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. By redefining what marriage has been for most of human history, the court will impede the ability of religious people to participate fully as equal citizens in American civic life.
“We already have examples. Where same-sex marriage has been legalized in some states, for instance in Idaho and New Jersey, gay rights advocates have brought lawsuits and administrative proceedings in an attempt to force religious denominations to make their religious properties and facilities available to celebrate same-sex weddings.
Further, according to the brief, if the Supreme Court also designates sexual orientation as a class deserving special protection, like race, then “religious believers could find their speech, association, and free-exercise rights diminished or denied in a variety of contexts, such as public education, employment, public accommodations, and professional certification. ...”
Moreover, the special status of sexual orientation could, maintains the brief, “suppress and marginalize traditional religious views on sexuality and those who hold them, generating legal, bureaucratic, and social conflicts with a wide and unpredictable range of religious interests. Essentially, religious beliefs in traditional sexual morality could come to be equated with racism.”
The brief states: “The Constitution marks a wiser course by leaving the people free to decide the great marriage debate through their State democratic institutions. Allowing all citizens an equal voice in shaping their common destiny is the only way the diverse views of a free people can be respected on this matter of profound political, social, and religious importance.
“What is truly needed is a process that allows for give and take, reasonable accommodation and mutual respect. By joining in the amicus brief, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is arguing that ‘fairness for all’ is much better accomplished in legislatures than in the courts.”
To read the full commentary and link to the amicus brief, go to LDS.org, click on “Newsroom,” then “Mormon Newsroom.” The commentary’s title is “Religious Freedom and Fairness for All.”