Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom: Let’s Set the Record Straight

In Hawaii, the LDS Church recently shared letters with its members and hosted a forum on its BYU Hawaii campus to express concerns about protecting churches from being forced to perform or promote same-sex marriages.


It is unfortunate that there is still significant misunderstanding among many Church members and leaders who claim that extending marriage to same-sex couples will affect religious freedom. At the same time, it would be unrealistic to not expect misunderstanding to still exist within the Church: People’s views don’t change overnight or even over a few years, including the views of some of our LDS sisters and brothers.


As a Mormon, I grew up hearing the stories of how my ancestors and early Mormon leaders had been discriminated against by laws that prevented them from living as they wanted to live and having the families they wanted to have.  I was taught “we do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government (D&C 134:9)—a principle that is as good today as it was in 1835.


Marriage is THE civilizing act of society. No matter what their gender may be, when two people commit to care for each other during their lives, they are creating a family and fostering a stronger, more stable society.  Those who say that marriage equality will have a detrimental impact on the family, society and the Church are overlooking the value that comes from pairing those who love each other together to take a solemn oath of responsibility to care for each other “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.”


It is my hope that going forward, discussion of these issues will not continue to perpetuate fears that marriage equality will threaten religious freedom. As explained today by civil rights attorney Sam Wolfe in his article Religious Freedom is Not at Stake, these fears are simply unfounded. Members of the LGBT Mormon community believe in the importance of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and believe that the protection of those principles will benefit people on both sides of this political issue – including the religious freedom of a growing number of churches that believe in the value of marrying gay and lesbian couples.


Having stake presidents share alarming letters about threats to religious freedom with local members is the LDS Church’s new approach regarding marriage equality. Because of the bad publicity that the LDS Church received during Prop 8, when the campaign was overtly run from Church headquarters, it is likely that this new, lower-key approach will continue. Hawaii is just one of many states in which we will likely see the Church claim that marriage equality curtails religious freedoms.  That is why it is essential that we set the record straight now and share the facts with our fellow Mormons.


I invite you to kindly share your views with your LDS family members, friends, and local leaders to help them understand why they need not fear that marriage equality will destroy religious freedom.   Consider sharing Sam Wolfe’s article that I mentioned previously.  If you’d like to help protect all families in Hawaii, consider donating or volunteering with Hawaii United for Marriage ( or a similar organization in the state or country where you live.


I eagerly await the day when the LDS Church will focus its message and resources on strengthening all families.  As stated in the Proclamation on the Family, “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” This is what is TRULY essential to protecting the well-being of children, families, and society—not laws that discriminate against committed partners and their children.


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