In a stunning reversal from its previous position, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Tuesday that it supports congressional efforts to codify protections for same-sex marriage.
The church, commonly referred to as the Mormon church or LDS faith, said in a statement that while it still views marriage within its religion as solely between a man and a woman, it has no objection to safeguarding LGBTQ+ unions for the general public through the Respect for Marriage Act.
The federal legislation, the church said, “includes appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”
The announcement comes a day after the Senate said it had enough votes to pass the legislation, meaning at least 10 Republican senators have vowed their support. A version of the bill has already passed in the House, and the Senate plans to vote on it this week. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex marriages were constitutionally protected, the currently right-leaning court proved this summer with its Roe v. Wade reversal that it’s not afraid to roll back major rulings.
“We believe this approach is the way forward,” the statement continued. “As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.”
The Mormon church has spent decades on aggressive political organizing to stop same-sex unions. Notably, the church and many of its members were recognized as the driving force behind California’s 2008 ballot measure Proposition 8, a same-sex marriage ban that found unlikely success in a deeply blue state thanks in part to major Mormon campaigning and fundraising.
California is one of several states where the Mormon establishment successfully helped block same-sex marriage legislation in recent decades. Others include Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and of course Utah, where more than half the population is reportedly a member of the LDS church.
But there have been signs of a shift in recent years. In 2012, the church acknowledged that people don’t choose their sexual orientations. It later said it does not consider same-sex attraction a sin in and of itself, but that acting on that attraction is sinful. The church, which claims about 7 million members across the U.S. and Canada and more than 16 million worldwide, also reiterated in 2019 that it does not support so-called “conversion therapy” and does not allow its therapists to practice it.