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Mormon Leaders Say They'll Support Gay Rights in Exchange for 'Religious Freedom': VIDEO

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Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered for a rare press conference on Tuesday at which they said they'll back statewide protections for LGBT Utahns in housing and employment in exchange for "religious freedom" exemptions, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Utah's predominant faith issued the plea for such measures at all level of government during a rare news conference, featuring three apostles — Elders Jeffrey R. Holland, Dallin H. Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson — and a high-profile women's leader, Neill Marriott, second counselor in the church's Young Women general presidency.

Said Oaks in a news release:

"We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country."

The shift in LDS policy appears to be the latest cog in the wheel of the religious right's attempt to reframe the conversation about LGBT rights into one in which religious people are somehow the victims and those who are seeking protections from discrimination, the oppressors.

We saw Jeb Bush blowing a similar dog whistle earlier this month in response to marriage equality in Florida.

ChristoffersonFrom the LDS press release:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (pictured) affirmed that this appeal to government leaders for a balanced approach between religious and gay rights does not represent a change or shift in doctrine for the Church.

Elder Oaks said that “those who seek the protection of religious conscience and expression and for the free exercise of their religion look with alarm at the steady erosion of treasured freedoms that are guaranteed in the United States Constitution.”

And he explained: “Since 1791 the guarantees of religious freedom embodied in the First Amendment have assured all citizens that they may hold whatever religious views they want, and that they are free to express and act on those beliefs so long as such actions do not endanger public health or safety. This is one of America’s most cherished and defining freedoms. Yet today we see new examples of attacks on religious freedom with increasing frequency.”

Elder Oaks shared several of those examples. The university system in California, he said, is forcing some groups to compromise their religious conscience if they want recognition for their clubs. And in one of America’s largest cities, lawyers acting for the city government subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new antidiscrimination law on religious grounds. Recently, he noted, the head of a large American corporation was forced to resign from his position in a well-publicized backlash to his personal beliefs.

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” Elder Oaks said. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”

The AP adds:

It's not clear how much common ground the Mormons will find with this new campaign. The church insists it is making no changes in doctrine, and still believes it's against the law of God to have sex outside marriage between a man and a woman.

Watch the LDS press conference and an explanation of the church's announcement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mormon Leaders Say They'll Support Gay Rights in Exchange for 'Religious Freedom': VIDEO" »


Husband From 'My Husband's Not Gay' Compares Being Gay To 'Craving Donuts' - VIDEO

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One of the husbands from TLC's My Husband's Not Gay explained to ABC News that his attraction to men is like the equivalent of eating "Too many donuts." He elaborated that he doesn't think of having sex with a man when he's having sex with his wife, but used the analogy (sic) that he may "love donuts," but then he wouldn't be able to "fit in his pants every day." He ended his statement saying that he would "love to eat donuts every day," but says he "desires to live a healthy lifestyle," and that he's not miserable or denying himself because he truly loves his wife and believes that his relationship with her is "healthy."

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 2.26.49 PMThe show follows four gay men, with some of them married to women, in Salt Lake City, Utah and is already garnering criticism from critics and activists saying the show delivers a negative message to LGBT people regarding their identities, especially youth. Josh Sanders, a devout gay Christian and LGBT advocate, spearheaded a Change.org petition to cancel My Husband's Not Gay, receiving 100,000 signatures; the petition ultimately failed to persuade TLC to take the show off the air. Sanders recently appeared on The Meredith Veira Show and spoke with Veira about surviving reparative therapy and how he thinks TLC is being reckless and exploitative with LGBT identities and issues for the sake of entertainment. Watch ABC News' interview with the "donut" craving man and his wife, and Sanders' interview with Veira about the TLC show, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Husband From 'My Husband's Not Gay' Compares Being Gay To 'Craving Donuts' - VIDEO" »


Salt Lake County Prosecutors Pursuing Hate Crime, Assault Charges In Attack On Two Gay Men

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Salt Lake County prosecutors are pursuing hate crime and assault charges against a pair of Wyoming men for allegedly attacking two gay men outside a Salt Lake City home on Dec. 21 reports The Salt Lake TribuneThe assault on Dec. 21 began with a volley of gay slurs, including explicit sexual references, aimed at Rusty Andrade and Maxwell Christen. A physical attack quickly followed and left the two friends bruised, bloodied and emotionally shaken. The two had just returned from a holiday party at Christen's boyfriend's house nearby, exchanging a hug outside Andrade's garage when the suspects approached.

CrimeSaid Christen:

"I let go and then these two guys were just standing there. They started calling us faggots … one of them pushed Rusty and then they hit both of us. It was just quick."

An account of the attack in a Salt Lake City police report says the two suspects returned after the attack to search for a lost wallet at the same time a patrol officer arrived in response to a 911 call; the two suspects both denied participating in the fight when police questioned them. However, one of the men said he'd been drinking at a bar and couldn't remember what happened according to the report. The man admitted that if there was an altercation then he was "probably involved," which seems like a contradicting statement to what he said previously. He also had cuts on his face but claimed he couldn't remember how he got them. The other man still flat-out denied any involvement in the assault.

Neither suspected assailants were arrested or cited, and initially the case was not being investigated as a hate crime according to responding Patrol Officer Sgt. Robin Heiden. A detective began a follow-up investigation and spoke with the victims a second time and discerned that a hate crime may have occurred. Andrade and Christen believe it was certainly a hate crime.

Said Christen:

"Once they found out we were gay, it was absolutely clear why they attacked us. It was a complete hate crime. If feel like if I could have done something, I would have."

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill (top photo) said his office is reviewing police reports to determine what charges might be supported in regards to evidence and, if necessary, would conduct a follow-up investigation. Gill said his office is taking the charges seriously, regardless of whether it's based on a person's gender, religion or culture.

Nationally, 5,928 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in 2013, data from the FBI’s annual crime statistics report released in December show. Of those offenses, about 20 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation-related bias and most of the victims were gay men. A Utah report from the state Bureau of Criminal Identification for 2012, the latest year with readily available figures for Utah, shows the overall number of hate crimes dropped 29.31 percent to 58 percent. Of those, the report says fewer than 10 were sexual orientation motivated.

Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, says the attack sent a disturbing message to the wider community, especially in Salt Lake City and county where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals say they generally feel safe in. Williams also noted that the assault coincides with the anniversary of the surprising court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah.

Said Williams:

"When you attack one member of the LGBT community, you really attack all of us. That’s the cruel irony of it ... Biases still exist.

"We’ve had these amazing legal victories, but prejudice against us because of who we are is still pervasive in society. This is an ugly, brutal reminder of that."

As of Dec. 31 it's unclear how soon a decision about criminal charges will occur.

[photo via QSaltLake]


The Salt Lake Tribune Names Gay Marriage Plaintiffs 'Utahns of the Year'

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via Chris Johnson Twitter.

The Salt Lake Tribune has named the three Utah couples at the center of the successful challenge to the state's gay marriage ban as the paper's "Utahns of the Year"

Wrote the Tribune's editor Terry Orme:

These six people put their names to the lawsuit challenging Amendment 3. They stood up, stood together and helped history along.

Through 2014, they rode the legal roller coaster — to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Shelby’s ruling, and onto the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a stay on the ruling. In October, the high court declined to hear appeals from Utah and four other states. In essence, the denial made same-sex marriage legal in those states.

Because of these Utah plaintiffs — who bravely made public their most private lives — the state took an unlikely position among the vanguard in the biggest civil-rights movement of the day. Forever, their names will be associated with a tidal wave of change that swept the country.

For that, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Karen Archer and Kate Call, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge are The Salt Lake Tribune Utahns of the Year. 


Does The Mormon Church Support A Statewide Law Banning Anti-LGBT Discrimination In Utah?

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The Mormon church published a statement on its website Friday — under the category "Mormons 101" and the heading "Gays and the Church" — referencing its support for an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City five years ago. Here's the full statement: 

“Church leaders recognize the existence and difficulty of same gender attraction and acknowledge the difference between having same-sex attraction and acting on it. They censure only the latter, and leaders strongly advocate for understanding, inclusion, and kindness toward people of all gender orientations. The Church website mormonsandgays.org details sincere outreach by the Church within the gay community, including support in Utah for nondiscrimination protections of employment and housing. There is room for compassion, common ground, and shared humanity among people who disagree, and Church leaders eagerly pursue these ideals, both inside and outside the Church.”

Friday's post has led some to declare that the Mormon church now supports a statewide law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in employment and housing. However, an alternative reading of the informational post might conclude that it merely contains a reference to the church's previous support for one nondiscrimination ordinance — in Salt Lake City.

Indeed, on the website mentioned in the statement, MormonsAndGays.com, I found a link to a statement from the church in which it makes clear that its support for the nondiscrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City was specific: 

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 12.40.52 PMIt is important to understand that the provisions and elements of each nondiscrimination ordinance can often vary significantly. The Church supported the Salt Lake City ordinance because it granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations. The ordinance also avoided the potentially problematic elements of public accommodations and criminal penalties.

Since Salt Lake City passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, numerous other Utah cities have followed suit. However, bills to ban anti-LGBT discrimination statewide have failed in every legislative session. Earlier this year, several protesters were arrested (above) outside the governor's office after they demanded a hearing on one of the bills. 

It's worth noting that the city nondiscrimination ordinances in Utah, as well as the proposed state legislation, have contained broad exemptions for religious groups. It's also worth nothing that there's a major difference between the municipal ordinances — punishable by fines of up to $1,000, although none has ever been levied — and a statewide law, which would allow alleged victims of discrimination to file lawsuits. Utah.Politico.Hub summarized the difference as folllows: 

Although discrimination is prohibited under the municipal ordinances, the remedies are extraordinarily limited, and the decision to take judicial action is left to the discretion of the  municipal attorney. Under SB100, the full remedies available under the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act and the Utah Fair Housing Act – including a private right of action and damages – would be available to persons asserting a sexual orientation or gender identity claim, making the application of the law to discriminating employers and landlords potentially significantly more severe.

Having spent a session covering the Utah Legislature, I'd say the bottom line is that until the church clearly states its support for a specific piece of legislation to ban anti-LGBT discrimination statewide — which it has never done, despite plenty of opportunities — it's doubtful that predominantly Mormon state lawmakers will have the political will to pass such a law.

UPDATE: The Mormon church has updated its statement to clarify that it was referring only to the Salt Lake City ordinance. To be clear, though, the church didn't "walk back" its statement, as some are reporting. It merely clarified it. Read it here


TLC's 'My Husband's Not Gay' Documents Gay Mormon Men Dating Women To 'Overcome' Their Sexuality: VIDEO

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TLC will air a documentary on January 1st about gay Mormon men in Salt Lake City who are married to women.

The men claim to use their faith in god to overcome anything that goes against their religious beliefs. Featuring three married couples and one bachelor, one of the men says he has “chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle.” Another participant helpfully explains “I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”

Some of the wives are delusional.

Watch a trailer for the TLC special, AFTER THE JUMP...

Mormon leaders recently reiterated the church's opposition to homosexuality.

Continue reading "TLC's 'My Husband's Not Gay' Documents Gay Mormon Men Dating Women To 'Overcome' Their Sexuality: VIDEO" »


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