Mormon hierarchy calls for freedom to ignore laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination

Leaders from the Church of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormons, held a press conference today, stating that the church would support non-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people. However, in return, the church stated that it would not change its beliefs about LGBT people, and would continue to support broad religious exemptions that undermine those same non-discrimination laws.

Church leaders spent a significant amount of time framing the issue of LGBT equality as one that is opposed to religious faith. The appeal for religious liberty for the church was based on the assumption that support for LGBT equality results in discrimination against the Mormon Church. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, one of the church's top tiers of leadership then stated that the church was "suggesting a new way forward in which those with different views on these complex issues can together seek solutions that will be fair to everyone."

Mormon leaders were quick to point out that the Mormon teaching on LGBT people is not changing, and that the church is still opposed to marriage equality. However, leaders of the church must have recognized that the reputation of the church has been severely damaged by its support for Prop 8 in California in 2008. Since then, the church supported a non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City in 2009, and has largely stayed out of marriage referenda in other states.

When responding to comments that the statement meant that the church was proactively supporting non-discrimination laws, church leaders quickly backed away.

CNN reports:

Oaks, however, said it's "unfair" to characterize the church's announcement as a national non-discrimination campaign. Mormon leaders are merely seeking to square competing claims of gay rights and religious liberty, he said in a brief interview on Tuesday [...]

"What kinds of religious rights are we talking about?" said Elder Jeffrey Holland, a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

It begins with the rights of faith communities to preach their beliefs from the pulpit, teach them in church classrooms and freely select their own leaders and ministers, Holland said.

But religious freedom should also extend to Mormon physicians who refuse to perform abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple, or a Catholic pharmacist who declines to carry the "morning after" pill, he added.

"The Mormon Church is demanding broad and unnecessary religious exemptions that hurt LGBT people and families," said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "The 'compromise' is that the Mormon Church will support non-discrimination only if it won't have to follow laws that require equal treatment of LGBT people. This is not a 'compromise,' it's a compromising of fairness and basic respect for LGBT people."

The church's statement comes after individual Mormons have begun speaking out in support for LGBT people. Two years ago, Mormon Bishop Kevin Kloosterman shared the story of how he went from opposing LGBT equality to becoming an ally. And Mormons have begun marching in Pride parades around the country. Many of these LGBT supportive Mormons have faced heavy opposition and even punishment within the church