Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed Mormonism and gay rights recently in an interview with the Washington Blade, a prominent gay newspaper in Washington, DC. (UPDATE: In the original posting, I inadvertently left out this link.)
The comments appear at the end of a rather lengthy discussion with Reid about the legislative obstacles and hurdles that have been cleared by the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and those that lay ahead, particularly in the Republican controlled House of Representatives.
Here are his comments on his background and on Mormons and gay rights:
Reid, a Mormon, was asked by the Blade how he reconciles his faith, which says homosexuality violates God’s law, with his support for gay rights. Reid replied that he’s given a lot to his church and there are Mormons like him who share his views.
“When I attend church here in Washington, D.C., I bet more people agree with me than disagree with me, and so the church is changing, and that’s good,” Reid said.
In the aftermath of ENDA passage in the Senate, Reid said he’d have to hear from the LGBT community on what the next steps should be, but mentioned bullying as a problem over which he shares concern.
“As I was growing up, somebody who was ‘queer’ was really easy to pick on,” Reid said. “I was not in that category, but I saw it happen, and I didn’t do enough to speak out.”
This quote caught the attention of many media venues. After all, the Church if Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently doubled-down on it’s anti-homosexuality stance during the most recent General Conference. At the same time, ENDA has received considerable support from Mormon Democrats and Mormon Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
The LDS Church responded yesterday to the Blade article with a statement:
Media outlets are reporting that in an informal press gathering Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid made comments about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gay rights.
As the Church has said before, elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position.
On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the Church has not taken a position. On the question of same-sex marriage, the Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with kindness and understanding. If it is being suggested that the Church’s doctrine on this matter is changing, that is incorrect.
Marriage between a man and a woman is central to God’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. As such, traditional marriage is a foundational doctrine and cannot change.
I am particularly surprised that they didn’t mention that, while they have no official position on ENDA, they have supported similar measures on the local level in Salt Lake City.
Also, same-sex marriage was not mentioned once in the Blade article, let alone in the section about Reid and Mormonism. Yet, it is still the main focus of the response from the Church.
I think Reid’s quote is being misinterpreted by many, including the Mormon Newsroom. He is not saying that the LDS Church is changing. Instead, it is we Mormons that are changing on issues of gay rights and in our attitudes towards homosexuals. This is particularly the case in areas, like the Washington, DC area as Reid mentioned, where the Mormon presence is largely made up of professionals. These changes may be modest, even slight, but it is change nonetheless.
I see little sign of the LDS Church changing. Rather, it appears that they are digging in to resist such change.
However, Mormons are changing on this issue with people like Sen. Harry Reid taking the lead on addressing discrimination. As he looks to address issues like bullying and violence against gays, I hope that again Mormons from both sides of the aisle will join in speaking out and bringing about positive change.
Many Mormons are changing and, as Harry Reid said, “that’s good.”