Harry Reid is Right about Mormons and Gay Rights and “That’s Good.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 7, 2013. (Saul Loeb / AFP )

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.”

About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Tim Barker

    Chris – why don’t you post the rest of what Harry Reid said and then let the reader determine if the LDS Church’s response was appropriate re: Reid’s comments. As it is, with your snippet quotation your comments appear rational, but only by excluding everything else that Reid said. Well done.

  • Tim Barker

    Chris – why don’t you post the rest of what Harry Reid said and then let the reader determine if the LDS Church’s response was appropriate. As it is, with your snippet quotation your comments appear rational, but only by excluding everything else that Reid said. Well done.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      I have added a link to the entire Blade article. I have no idea as to what aspect of the article you are referring to.

      • Tim Barker

        The Church responded to “media outlets,” not just Blade. See for example Huffington Post’s article where Reid is quoted at greater length – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/harry-reid-mormon_n_4240125.html. There are other media outlets as well, and the Church is responding to make its position clear, once again, peradventure Reid’s comments are misconstrued, which is entirely plausible based on how he worded his response.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          Ah, I can see what you mean from the HuffPost article. Being clear on gay marriage is one of our strengths. Most on the articles and posts I had seen were all referencing the Blade article, that is why I primarily focused on that one. Thanks for sharing the addition quotes.

  • Jim Cobabe

    My short take on this is that whether Reid opines correctly or not, he has every right to express his own opinion. I disagree that the ENDA provisions add anything of substance to the body of law. But it is certainly in line with popular trends.
    Liberal support seems totally perfunctory and boringly predictable. :-)

    • Namakaokona

      Not nearly as perfunctory and boringly predictable as your posts…although the hat is a nice touch.

  • AdamStout

    Thanks for pointing out the Salt Lake thing. I doubt that many people, including the majority of members, are aware of the Church’s support of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake. It’s a more complex issue than media coverage typically reflects.

  • Namakaokona

    Yes, Heaven forbid anyone misunderstand and think the Mormon Church’s attitudes and activities towards gay people are somewhat less hateful than they really are. ‘…nor does he push church doctrine or LDS morals in his philosophy of governance’ And those would be??