LDS Church States Support for Respect for Marriage Act, Reactions Indicate More Must Be Done


Xiangyao Tang

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kayleigh Silverstein, Special Projects Managing Editor, News Writer


On Nov. 15, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement supporting the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify same-sex and interracial marriage. Its passage would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

“We are grateful for the continuing efforts of those who work to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act includes appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” the statement read.

The act was reintroduced to Congress in the aftermath of overturning Roe v. Wade, where Justice Clarence Thomas called into question the right for same-sex couples to marry. It received unexpected bipartisan support.

However, the act is limited in that if Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 court case which ruled same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected, were to be overturned, states could still refuse to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.

What Does the Statement Mean?

Calvin Burke, a nationally recognized queer Latter-day Saint advocate and research assistant at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, said this move from the Church was significant. 

“I thought it was really interesting how the Church seems to be making a pretty strident break with a number of other like, far right, American conservative religions,” he said. 

As someone who identifies as a Latter-day Saint, Burke said it was nice to see the Church speaking out in support of queer individuals who aren’t necessarily a part of the Church. 

“I hope that the Church can start treating queer Church members themselves better than it does,” he said. 

He hopes in the future, the Church will see queer people “as fully human, both within and without the Church.” 

“I think Mormonism is best when it’s all-inclusive,” he said, noting the Church is capable of being a force for goodness in the world.

While Burke is happy the Church supports the act, he noted it has “quite a ways to go before earning trust, again, with the queer community, just based on past actions.” 

“I think like this statement, obviously, was the first time the Church has ever come out, you know, in support of formal protections for same-sex marriage,” he said. “It’s the complete opposite of Proposition 8 and that’s a very significant change. But yeah, I think the Church still has a ways to go before it’s fully earned the respect of the queer community, though I think this could be, barring other circumstances coming up, … a pretty positive first step.”

In 2008, the Church stated its support for Proposition 8, which would add to California’s state constitution to say the only valid or recognized marriage in the state is that between a man and a woman. The Church spent nearly $190,000 on the cause, according to NBC News. Two years later, the proposition was ruled unconstitutional.

“I think the Church has a long ways to go in terms of cleaning up its act in respect to how it treats the LGBTQ community,” Burke said. 

University of Utah student Ella Holden, a senior studying health, society and policy, said so many have been hurt by the Church’s stance on gay marriage and gay rights.

“I feel like the Church speaking out in support of this bill will make it easier for individuals to defend them and not hold them accountable for the pain they’ve caused,” Holden said in a written statement via Instagram direct message. “It would be different I think if they allowed for gay people to get married and treated them as equals, but even though they say they support this bill, they still say they don’t support gay marriage at all.”

To Holden, who grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but recently left, the Church still pushing the idea that being gay is a sin is “horrifying.”

“This just contributes to the ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ stance they take on gay marriage which is so damaging because it falsifies what unconditional love actually is,” she said. “The Church’s ‘love’ towards the LGBTQ community is not love. You cannot claim to love someone and at the same time tell them that an essential piece of who they are is immoral.”

Holden thinks the timing of the Church’s statement is interesting, given the number of people leaving it.

“For a lot of people, the reason for leaving is [because] of the horrific things the Church leaders have said about the LGBTQ community in the last few years,” she said. “Feels to me like they’re trying to gain favor with ‘progressive [Mormons]’ to get them to stay so the [Church’s] membership numbers won’t reflect how many people are actually leaving.” 

U statistics student Zoe Brown expressed a similar sentiment. 

“Obviously I am very glad to see this, but I am still wary of the Church and their beliefs,” Brown said, in a written statement via an Instagram message. “But this seems like a bid to keep members who support gay marriage from leaving.” 

Samuel Judd-Kim, a senior at the U studying philosophy and music, said in a text message, “the Church’s statement means nothing.”

“They are still a bastion of homophobia that invalidates young queer Mormons and brands them as faulty,” he said. “Their self-congratulation won’t mean anything until they reject their patriarchal foundations and acknowledge the generations of mistreatment they have inflicted upon millions of not only queer people, but also women and people of color.”

A Complicated History

The Church reiterated its official stance on same-sex marriage in its statement on the Respect for Marriage Act saying, “The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.”

According to M. Russell Ballard, an apostle in the Church, the Church believes that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.

In 2015, the Church defined same-sex marriages as apostasy, or, “When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel,” according to the Church’s official website. Children of same-sex couples could also not be baptized unless they denounced their parents by age 18. This policy was reversed in 2019, along with characterizing same-sex couples as “apostates,” although their doctrine of acting on same-sex attraction still stands.

In 2020, Church-owned Brigham Young University removed a section from its honor code that banned “homosexual behavior.” A month later, however, Commissioner of the Church Educational System Paul V. Johnson clarified the Church’s stance: “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.” Hundreds gathered in protest.

At BYU’s 2021 University Conference, Latter-day Saints apostle Jeffrey R. Holland warned the audience to take care that their love and empathy is not mistaken for “condoning and advocacy” of the LGBTQ community.


The Respect for Marriage Act passed in the U.S. Senate on Nov. 29, and is awaiting a final vote in the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.


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