Mormons Say Duty to Law on Same-Sex Marriage Trumps Faith - The New York Times

November 3, 2015
DENVER — Despite its deep opposition to same-sex marriage, the Mormon Church is setting itself apart from religious conservatives who rallied behind a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who cited her religious beliefs as justification for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.STORIES FROM OUR ADVERTISERSIn a speech this week about the boundaries between church and state, Dallin Oaks, a high-ranking apostle in the church, said that public officials like Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., had a duty to follow the law, despite their religious convictions.“Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square,” Elder Oaks said. “But when acting as public officials, they are not free to apply personal convictions, religious or other, in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government.”PhotoKim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, made an appearance on a Fox News show last month. Credit Brendan Mcdermid/ReutersReferring to Ms. Davis without naming her, Elder Oaks said: “A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.”Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, called the speech a “pretty big deal” that embraced compromise over conflict. The church has not changed its opposition to same-sex marriage, he noted, but it has also rejected the all-out opposition embodied by Ms. Davis, as well as calls from some conservative groups for public officials to reject the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.“They’re not going down that road,” Mr. Rauch said. Paraphrasing the church’s view, he added that the Mormons were saying: “Count us out — we will not have any part of massive resistance. We’re going to go through the channels of political dialogue and compromise.”Mathew Staver, a lawyer for Ms. Davis, criticized Elder Oaks’s remarks, saying the elder was essentially advocating a view that granted no religious protections to those in public office.“It’s misinformed both about the case of Kim Davis and is shortsighted with respect to religious freedom and the right of conscience,” Mr. Staver said. “The church is going to face these kinds of issues.”The Mormon Church once stood at the forefront of the fight against same-sex marriage with its support of a 2008 California ballot measure, known as Proposition 8, that limited marriage to a man and a woman. But that advocacy brought a backlash from outside the church as well as from its own members, and since then, the church has modulated its tone and positions on some gay rights issues.This year, Mormon leaders supported a law passed by Utah’s Republican-dominated government that outlawed housing and employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Called the “Utah compromise,” it exempted religious groups that object to homosexuality.AdvertisementContinue reading the main storyAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyThe Mormon Church itself joined other religious groups in filing briefs with the Supreme Court opposing same-sex marriage. After the court’s decision in June, the Mormon Church said it would not perform same-sex marriages. The changes in the law, it said, “do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established.”Continue reading the main storyRECENT COMMENTSBruce October 23, 2015If this reasoning is legitimate, the we have apologies to make to the men executed during the Nuremberg trials for not following their...Cliff October 23, 2015I am a Roman Catholic and I feel marriage was defined by God to be between a man and a woman - full stop. If gays, or anyone else for that...BlameTheBird October 23, 2015It's not that religions need protections so much as it is that we need protections from religion.SEE ALL COMMENTSBut in his speech on Tuesday, to an audience of legal and clergy officials in Sacramento, Elder Oaks said that religious freedom should not be asserted “to override every law and government action that could possibly be interpreted to infringe on institutional or personal religious freedom.”Elder Oaks is a former Utah Supreme Court justice who also worked as a United States Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren. In January, he was among the Mormon leaders who appeared at a rare news conference at which they announced the church’s willingness to support the antidiscrimination legislation.“Even where they have challenged laws or practices on constitutional grounds, once those laws or practices have been sustained by the highest available authority, believers should acknowledge their validity and submit to them,” Elder Oaks said.Erika Munson of Mormons Building Bridge

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