Tom Smart, Deseret News
In a rare public appearance before Salt Lake City lawmakers Tuesday night, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported two proposed ordinances protecting gay and lesbian residents from housing and employment discrimination.
An LDS Church representative read a supporting statement at a public hearing before the Salt Lake City Council regarding the ordinances proposed by Mayor Ralph Becker.
"The church supports this ordinance because it is fair and reasonable and does not do violence to the institution of marriage," said Michael Otterson, managing director of the LDS Church's public affairs office.
Otterson added that the statement of support is consistent with the church's prior position on such matters, as well as its stance on marriage. Both are found in the church's August 2008 statement titled "The Divine Institution of Marriage."
That statement, released prior to California's Proposition 8 vote last year on a constitutional amendment defining marriage, says the LDS Church "does not object to rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference."
And in his comments Tuesday night, Otterson underscored the LDS Church's position on marriage.
"The church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman," he said.
In addition to agreeing with Becker's approach to the ordinances, the church also recognizes the proposal attempts to balance vital issues of religious freedom, Otterson said.
"In drafting this ordinance, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations — for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements," he said.
Tuesday night's statement was a rarity; church leaders or representatives seldom speak publicly on city ordinances or state legislation.
"I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree — in fact, especially when we disagree," said Otterson. "Our language will always be respectful and acknowledge those who differ, but (we) will also be clear on matters that we feel are of great consequence to our society."
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