SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church re-emphasized Thursday night that its doctrine on marriage and family is based on respect and love, as 2,000-3,000 people protested for gay rights and recognition in downtown Salt Lake City.

"Of course, the church recognizes the right of groups to voice their opinion in the public square. However, those familiar with the church's doctrine on the importance of marriage and family know it is based on principles of respect and love for all of God's children," the church's statement said. "We have continually emphasized that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone."

Protesters gathered at City Creek Park and then crossed over to public sidewalks to form back-to-back lines around Temple Square in a silent protest.

The catalyst for the protest was the gay and lesbian community's reaction to Sunday's general conference address by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints.

"We are here tonight with a message of hope and a demand for change," Eric Ethington, founder of Pride In Utah and the protest organizer, shouted to people on the lawn. "We were born this way. You can't change us and every time you try people are hurt."

On Monday, the LDS Church reiterated its stance on same-gender marriage, saying its "doctrine on the importance of marriage and family and its implications for same-sex marriage are very clear and are based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God's children."

The statement added: "We have continually emphasized that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone."

In a rare public endorsement made 11 months ago, the LDS Church voiced support for two Salt Lake City nondiscrimination ordinances that went into effect earlier this year, making it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

"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 church spokesman Michael Otterson at a November 2009 public hearing on the ordinance. "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."

"The church supports this ordinance because it is fair and reasonable and does not do violence to the institution of marriage," Otterson said.

Contributing: Lana Groves

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