In their latest move to firm up their stand against same-sex marriage, the policy introduced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not allow children of same-sex couples to join the Mormon Church until they are 18 years old. Even then, they must move out of their parents’ house, disavow same-sex relationships, and receive permission from the church’s top officials.
To take the new policy a step further, all Mormons who are in same-sex marriages will be considered apostates. They will be required to undergo church disciplinary hearings, which could result in excommunication.
These new policies are an effort to harden its boundaries and firm the LDS church’s stance against same-sex marriage. The move comes in a time when a small but growing number of Mormons are coming out as LGBT or expressing their support for same-sex marriage, something the church has long been opposed to.
Strangely enough, while the church has been introducing stricter policies against its own members, publicly the church has expressed support for laws that ban discrimination against gay people in employment and housing. Mormon leaders have even distanced themselves from evangelical and conservative leaders, claiming that despite their own religious convictions they must follow the law.
The church’s latest policies were revealed in a handbook for church leaders that was distributed on Thursday. Though the church did not publicly announce any of the changes, copies of the policy book have been leaked to the media to confirm the changes.
Previously, church leaders were left to decide whether or not to punish Mormons in same-sex marriages and how severe the discipline would be. The latest policy change has added same-sex marriage to the list of acts considered apostasy, laying out the course which church leaders need to take.
Liberal Mormons are appalled by the latest changes. Jana Riess, a columnist with Religion News Service, was horrified that children born to unmarried couples, murders and rapists were all eligible for baptism, but those whose parents were in monogamous, same-sex relationships were not.
“It’s heartbreaking for me to see my church drawing this line in the sand, which leaves faithful L.G.B.T. members with an impossible choice: They can either be excluded from lifelong love and companionship, or excluded from the blessings of the church,” she said.
Affirmation, an organization for gay Mormons and those in support of gay Mormons, stated that they have received a flood of reactions from members and supporters. There are LGBT members of the church who have strived to keep the faith, live their lives according to the church doctrine, and bring their children up in the faith who now risk losing it all.
John Dehlin, an excommunicated gay rights activist, says that the latest development will “trigger a huge round of excommunications for legally same-sex married Mormons,” and be a huge blow to the church’s congregation.