SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- In a shift of policy, the Mormon Church said Tuesday it would support protections of gay people, as long as protection of religious freedom is also protected. Leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints made the announcement at a press conference, itself a change in typical policy, in Salt Lake City. Members of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles -- Elders Dallin H. Oaks, Jeffrey R. Holland, and D. Todd Christofferson, and Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Church's Young Women -- spoke. It called for support of legislation providing LGBT protections in housing and employment, but also seeks protections for religious conviction in light of gains of laws helping the LGBT community.
"This nation is engaged in a great debate about marriage, family, individual conscience and collective rights and the place of religious freedom in our society. The debate we speak of today is about how to affirm rights for some without taking away from the rights of others," Marriott said.
The Mormon Church is among several churches which have publicly decried expansion of specific rights for gay people, which they regard as attacks on religious freedom. The presentation Tuesday noted several examples of public pressure put on those who supported California's Proposition 8 referendum, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.
"It is one of today's great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals," said Oaks.
The announcement followed a study of the topic and conversations with LGBT leaders, religious leaders and government officials, a Mormon Church spokesperson said, and came as the Utah Legislature is debating two bills with competing interests. One would ban housing and employment discrimination against LGBT people; the other reinforces an individual's right to deny services based on religious belief.
"A Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so, especially when others are readily available to perform that function. As another example, a neighborhood Catholic pharmacist, who declines to carry the 'morning after' pill when large pharmacy chains readily offer that item, should likewise not be pressured into violating his or her conscience by bullying or boycotting," Holland said.