The Mormon Church has been a target of vituperation by some gay rights groups because of its active opposition to same-sex marriage. Now, the church was being praised by gay rights activists in Salt Lake City, citadel of the Mormon world, for its open support of a local ordinance banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing and employment.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously, made Salt Lake the first city in Utah to offer such protections. While the measure probably had majority backing on the seven-member City Council anyway, the church’s support was seen by gay activists as a thunderclap that would resonate across the state and in the overwhelmingly Mormon legislature, where even subtle shifts in church positions on social issues can swing votes and sentiments.
“It’s the most progressive and inclusive statement that the church has made on these issues,” said Will Carlson, the manager of public policy at Equality Utah, the state’s largest gay rights group. “What they’ve said here is huge, in protecting residents in other municipalities, and statewide…”
“Across America and around the world, diverse communities such as ours are wrestling with complex social and moral questions,” Michael R. Otterson, a church spokesman, said in a statement to the City Council. “The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against.”
Overdue – and welcome to the struggle for civil rights.