Peter Harrison was rushing to class Tuesday morning when he noticed a flurry of activity on his Facebook feed.
Senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had just announced support for legislation that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination — and Harrison’s LDS friends were giddily reposting the news.
As a gay Mormon from Logan, Utah, Harrison couldn’t help but share their enthusiasm. But he took the announcement with a grain of salt.
“I try to be an optimist,” the 20-year-old Utah State University student told The Huffington Post. “But I’m careful about prematurely celebrating this day.”
The problem is that although the church is coming out in favor of protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation, it still very much wants the right to be exempt from following those rules.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest leadership body in the church, said that religious communities, church-owned institutions and individual objectors should be able to act on their sincerely held religious beliefs.
“For example, a Latter-day Saint 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,” Holland said during a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Harrison said the strong religious freedom rhetoric is making him doubtful of whether the church really is wholeheartedly welcoming LGBT people into the fold.
“They’re saying, ‘We want you to have rights, but we want to be able to discriminate when we can, because we don’t personally believe it,'” Harrison said.
Neill Marriott, the second counselor of the Young Women General Presidency, makes an announcement at an LDS news conference about religious freedom and nondiscrimination. Marriott’s organization promotes the growth and development of young women in the church.
The LDS church has waded into the debate on LGBT rights in the past. In 2008, The New York Times credited the church for playing an “extraordinary role” in helping pass Proposition 8, a measure that banned same-sex marriage in California. (Court rulings later allowed same-sex marriage in the state to resume.) In 2009, the church came out in favor of a non-discrimination measure that protected LGBT people in Salt Lake City.
To an outsider, it may seem like a shift in positions. But the key difference between…