On December 13, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement about the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA):.
We extend a heartfelt thank you and our congratulations to all who played a part in the passage of the amended Respect for Marriage Act. Their efforts to protect religious freedom as Congress sought to codify the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision are both historic and commendable.
The amended Respect for Marriage Act specifically recognizes that “diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.”
As restated last month, “the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.” Congress has now reaffirmed that our beliefs “are due proper respect.”
The new law demonstrates that respect. The law states that it can’t be used to harm religious or conscience rights for faith-based institutions. It protects the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. It protects the grants, licenses, contracts and accreditation of religious schools. And it ensures that religious organizations, religious schools and their employees do not have to perform or host same-sex marriages or celebrations. No law is perfect. But putting such protections in the federal code is a big step forward.
The Church has been pleased to participate with many others in the difficult but worthy work of civil engagement that accompanied the passage of this bill. Like the Church-supported Utah law in 2015, our efforts are helping the nation pursue freedom, fairness and respect for all.
What is the Respect for Marriage Act?
The Respect for Marriage Act has two simple goals:
- The bill repeals the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, a definition previously struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Establish a federal rule that states must recognize a same-sex marriage entered legally in another state.
Why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints supports the amended Respect for Marriage Act
Some people question why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints would support this law.
The main reason is that the law includes protections which ensure that churches and faiths can maintain their own doctrines and definitions of marriage and won’t be forced to perform or host same-sex marriages.
Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that, “It is really quite significant that the Congress recognized, and today the president signed, legislation that said people with views like ours of marriage between one man and one woman are honorable people who need to be respected and they should not have their faith or their practices challenged,” (Deseret News).
“First, it is clear our well-known doctrine on marriage will remain unchanged,” he said. “This does not change church doctrine. In fact, the religious freedom amendments (in the Respect for Marriage Act) support our ability to practice our doctrine.”
“Second, the support of these amendments will ensure that all religious people and institutions are respected and protected, even though they have a doctrine or practice that’s inconsistent with the law of the land.”
The new law includes specific language that says, for example, “Diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.”
Another reason is that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the value of following the law of the land. In 1842, Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith, 13 short statements that explain the basic doctrines and practices of the church. The 12th Articles of Faith states that Latter-day Saints “believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
“Same-sex marriage is the law in all 50 states. We know that. That’s not consistent with our doctrine, but that’s the reality,” said Elder Gerard, “so what we’re trying to do is go forward protecting our religious rights while at the same time respecting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have a very different view.”
Furthermore, Latter-day Saints believe in loving their neighbors, even when they hold different beliefs.
According to Elder Gerard, the church also views its approach to the Respect of Marriage Act “from a doctrinal standpoint regarding the two great commandments taught by Jesus Christ. Protecting the liberty to hold its religious beliefs is part of loving God by keeping his commandments, and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination is part of loving one’s neighbor, he said” (see Deseret News).
Finally, even from a secular perspective, and basic common sense, as explained by president Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency in a presentation in November 2021, “as a practical basis for co-existence, we should accept the reality that we are fellow citizens who need each other. This requires us to accept some laws we dislike, and to live peacefully with some persons whose values differ from our own.” He continued that a basic imperative of this reality is “that we should not seek total dominance for our own position; we should seek fairness for all.” (FAIR)