Thursday 27 July 2017

Mormonism heavily criticised for its attitude towards gay rights

Protestors hold pride flags and signs in front of the Historic Mormon Temple on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Protestors hold pride flags and signs in front of the Historic Mormon Temple on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
People hold protest signs in City Creek Park after many submitted their resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Patricia Peterson hold her letter of resignations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in response to a recent change in church policy towards married LGBT same sex couples and their children on November 14, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A little over a week ago the Mormon church made a change in their official handbook of instructions requiring a disciplinary council and possible excommunication for same sex couples and banning the blessing and baptism of their children into the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Sarah Jane Murphy

The conservative US state of Utah, home to the Mormon church, has been the subject of a heated national discussion following its recent treatment of gay people.

Salt Lake City, the state capital, hit the headlines on Wednesday when it elected its first openly gay mayor, in a vote described as historic by gay rights groups.

However despite this progressive development, two recent occurrences concerning same-sex couples have prompted anger as they suggest Utah has a long way to go in relation to fully accepting its burgeoning LGBT community.

Firstly, the Mormon church declared that children of gay couples cannot be blessed as babies or baptised until they turn 18.

Once they reach that age, they will have to renounce same-sex marriage and prove they are no longer living with their parents, in order to join the church.

In the letter to lay leaders of its 30,000 congregations around the world, the church also explained that Mormons in same-sex marriages are considered apostates and as such could be excommunicated.

In a separate development a Utah judge last week ordered a lesbian couple to surrender their foster baby, on grounds that the child would be "better off" with a heterosexual family.

The judge later rescinded his order and excused himself from the case following an uproar.

Rights groups claim the two events are worrying and fly in the face of national advances on gay rights.

The incidents contrast starkly with recent positive developments for the LGBT community in Utah, including the mayoral election this week.

“The irony is not lost on any of us here,” Troy Williams, the head of Equality Utah, a gay rights group, told AFP.

“Utah is full of surprises,” he added. “We defy stereotypes every step of the way.”

Williams pointed out that while the state overall was conservative, a recent poll showed that the capital Salt Lake City had a higher percentage of LGBT residents than New York.

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