Late last week, a Mother Jones article with the headline "Mormon Church Abandons Its Crusade Against Gay Marriage," accompanied by a graphic depicting the Salt Lake Temple with a rainbow behind it, caught fire on social media. It's easy to see why: the Mormon Church has spent nearly two decades and untold millions of dollars fighting same-sex marriage across the United States. A decision by church leaders to stop fighting civil marriage equality would indeed be huge news.
But beyond the headline, the article uses qualifiers and weasel words to tell a different story. For example, the author says that the Mormon Church was not present "in any official capacity" in the demonstrations outside the Supreme Court last month when the justices heard arguments challenging California's Proposition 8, despite being the religious group perhaps most responsible for its passage. While this is true, the Mormon Church was most certainly not absent that day, as it had filed briefs with the Court urging the Justices to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA. (This information is buried much further down in the article itself.)
Furthermore, as Zack Ford at ThinkProgress notes, the Mormons' brief cites the widely discredited Regnerus study as supposed evidence that marriage equality harms children.
Were Mormon officials standing outside the Supreme Court that day holding protest signs a la Westboro Baptist? Nope. But were they actively arguing for the preservation of marriage discrimination? You bet they were.
Still further down the page, the author concedes that "Mormon church doctrine still defines homosexuality as a sin." Mormonism apparently takes the same sadistic view of gays and lesbians that the Roman Catholic Church does - it's fine to be attracted to people of the same gender, but acting on those attractions is sinful. We learn that the Mormon Church still actively excludes non-celibate LGBT members, and it even demanded that Mitch Mayne of San Francisco, the church's first openly gay ward official, dump his longtime partner before he could take on a leadership position in the church.
(Photo by Chris Detrick/Salt Lake Tribune)
The article makes absolutely no mention of the Mormon Church walking back its endorsement of "ex-gay" therapy, which has no scientific basis and often causes great harm to gays and lesbians by telling them they're sick and sinful just because of who they are. As far as I know, that recommendation still stands.
Does this look like a church that's "abandoned its crusade" against marriage equality to you? It certainly doesn't to me. It seems more like the Mormon Church is trying to deemphasize its homophobia without having to change any of its actual anti-gay doctrines.
In fairness, activist Fred Karger - who's been working to expose the Mormon Church's anti-gay crusade longer and more tirelessly than just about anyone else - rightly points out that the church does seem to have relinquished its position at the forefront of the public fight for marriage discrimination. And that's great! Believe me, I'm all about encouraging and welcoming all steps in the direction of inclusiveness and equality, no matter how small, as anyone familiar with my writings on the Catholic Church, relationship recognition, and the Republican Party will tell you. Baby steps are infinitely better than no steps at all.
But while I'm all about affirming positive steps, I'm also opposed to giving credit where it isn't deserved. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints still shuns LGBT people for the "sin" of being true to themselves, still strongly opposes and actively works to prevent equal marriage rights for loving same-sex couples, and still entertains the life-threatening lie that it's possible to "pray away the gay." So as far as I'm concerned, the Mormon Church cannot honestly be said to have "abandoned" its anti-LGBT, anti-marriage equality crusade. Instead, it seems to want to put a kinder, gentler face on the same bigoted beliefs.
Mother Jones got it wrong.
(Cross-posted on my personal blog, johnmbecker.com.)