The LDS Church's unexpected endorsement of two Salt Lake City gay-rights measures has many observers wondering if another surprise could follow: a friendlier reception in the 2010 Legislature for such protections statewide.
Even an LDS apostle -- continuing the string of stunners --thinks Salt Lake City's ordinances could be a model.
"Anything good is shareable," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in an interview Wednesday, referring to Salt Lake City's new policy aimed at protecting gay and transgender residents from discrimination.
He praised the efforts of Mormon officials and gay-rights leaders who sat down to discuss the issue before the church's endorsement.
"Everybody ought to have the freedom to frame the statutes the way they want," he said. "But at least the process and the good will and working at it, certainly that could be modeled anywhere and even elements of the statute."
At a public hearing Tuesday, church spokesman Michael Otterson expressed strong support for ordinances that, starting in April, will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment. Salt Lake City, home to the worldwide faith's headquarters, approved the statutes in a unanimous City Council vote.
It is an interesting turnabout from an entity that took the lead in opposing gay marriage (most recently in California's Prop. 8 campaign). They insist that the two positions are not in conflict. But I have to admit I'm curious whether or not this is, at least in part, a defensive measure in response to the immense backlash the LDS took after their role in California (a backlash which, I must say, I think was entirely deserved). Most churches can count on a strong base of fellow Christian conservatives to back them up against charges of bigotry, but the LDS has, at best, a shaky relationship with mainstream evangelical Protestantism, and thus were left more vulnerable. I'm wondering if we're seeing the fruits of that.
But regardless of the chain of causation, I'm happy for the gays and lesbians in Utah who are a step closer to equality, and I'm happy that the LDS has chosen to intervene on the side of angels this side.