Elder Oaks clarifies Church support for Respect for Marriage Act

The Church supported the Respect for Marriage Act because it protects religious freedom and provide other protection to churches, Elder Oaks clarified in a talk today.

Speaking this morning, Elder Oaks pointed out that many Church members are unsure why the Church, long opposed to same-sex marriage, supported the Respect for Marriage Act, which codifies same-sex unions.

While the Respect for Marriage Act codified same-sex marriage in federal law, the act also provided needed protections for religious expression. “Putting such protections in the federal law was a big step forward,” said President Oaks, a former Utah state supreme court justice and professor of law at the University of Chicago. 

He explained that the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges had already established a federal right to same-sex marriage in the United States.

The focus of the Church’s efforts in support of the national Respect for Marriage Act “was not on same-sex marriage, but on ensuring the act contained the necessary protections for religious freedom,” he said, adding that at the time the act was adopted, “the Church publicly reaffirmed our Church doctrine approving only marriage between one man and one woman.”

Marriage bills previously proposed in Congress made no attempt to protect religious freedom, said President Oaks. “The Church came out in favor of amendments that added religious freedom protections to the proposed Respect for Marriage Act,” he said. “The amended bill was signed into law, but its overall effect was misunderstood because many news stories focused on only the part of the act that affirmed same-sex marriage.

President Oaks also said the Respect for Marriage Act:

  • Includes valuable provisions to assure no federal or state laws could be used to harm the religious or conscience rights of faith-based institutions or their members. 
  • Ensures that religious organizations, religious schools and their staff do not have to perform or host same-sex marriages or celebrations.
  • Protects the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. 
  • Protects the grants, licenses, contracts and accreditation of religious schools. 
  • Provides that its own provisions cannot be used to violate anyone’s rights to religious freedom. 

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

5 thoughts on “Elder Oaks clarifies Church support for Respect for Marriage Act

  1. Eh, I still think Senator Mike Lee’s amendments to the act would have been better. That said, the same-sex marriage fight is over. Latter-day Saints and other people of faith need to stand up for our rights to the freedom of religion.

  2. I have 0 hope for any positive change in the near or distant future save with Christ’s return. All these laws are nothing but perfume.

  3. I agree, Joyce. This is a watered down version of what Senator Lee’s bill would have been. It looks to me like this bill protected BYU, temple sealings and the tax exempt status. While those are all important I think we will rue the day that we gave in too easily.
    I do agree that the fight over same-sex marriage is over. However, I don’t think we are done fighting for many other rights that will affect how we practice our religion.

  4. I’m not sure I’ll believe the provisions to mean anything until Jack Phillips can refuse to bake a cake for depravity without facing litigation as a consequence. It’s my understanding that the big cases in recent headlines originate from a time before the passing of the [Dis]respect for Marriage Act, but the degenerates continue to persecute him.

    A guarantee of religious freedom in this land was already in effect but to no effect for him, just as it was in the time of President Martin Van Buren and the U.S. Congress that, for political reasons, refused to help the saints when local officials had failed in their duties, leaving them to suffer grave injustices. Why, then, should we trust these provisions?

    All misgivings about the law aside, my trust is in the Lord. We read in D&C 1:38, “…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Our Father’s servants support the law, and I will not revile them for it. I will just wait to see whether it provides protection from the mob, or becomes a witness against them in the day of judgment.

  5. Brandon, yes, it is difficult to be optimistic about the way things are going when just 20 years ago the supporters of “gay rights” said they just wanted civil unions and then everything would be OK. Remember it was about the right to visit their sick lovers in the hospital and the right to pass on inheritances back then. Now, if you don’t completely celebrate the homosexual lifestyle you are a bigot. But you are correct that we should trust in the Brethren and follow their guidance and things will be alright — at least for those of us who follow the Lord and keep the commandments.

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