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.