Yesterday, the LDS First Presidency released an official clarification of its recently revised policy concerning same-sex marriage. Here is the letter that went out to local and general Mormon leaders:
And here is part of the written policy as of November 5:
In my reading of these documents, two changes appear to either nullify or limit the scope of the policy as originally written.
- Children who are already baptized in the LDS Church will not have their ordination, mission service, etc. affected going forward. In the original policy, all children with a parent in a same-sex marriage would have had to wait until age eighteen to receive any ordinance of the church, and even then only with the express permission of the First Presidency. In contrast, yesterday’s revision states that “When a child living with a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld.” It also leaves such decisions in the hands of local leaders.
- The clarification states that a child’s “primary residence” must be with a same-sex couple in order for the restriction to apply. The original policy as written appeared to affect any “child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship.” Many critics rightly raised questions about this: Would a child be prohibited if a parent had lived with someone of the same sex years ago, but was not doing so currently? Would it apply if a child spent only weekends with a parent who was in a same-sex marriage, but spent the rest of his or her time living with a parent in a heterosexual marriage? Yesterday’s letter states that the policy applies “only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship.” There are still major questions here, particularly given the 50-50 joint custody agreements that are often the norm today, but it’s an improvement.
What happened with this clarification on Friday is almost exactly what attorney Kevin Barney predicted in an excellent By Common Consent post the day before on “bright line” rules vs. general guidelines that allow for local variation:
It has been rumored that the PTB are looking into revising the proposed rule in some way given the massive uproar of disapproval it has received. Simply scuttling the rule altogether would be my preference and might be the simplest and most effective course, but I suspect that as a face-saving gesture they will want to keep some sort of a rule in place. But given the myriad land mines with this rule as drafted, it would be almost impossible to simply amend the rule and resolve all the problems if they insist on keeping it as a bright-line standard. I believe their best shot at amending the rule in a way that the membership will accept would be to avoid framing it as a bright-line rule where there is no discretion whatsoever for particular circumstances.
With yesterday’s clarification, a much smaller group of Mormon children are going to be affected. It now only pertains to kids who have not already been baptized and are residing most of the time with a parent who is currently living in a same-sex marriage or relationship.
This is a start, but it’s not enough. As one BCC commenter said, “So what this clarification does is narrow the group of innocent children to which the unchristian new policies may apply. Sorry. Not impressed.”
That about sums it up for me too. Just because we are barring fewer children doesn’t mean it was ever right to bar children at all.
Not to mention that being in a same-sex marriage is now considered “apostasy” in the Handbook, and yesterday’s clarification did nothing to change that. Apostasy mandates a church disciplinary council, while offenses such as “attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), [and] deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities” are only conditions for which a disciplinary council may be necessary.
So if you’re gay, get married, and love one person faithfully for the rest of your life, that’s apparently worse than being a rapist, murderer, adulterer, pedophile, or abuser.
That is plum crazy in my book.
I am glad, however, that yesterday’s clarifications about children mean that the Paquette family I profiled on Tuesday — whose twelve-year-old son was told he was ineligible for his upcoming priesthood ordination because his mother is living with a woman — is off the hook. As of last night, Alyssa Paquette had not spoken to their bishop about the change, but “this document makes it pretty clear that my stepson is eligible for ordination.”
But the boy is not unscathed by the events of this last week, and Paquette is not certain he wants to be ordained anymore. This whole fiasco has been sobering, and the Paquettes are mindful of the fact that while they are now free of the policy’s effects, “many families will still be negatively impacted . . . and [they] are no less important than our family.”