comments_image Comments

Finesse and Fairness: Senate Leader Harry Reid Advances Equality in LDS and the West

Share

For all the criticism he incurs from right and left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has done a subtle but substantial mitzvah for the goals of nondiscrimination and greater dignity for LGBT people. Over the past 4 months, Reid has reiterated his own support for nondiscrimination coverage for gay people, which remains a gaping hole in federal law and a growing priority for LGBT advocates. He has also chided his fellow adherents in the leadership of the LDS, or Mormon, church over advocacy and intervention in antigay ballot measure campaigns, including California's Proposition 8 in 2008.

Reid's rebuke is mindful of the danger of a lasting brand of intolerance that has the potential to hurt all Mormons. As a minority faith steeped in understanding of its members' own past persecution, the LDS and its local stakes are attuned to the risks from such image problems. Reid's voice appears to have carried well beyond his home state of Nevada and struck a nerve at LDS headquarters in Utah and throughout the inland West, where as many as 20 and even 30 percent of residents are Mormons in some counties far from Salt Lake City.

It was in that metropolis in November 2009 that LDS officials publicly switched positions on a nondiscrimination ordinance covering LGBT people pending in the city council. The ordinance passed unanimously and, to date, has not triggered repeal attempts locally or in the state legislature. In a possible ripple effect from the turnabout in Utah, the city council in conservative Caldwell, Idaho, just outside Boise, with its very large Mormon population, voted unanimously in early February to include "sexual orientation" in the town's nondiscrimination policy.

All is not valentines for LGBT people as far as the LDS church and its highest-profile lawmakers are concerned. The Republican in Congress now leading the attack on the District of Columbia ordinance that extends marriage equality to same-sex couples (signed amidst jubilance and applause in a D.C. Unitarian church in December 2009) is Utahn and Mormon first-termer Rep. Jason Chaffetz. His bid, in seeming contradiction to the conservative credo of not meddling in other jurisdictions' local affairs, is a sad throwback to earlier attempts to trigger federal resistance to human-rights advances in the District, such as in repealing the city's sodomy law. Even as LGBT advocates amass majority support for marriage and other family recognition throughout the nation, such inclusive policies have yet to win the embrace of Mormon leaders and some of the church's most prominent elected officials.

 

Reid speaks up: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13546968

LDS about-face is a move in the right direction: http://www.wattscookinblog.com/2009/11/lds-church-olive-branch-in-one-ha...

Surprising change in small-town Idaho: http://www.idahopress.com/advertise_with_us/?2010-02-03-New-Caldwell-Cit...

Utah lawmaker tries to undermine marriage equality in DC: http://www.abc4.com/content/news/top%20stories/story/Chaffetz-wants-DC-v...

See more stories tagged with: