Mormon Leaders Take on Marriage Equality in Hawaii
Although leaders from the Mormon Church have remained out of the gay marriage debate in a number of states as of late, they have recently resurfaced to take on the marriage equality battle in Hawaii, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
In a Sept. 15 letter to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormon leaders urge them to "study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation."
As the Tribune reports, the letter did not tell church members which side of the issue to support - only to examine the Mormon Church’s "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," a document that states marriage is between one man and one woman. Though some consider the letter a softer approach, the letter says that members should support "a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith" that would protect religious groups "from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages."
Owen Matsunaga, a "stake" president over several Mormon congregations and the church’s spokesman in Hawaii, told the Tribune that Latter-day Saints leaders in Salt Lake City "are certainly aware of the issues in Hawaii" but local leaders and members will most likely "make decisions specific to local circumstances." (According to Wikipedia, a "stake" is "an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations in denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement.")
"Our position in Hawaii is entirely consistent with the church’s doctrine and in harmony with this pattern," he said.
Quin Monson, a political scientist for Brigham Young University, which is owned by the church, told the newspaper that the Mormon leaders’ approach in Hawaii is "significant" and that it may not seem direct but its nonetheless "asking people to defend religious liberty." He added that the letter’s language seems to "signal a kind of resignation that there’s a shift in society that we can’t stop, but we can ask for exceptions."
The Mormon Church made headlines when its leaders aggressively tried help California’s Proposition 8 pass. Officials wrote a letter telling members to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." As the Tribune reports, the church raised millions of dollars to support the anti-gay marriage measure.
The newspaper also reports that more than 5% of Hawaii’s population is of Mormon faith.