Children living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or baptized until they are 18, the Mormon Church declared in a new policy. Once they reach 18, children may disavow the practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage and stop living within the household and request to join the church.
The policy changes, which also state that those in a same-sex marriage are to be considered apostates, set off confusion and turmoil among many Mormons after the policy was leaked online. The changes in the handbook for local church leaders for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were confirmed Thursday by church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
“Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world,” Hawkins said in a statement. “The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.”
The church, which has wrestled with evolving laws on same-sex marriage and worked out a political compromise with LGBT leaders in Utah, set off turmoil among Mormons about its new policies, especially the policy on children of same-sex couples.
“I don’t see it as revolutionary, but very consistent with other church policies on marriages that are outside the Mormon pale, like polygamy,” said Ardis E. Parshall, a historian on Mormonism. “That does not lessen the pain for friends and families involved, though, so it’s tremendously significant.”
Before Thursday’s change, the church’s policy was that same-sex marriage might require discipline and it was usually left up to local leaders. Now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country, the church decided to identify those in a same-sex marriage as apostates, or people who renounce their faith.