The Mormon Church has issued a rule
change that allows officials to oust gays and their children.
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints this week disseminated changes to the Mormon
handbook (the Handbook of Instructions) to local church leaders.
Under the changes, gay married Mormon
will be considered apostates, which could lead to excommunication. A
disciplinary council “may be necessary” for gay couples
cohabiting but not married, the handbook states.
Additionally, the children of parents
in gay or lesbian relationships, married or cohabiting, cannot join
the Mormon Church until they turn 18 and then only if they are no
longer living with their parents, disavow same-sex relationships and
receive approval from the church's highest leaders.
“The church has long been on record
as opposing same-sex marriage,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a
statement. “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 change puts married gays on par
with people who commit murder, rape, sexual abuse, spousal abuse,
adultery, or abandon their family responsibilities.
“I am no better now than an illegal
polygamist,” said Nathan Kitchen, a 47-year-old gay Mormon with
five children who recently divorced his wife.
“It's almost like [my children] now
have to choose between a gay father and a church that they love,”
he told the AP. “This is almost too much to bear.”
While the church has been criticized
for supporting restrictive marriage bans – primarily in California
and Hawaii – its support for an LGBT protections ordinance in Salt
Lake City was widely seen as a step toward greater acceptance.
John Dehlin, who was excommunicated
earlier this year for supporting marriage equality, told The
New York Times that the new policy would “trigger a huge
round of excommunications for legally same-sex married Mormons” and
that it “closes the door on future change.”