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Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks, a former lawyer and judge, sets out his Oct. 6 conference speech, "Protect the Children," as if he were laying out a court case.

First, his bona fides: As an apostle, he is "responsible to witness to the entire world." It is the duty of everyone to care for one another, "especially for the weak and defenseless."

He enumerates perils to children: prostitution, pornography, abortion, abuse, divorce and unmarried mothers. And, he says, "We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender."

It's an insult born of ignorance and blatant bias against gay couples and parents — people who have the same ideals, intelligence, purpose and, yes, human right to love one another and join in marriage.

Oaks, speaking for his global church, quotes scholars, saying "Throughout history, marriage has first and foremost been an institution for procreation and raising children."

Has Oaks ever met a same-sex couple with kids? Has he taken time to talk to them, to understand them? Then he might have more charity for people who love their kids and grandkids just like any straight couple would and do.

It might be instructive for Oaks to meet my brother, Bill McEntee, who married Steve Borsen in July in New York after 28 years together.

Or our dear friends Elenor Heyborne and Marina Gomberg, whose commitment ceremony in Salt Lake City's Memory Grove left everyone in joyful tears (and, later, dancing to Bette Midler).

Or Jamila Hastings-Tharp and her wife, Michelle, and their sons and 10-year-old daughter, a gay-rights activist who is wise beyond her years.

"This marriage is recognized in the state of California," Jamila says, "because it happened to occur at the time in which there was a window of opportunity in which it was legal."

That legal window slammed shut, of course, with LDS Church-backed and voter-approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. (The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to weigh in.)

Jamila, who is studying for a master's degree in divinity on her way to becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister, has this to say about Oaks' sermon:

"I agree with the call to 'protect the children,' she says. "Protect my children!

"What does it say about our country that a dominant religious view driven by prejudice, ignorance and feelings of superiority determines whether its citizens have religious freedom and equal protection under the law?" she asks. "My family has no legal protections or civil rights that accompany our marriage. We are treated unfairly and excluded simply because of who we love."

This is what Oaks, a former law professor and Utah Supreme Court justice, and his brethren in the LDS hierarchy do not understand.

That's not to say it's impossible. After more than a century, the Salt Lake City-based faith changed its position on black Mormon men who once were denied the priesthood. The church has forged relationships with Muslims and Jews. It has even endorsed protections for gays and lesbians in housing and the workplace.

So why the tall wall against gay marriage? What does the church gain by demonizing it?


That's a tragedy, when so many Latter-day Saints have opened their hearts to the LGBT community, understanding that no one should suffer denigration and condemnation because of their sexual nature.

Oaks and his colleagues are fighting a losing battle. Gone are the days when gays and lesbians lived in fearful isolation. The world is open to them now. It cannot be closed.

I'd suggest a close reading of the Bible's Matthew 25:40, when Jesus says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at and .

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