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Dennis Potter, a professor and former Mormon, stood with dozens of people outside Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City to protest the LDS Church's new policy regarding gay couples and their children.
The policy, announced Thursday, labels married same-sex couples as apostates and bars their children from a naming blessing, baptism or mission call without the approval of the faith's top leaders. Late Friday, Mormon apostle D. Todd Christofferson explained in a church-released video that the organization doesn't want "the child to have to deal with issues that might arise when the parents feel one way and the expectations of the church are very different," and that the children can still join the faith when they become adults.
But as Potter sees it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is imposing "an arbitrary sanction" on children of gay parents, who are being singled out.
"For example, it doesn't apply to the children of single parents who engage in heterosexual fornication," Potter said Sunday afternoon, speaking into a microphone before the crowd of protesters, numbering north of 60. "It doesn't apply to children [of parents] who commit any other type of sin, with the sole exception of the sin of polygamy."
The latest LDS handbook, which spells out guidelines for the faith's local lay leaders, also lists polygamy as apostasy, and it places restrictions on the participation of children from such families. In the video, Christofferson sees "a parallel" in the way Mormon leaders view polygamy and same-sex marriage.
Gregory Lucero, who organized the protest, called on the LDS Church to treat "your brothers and sisters" with dignity and respect. He added that not all Mormons should be judged by their leadership's actions and called for people to "recognize and respect the dignity of those who call themselves Latter-day Saints, who stand with the oppressed, who stand with the child whether they're black, they're brown, they're gay, transgender."
Danielle Warnick, who identified herself as nonbinary and bisexual, told the crowd that "whether or not you believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, you cannot deny that an organization with his name transcribed on each of their buildings should act in a more Christlike manner."
Warnick added that "no one should feel so hopeless that they commit suicide, but that's exactly the kind of environment that's created by this new policy."
Her sentiment echoes that of the advocacy organization Mama Dragons, whose members run support groups for Mormon families. In a statement last week, the group said it shares the fears of those who believe anti-gay rhetoric from LDS leaders leaves some gay youths contemplating suicide and allows some parents to banish gay children from their homes although Mormon authorities have denounced such shunning.
Protester Carly Haldeman, who was raised Mormon, expressed her concern for children who go to school at a "critical social development stage" of their lives, and feel unwelcome and that there's something wrong with them.
Charles Wilkosz, who is Mormon and happened to walk by the protest, agreed with Christofferson's point about "[protecting] children from this big dilemma from parents teaching you one thing, and the church teaching you another thing about marriage."
But as the protesters began a rally chant, Wilkosz added that people should have the right to express their views.
"Most of it I, of course, disagree [with]," he said. "It's important to discuss and explain to each other and respect that we can have different views."