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Utah's predominant religion, which has opposed same-sex marriage for decades, now acknowledges the issue is largely settled.

"As far as the civil law is concerned," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday afternoon, "the courts have spoken."

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up Utah and other states' appeals to reinstate their bans on gay marriage.

Some faiths, most notably the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, are not so sure the legal battle is over, while others, supportive of gay marriage, are hoping it is.

The justices' decision doesn't do anything, Bishop John C. Wester said in an interview. "It is just keeping us in the same relative position. We don't know what is going to happen in the future."

Wester, leader of the state's 300,000 Catholics, is "not a legal expert," he said, "but I don't see this as a permanent solution."

To Catholics, marriage is "a sacred, sacramental covenant, permanent and open to procreation," he added. "There is no other relationship like it — it's unique. The state seeking to change that definition is not a good thing for society at large. We respect others' right to disagree, but we feel we have a right and responsibility to say what we believe marriage is."

The Rev. Jim Harris, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Murray, also wished the high court would have heard the case.

"I would like to have a decision one way or the other," Harris said. "Our church opposes gay marriage. For us, marriage is between a man and a woman. We believe that is a Bible stance. Gays have plenty of benefits through civil unions."

Whether permanent or temporary, the "succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today's announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of [the LDS Church], which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God," the Salt Lake City-based faith stated on its website. "In prizing freedom of conscience and constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices."

The LDS news release also encouraged Mormons "to be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation."

That sentiment echoed one offered this past weekend by LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks during the faith's General Conference.

"When our positions do not prevail," Oaks said Saturday, "we should accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility with our adversaries."

Several other religious and civic figures pointed to Oaks' remarks as evidence of a welcome sea change in Mormon attitudes and as an appropriate response to Monday's events.

The Rev. Patty Willis, pastor of the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Cottonwood Heights, cheered the decision as "a modern-day miracle."

The "universe is moving towards justice," said Willis, whose congregation is home to many gay couples. "We are all amazed and thrilled by the news today."

The pastor, a former Mormon, also was touched by Oaks' comments.

The LDS apostle "has not always been so positive [about gay rights] in the past," she said. "The fact that he was calling for more civility — which means more listening to one another — is a step towards more understanding and mutual respect."

The Rev. Jean Schwien, pastor of Salt Lake City's Christ United Methodist Church, praised Monday's events as affirming the "dignity and rights of all human beings equally, and, in that light, we celebrate this decision."

Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott B. Hayashi has been a "supporter of my gay and lesbian friends and church members in this," he said, and is "very happy for them and for all of us who have been hoping and praying that they would be able to have their loving relationships legally recognized."

Hayashi, though, recognizes others have been praying for a different outcome.

"I consider them to be friends; I am sad for them," the bishop said. "I understand their unhappiness, frustration and loss. When my friends hurt, I hurt, too."

Referring to Oaks' comments, Hayashi said, he, too, plans to "practice not only civility but also compassion." —

Trib Talk chat

On Tuesday at 12:15 p.m., Sen. Jim Dabakis and Rep. Kraig Powell will join Jennifer Napier-Pearce to discuss the broad impact of Monday's gay-marriage decision and how state legislators will approach the legal revamp in January. You can also join the discussion by sending questions and comments to the hashtag #TribTalk on Twitter and Google+ or texting 801-609-8059.