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How Mormons globally deal with gay marriage where it's legal

Published February 4, 2014 3:20 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Gay marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and Spain — places where Mormons mostly find themselves in a tiny minority.

On top of that, nearly all these countries recognize only civil marriage as legally valid.

So how do such Latter-day Saints respond in those places?

"In gay-supporting countries, church members feel less disturbed by same-sex marriage because of the civil framework to which the word 'marriage' belongs," writes retired LDS professor Wilfried Decoo, who has taught at the University of Antwerp and at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, "and because it pertains to non-members."

Chances are fair, the professor writes at timesandseasons.org, that some Mormons know a same-sex couple personally.

"In one of our Belgian wards, a 17-year-old joined the church — a fine young man, balanced and dedicated, who had been well raised by his two dads," he says. "Though not members, the two fathers later supported their son fully when he decided to go on a mission."

Such tolerance among Mormons is especially true in the Netherlands and Belgium, where same-sex marriage has existed for more than a decade, Decoo says, but in France, which legalized gay marriage last year, "Mormon opinions are more divided, in line with the fierce debate that preceded the French legalization of same-sex marriage."

Fierce divisions among Mormons in Australia have emerged as that country debates the move to legalize gay marriage, he writes.

"A member from Peru told me that Mormons in large urban areas are more lenient and understanding, because LGBT are more visible and more familiar to members," Decoo says, "while in rural areas members easily mention homosexuality in one breath with depravity and abuse. LGBT in such rural areas therefore tend to keep their orientation secret."

In Latvia and Hungary, East European countries "with strong anti-gay feelings," he says, "church members tend to share these anti-feelings and find justification for them in their Mormon belief."

And in African nations such as the Congo, he writes, "most members would consider homosexuality an 'anti-value to morals and mores.' "

Peggy Fletcher Stack