Senate Mormons Helped Win ENDA

The New York Times reports that ENDA passed yesterday not just with the help of the top Mormons in the Senate such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, but with the de facto blessing (or at least, without the objections) of the church itself.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who at 79 is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, became the first Republican to signal he would reverse his opposition as the bill faced a crucial vote in committee. He voted against a similar bill the last time it came up in the Senate — 17 years ago — but changed his mind earlier this year after Gordon H. Smith, a fellow Mormon and former Republican senator, convinced him there was nothing in it that violated church doctrine. “The church does want to be helpful where we can be, without violating our own conscience,” Mr. Smith, a former bishop, said in an interview. And as the bill approached a vital vote earlier this week, Senator Dean Heller, the Nevada Republican who has taught Sunday school at his Mormon church, provided the crucial 60th vote to break a filibuster. In the end, all but two of the Senate’s seven Mormons voted yes. Their support for including civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is the latest example of a broader evolution by some of the most visible members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have come to cautiously embrace gay rights. It is a remarkable turnabout from just five years ago, when the church faced a maelstrom of criticism for backing the initiative in California that took away the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The LDS-owned Deseret News notes that ENDA is as far it goes.

Politico reported that Reid, who is LDS, told a group of reporters, most of them working for LGBT publications according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that his social views have shifted over time to support issues like ENDA. He said he thought that was true of other Latter-day Saints. The church did not directly address the broad range of LGBT rights. It responded to media inquiries with its statement, which read in part, “As the church has said before, elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position. “On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the church has not taken a position. On the question of same-sex marriage, the church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with kindness and understanding. If it is being suggested that the church’s doctrine on this matter is changing, that is incorrect.”