Trigger warning: This article contains mention of suicide.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon Church, has removed a ban on baptizing the children of LGBTQ parents, reported CNN.
The announcement that the church will no longer consider same-sex couples “apostates” – people who forsake their religion – was made by Dallin Oaks, a member of the church’s First Presidency, at a conference on Thursday (April 4).
The church said in a statement that it wanted “to reduce the hate and contention so common today”
“Previously, our Handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy,” the church said. “While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
The LDS Church announced in November of 2015, five months after same-sex marriage was legalized, that those in same-sex relationships risked ex-communication from the church and children of these couples couldn’t be baptized.
Just two months later, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, called the Mama Dragons, broke the news that 32 LGBTQ young people ages 14 to 20 – two of whom were transgender – had died by suicide.
Church leaders released a statement about the suicides to The Deseret News, a Salt Lake City newspaper owned by the church.
“Every soul is precious to God and to the church and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking,” church spokesperson Dale Jones said. “Those who are attracted to others of the same sex face particular challenges and pressures in this regard, both inside and outside the church.”
Now that same-sex marriages are no longer considered “apostasy,” there is no longer threat of ex-communication for gay couples. However, the church has said that its doctrines on marriage and salvation will remain the same. LGBTQ Mormons are still expected to be chaste, according to church teachings.