By Jennifer Dobner
(Reuters) – Nearly 300 Mormons marched in a gay pride parade on Sunday, holding signs that read “God Loves His Children” in a unique display of support from believers of a religious tradition that has long opposed homosexuality.
“When people hear that Mormons are marching with gay and lesbian people in Salt Lake City… I think that’s going to be a surprise,” said Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the 2008 movie “Milk” about slain San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk. Black, who is gay and was raised Mormon, was the parade’s grand marshal.
“They are fostering a level of acceptance that hasn’t traditionally been there,” he said.
Erika Munson, 52, a devout Mormon and mother of five, founded the group Mormons Building Bridges and led it in the annual Utah Pride Parade in support of the gay community. She had grown uncomfortable with the image of their church as anti-gay.
“I feel like this is the time to speak up. I’ve always felt like I was supportive in my own way of the LGBT community but I’ve had to keep that and my commitment for the church separate,” she said, using a common term for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people.
Munson’s group is not endorsed by or directly affiliated with Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormon faith teaches that gay sex is a sin and for decades church leaders have denounced homosexuality as unnatural, endorsed reparative therapies aimed at altering sexual orientation and excommunicated some gay members.
Since the 1990s, the church also has publicly backed campaigns to block legalized gay marriage.
SHIFT IN SENTIMENT
Church leaders have softened their stance on homosexuality in recent years, saying the origins of sexuality are not fully understood. The church also has endorsed Utah laws to protect LGBT people from job and housing discrimination and in 2010 denounced gay bullying.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/04/us-usa-mormons-gaypride-idUSBRE85300Q20120604
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