The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a remarkable reversal to its policies on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on Thursday.
The decision rolls back a 2015 policy that barred children living with same-sex couples from important religious practices like baby-naming ceremonies and baptisms. That policy also declared that church members in same-sex marriages were apostates and subject to excommunication.
“Effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First presidency approval,” the church’s First Presidency said in a statement on Thursday.
“While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline,” the statement said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
The decision, instructed by President Dallin H. Oaks, who leads the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, comes as the church prepares for its general conference this coming weekend.
“While we cannot change the Lord’s doctrine, we want our members and our policies to be considerate of those struggling with the challenges of mortality,” the statement said. “We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today.”