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LDS leaders join open letter to Floridians calling for peace with LGBTQ community

“Those of us from faith traditions believe that we are all created by a loving God who has commanded us to love each other.”

Two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Area Seventy joined over 45 religious, LGBTQ, and educational leaders in an open letter to Floridians calling for legislation in the state to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people from discrimination.

The letter, published in the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, asks Floridians to support non-discrimination legislation to protect “all people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, while also protecting important religious rights.”

“As citizens and leaders in the state of Florida, we are extremely concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious rights and LGBTQ rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion, and preventing diverse people of goodwill from living together in peace and mutual respect,” the letter begins.

It was signed by LDS leaders Elders Victor P. Patrick of Tampa, Florida, and Daniel P. Amato of Windermere, Florida, both members of the Area Seventy

The letter comes five months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed “Parental Rights in Education” into law. Widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, it restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

Two similar open letters were signed by local LDS leaders in Arizona and Georgia in support of legislation in each state protecting LGBTQ rights. Those states failed to pass the legislation, which included religious carveouts, instead passing bills to bar transgender athletes from competing in school sports.

While the letter shows support for protections in public accommodations, attempts in Utah to pass such a law have not progressed far.

The full letter:

“As citizens and leaders in the state of Florida, we are extremely concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious rights and LGBTQ rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion, and preventing diverse people of goodwill from living together in peace and mutual respect.

“It is time to assert clearly that we believe in the values of freedom, equality, and fairness for all. We join a growing number of faith and community leaders from around the country in support of non-discrimination legislation that protects all people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, while also protecting important religious rights.

“No one should be denied these protections based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and likewise, religious persons and institutions should be protected in practicing their faith. Those of us from faith traditions believe that we are all created by a loving God who has commanded us to love each other. We are all also Americans with a long tradition of figuring out how to get along despite deep differences.

“LGBTQ rights and religious rights do not have to be in conflict. In fact, many LGBTQ people are themselves people of deep faith. Now is the time to set aside political motives, malice, and misrepresentations, and commit to respectful dialogue and good-faith engagement.

“We believe that the state of Florida is uniquely positioned to come together to protect all people, unify our communities and help bring healing to our nation on what for too long has been a divisive issue. That may not be easy in this time of polarization, and it will certainly require goodwill and mutual accommodation. But it can, and must, be done.

“We respectfully urge all Floridians and leaders at every level of government to join in support of these common values and core principles in a balanced approach to provide protections for LGBTQ persons as well as people and institutions of faith.”

The letter was signed by:

  • Elder Victor P. Patrick, Area Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Nadine Smith, executive director, Equality Florida.
  • Barbara Poma, founder, onePULSE Foundation.
  • Bishop Derrick L. McRae, senior pastor & CEO, The Experience Christian Center.
  • Rev. Dr.Jenn Stiles-Williams, lead pastor, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.
  • Elder Daniel P. Amato, Area Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • The Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, faith-based president, Parable Foundation.
  • The Rev. Alison P. Harrity, rector, St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.
  • Josh Bell, executive director, One Orlando Alliance.
  • The Rev. Tracie Barrett, University Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
  • Board of directors, JAM & ALL Interfaith of South Florida.
  • Martha Kirby, congregational president, University Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
  • Rabbi Joshua Lobel.
  • Rhonda Thomas, executive director, Faith in Florida.
  • Kamran Rouhani, Baha’i Garden of Ridvan.
  • Rabbi Dan Levin, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • Jasbir Bahtia, Sikh Society of Central Florida.
  • Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Mates, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • The Rev. Jad Denmark, minister of Congregational Life.
  • Rabbi Elana Rabinshaw, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • The Rev. Melissa Cooper, Minister of Worship.
  • Rabbi Greg Weisman, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • Rev. Jeremy Green, Minister of New Communities.
  • Cantor Lori Brock, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • The Rev. Benjamin Collins, Exec. Director, All Saints, District Coordinator, ECD|FLUMC.
  • Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton.
  • The Rev. Madeline Luzinski, clergy, United Methodist Church — Florida UM Children’s Home.
  • Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh Boca Raton.
  • Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, CFO, Jack & Lee Rosen Jewish Community Center.
  • Cathy Ostroff, Kol Ami Congregation of Boca Raton.
  • Addison K. Mitchell, pastor of Park Memorial Missionary Baptist Church — West Cocoa.
  • Dr. Barbara Lunde and Rev. Jill Guerra, The Center for Spiritual Living Boca Raton.
  • The Rev. Esther Rodriguez, Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.
  • Rev. Meghan Killingsworth, co-pastor, First UMC, Sanford.
  • Rev. David Killingsworth, co-pastor, First UMC, Sanford.
  • Claudia Schippert, abbot, Orlando Zen Center.
  • David Jobin, president & CEO, Our Fund Foundation.
  • David Kimball, humanist, Cleveland Clinic-Center.
  • Robert Kesten, executive director, Stonewall National Museum & Archives.
  • The Rev. Andrew C. Jack Diehl III, pastor emeritus.
  • Terry Dyer, executive director, World Aids Museum and Educational Center.
  • Carol Ludwig, executive director, Center for Spiritual Care.
  • Dr. James T. Morris, Presiding Elder, Central Florida District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil.
  • The Rev. Fr. Charles T. Myers, rector, The Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist, Orlando.
  • The Rev. Terri Steed Pierce Sr., pastor of Joy Metropolitan Community Church.

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