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Mormon Church Shifting on Gay Rights?

This CNN story seems a little too perfectly-timed, like it’s part of some sort of Mormon church rebranding campaign. The church’s image is still heavily associated with the 2008 Prop. 8 campaign in California, and even though many Republicans oppose gay marriage, it’s not helpful for the Mormons to be tied to such a politically-charged issue at a time when it’s about to be under a lot of election-season media scrutiny:

Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.

A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons…is seeing an uptick in popularity.

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

CNN cites a “This Gets Better” video created by Brigham Young University students, and the selection of an openly gay Mormon for a church leadership position as indications of this new softening position on the gay community. Perhaps these are signs of change, but then again, stories like this seem to rebut the entire notion altogether. While the Mormon church may be toning down its official involvement in the gay marriage debate, its members don’t seem likely to anytime soon.

As much as the Obama campaign claims it won’t make Romney’s faith an issue, the Mormon religion will still be under a media microscope for at least the next seven months. Anything the church can do to untangle itself from hot-button cultural issues is a good thing for it and Mitt Romney.