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The LDS church now supports LGBTQ rights. But it wasn't always that way

When a large group of bipartisan lawmakers, advocates, faith and business leaders gathered on the Capitol lawn earlier this month to introduce a non-discrimination bill aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community, they were joined by representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The bill took years of negotiating on both sides. Essentially, it extends Arizona’s existing non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations to gay and transgender people — while simultaneously, its authors say, protecting religious freedom in the state. It also effectively bans conversion therapy by licensed professionals.

It’s not the first time the Latter-day Saints have lent their support to efforts like this. Back in 2015, the church helped propose what was dubbed the Utah Compromise, and it supports the federal Fairness for All Act before Congress. It also played a pivotal role in passing an all-encompassing non-discrimination ordinance in Mesa last year.

In a statement, church leaders said the legislation is “consistent with the principles of fairness for all.” And last year, in a speech at the University of Virginia, President Dallin H. Oaks of the church’s First Presidency called this kind of compromise a “better way” and reminded church members that “God commanded us to love one another, including our neighbors with different beliefs and cultures.”

But this recent support of measures supporting the LGBTQ community is not the way it has always been. And Steve May lived that story.

May is a former Republican representative here in Arizona, a military veteran who grew up in the church and a longtime gay rights advocate. If it sounds like an unlikely combination, it really was when his story made national headlines in 1999.

The Show spoke with him to learn his experience, beginning with his childhood in the church.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.