Children of LGBT parents may now be blessed as infants and then, later, baptized as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church announced that and other changes Thursday to controversial church policies that were enacted in 2015, the Deseret News reports. Church leaders said at the time that the policy on children of LGBT families was meant to avoid confusion and maintain family harmony, but many saw the move as anti-LGBT. Also announced Thursday: The church will stop labeling same-sex couples as apostates; homosexual behavior had been labeled as apostasy in the church's handbook of instructions for leaders at the same time in 2015.
An estimated 1,500 liberal and LGBT Mormons left the church in protest after the 2015 changes. "While we still consider [same-sex] marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way," the church said in a statement announcing the reversal; it said the changes only reflect church policy, not church doctrine, which remains the same. CNN calls the announcement a "surprise," and notes that with the apostasy change, the church "has essentially lifted the threat of excommunication for gay couples," while the Washington Post refers to it as a "dramatic" reversal. (Read more Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stories.)