July 2, 2015 / 11:10 PM / 2 years ago

Mormon Church makes first donation to Utah gay youth program

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormon temple is seen with a brown lawn, which church officials have not watered because of the drought, in Los Angeles, California, United States May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The Mormon Church has made its first-ever donation to the Utah Pride Center, a Salt Lake City organization that works with poor and homeless gay young people, in what center officials said on Thursday was a significant moment in the Church’s relationship with the gay community.

Relations between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the gay community were strained by Mormon support for California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples there of the right to marry until it was ruled unconstitutional in 2010.

In a letter to be read to Mormon congregations this weekend, top leaders of the Utah-based Church will reaffirm its belief that only heterosexual marriage is ordained by God, while urging members to love and treat all people with kindness.

Neither the Church nor the Utah Pride Center announced the amount donated, but the local Fox News affiliate reported it was $2,500.

The Utah Pride Center describes itself as a nonprofit community organization serving the gay, bisexual and transsexual community in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area.

The group serves food to about 40 homeless or low-income youths every week. Its website says it also offers free mental health counseling, provides HIV testing, distributes “safe sex” kits and runs support groups.

In a statement, the center’s board president, Kent Frogley, thanked the Mormon church for its donation.

“We are grateful for their generosity and the emerging relationship,” Frogley said, adding that the contribution “marks a significant moment” in the relationship between the church and the gay, bisexual and transsexual community.

The Church wrote in a letter to the center that it was “grateful to be able to serve your efforts in this worthy project.”

“This feels right,” state Senator Jim Dabakis, a Pride Center co-founder and the only openly gay Utah legislator, told the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper about the donation.

Dabakis said that while the Church and the gay, bisexual and transsexual community “do not agree on everything, this is yet another link in a continuing relationship of respect and civility.”

Reporting by Peg McEntee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham

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