About 1,500 Latter-day Saints have submitted letters of resignation from the Mormon Church to protest a new policy barring children of married same-sex couples from being baptized until they are adults, movement organizers said on Sunday.
More than 1,000 people gathered on Saturday near the Salt Lake City headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to protest the policy they see as discriminatory and harmful to families, with many standing in long lines to submit their resignations, they said.
A similar protest called "The Utah Rally for Love, Equality, Family and Acceptance" is set for next Saturday in the same area.
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints approved the policy this month. It added same-sex marriage to acts considered to be a renunciation of the Mormon faith and thus subject to church discipline, including excommunication.
"It is difficult for people to leave the Church. It takes people a long time to make this decision. It is a well-thought-out one and it is not taken lightly," said Brooke Swallow, one of the organizers of the Saturday protest.
"The people in the Mormon Church are finding that this is not a Christ-centered policy," Swallow added. "This is a policy that is about the people at the top, and their views and prejudices, and they are not thinking through what this will do long-term to families."
A Church spokesman said: "We don’t want to see anyone leave the Church, especially people who have been struggling with any aspect of their life.
"It’s extremely important that our members read what leaders have said, and do not rely on other sources or interpretations or what people think they have said," Eric Hawkins said in a statement.
The Church has more than 15 million adherents and 85,000 missionaries globally.
The new church policy bars children of gay married couples from being baptized in the faith until they turn 18, leave their parents' home and disavow same-sex marriage or cohabitation.
Church leaders elaborated on Friday, saying the withholding of baptism would apply only to children whose primary residence was with a same-sex couple.
The provisions do not curtail the membership activities of children who have already been baptized.
The Church said this year it would support laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing and employment. But Mormon leaders have said sex should only happen between a married couple, and they cannot sanction same-sex marriage.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Peg McEntee in Salt Lake City; Editing by Peter Cooney and Christian Plumb)