(New throughout, adds resignations, adds dateline, byline)
By Peg McEntee
SALT LAKE CITY, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Latter-day Saints mailed or handed in letters quitting the Mormon church on Saturday to protest a new policy barring children of married same-sex couples from being baptized until they are adults.
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) approved the policy last week. It added same-sex marriage to acts considered to be a renunciation of the Mormon faith and thus subject to church discipline, including excommunication.
“This is about compassion and supporting our community,” said Brooke Swallow, one of the organizers of the protest in a city park. “No longer are we going to keep our mouths shut.”
About 1,000 people showed up at the park across the street from the headquarters complex of the Utah-based church. Long lines of Mormons handed resignation letters to Mark Naugle, an attorney who made sure the forms were complete and promised to mail them the next day.
Others joined a procession to a downtown mailbox and then twice circled Temple Square, home of the faith’s flagship temple.
“I resigned today,” said Paul Pratt, one of the protesters. “I haven’t been active for 17 years. It’s time to separate. I don’t need a bunch of (church leaders) telling me what to do.”
The church has more than 15 million adherents and 85,000 missionaries around the world. A spokesperson from the LDS church was not available for comment on Saturday.
The new church policy follows a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage. The 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 the policy on Friday, saying the withholding of baptism would apply only to children whose primary residence is with a same-sex couple.
For children who have already been baptized, the provisions do not curtail their membership activities, the leaders said.
The church this year said 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 that they cannot sanction same-sex marriage. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and James Dalgleish)