Blink and you’d miss it, but on Wednesday, FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy service, announce that by the end of 2019, it will include same-sex families within its database. Through a press release, FamilySearch stated:
The goal of FamilySearch.org is to capture, store, and provide records and an accurate genealogy that represents past, present, and future families of the world. To support this goal, same-sex relationships, including same-sex parents and same-sex couples, will be provided in FamilySearch Family Tree. Several systems that surround Family Tree, such as tree and record searching, must be significantly redesigned to support same-sex relationships before Family Tree can release this capability. We expect to finish this work by 2019. Following this work, the FamilySearch Family Tree application can then allow same-sex information to be recorded. We appreciate your patience and desire to preserve the world’s genealogy in Family Tree.
Of course, FamilySearch is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the move to include gay couples can be interpreted as an act of inclusion by a religious body that is still navigating its way through LGBT rights and issues. In an interview with the Deseret News, Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, an LGBT advocacy group, stated, “It’s incredibly significant that the LDS Church is recognizing same-sex couples and our families in their FamilySearch website…. We have certainly had our differences on the issue of marriage equality, but what both Mormons and LGBTQ people share in common is a deep love for our families. It’s great that gay couples can now use this resource and see our own families reflected in the data.”
The Church has intended to open up FamilySearch’s listings to gay couples and parents for some time, but as the statement explains, doing so is a complicated affair. FamilySearch defaults to a husband and wife on the beloved FamilyTree, and altering that to allow same-sex relationships surely involved reworking all of the code that is used to populate millions of records. No small feat.
One major difference, however, will be the presumed inability to print temple work cards for same-sex couples. Even though the Church has made greater strides toward inclusion and openness with the LGBT community, same-sex marriage is and will remain verboten outside—or inside—the temple.