There’s been a lot of discussion among my friends in the last couple days regarding an interview published in the Silicon Valley Mercury News. The interview titled “Q&A: Active Mormon Joshua considered himself gay before he married” presents one man’s (not his real name, by the way) opinion about the LDS church and the issue of homosexuality.
This one obviously hits close to home for me, and I clearly have some pretty strong opinions on the topic, many driven by emotion. Unlike many of the commenters in the interview’s forum, I’m not here to pass any kind of judgment on Joshua nor his wife. I’m a firm believer in the idea that all of us have to make our own lives. If these two people have found something that works for them, then more power to them. I am a bit hesitant to accept this newlywed’s assessment that his marriage is “wonderful” when things are still so new. While I hope for a happily ever after ending for this couple, reality and experience say the odds are simply not with them. Only time will tell, and this journey is theirs, not mine.
What I will attack head on are Joshua’s claims about the LDS church and it’s stances toward and treatment of gay men and women, both in and out of the church. This is where fact, reason and experience are tangible and have meaning. This is where it’s no longer a matter of each of us making our choices and writing our stories, but of an organization that wields influence and power to control the lives of thousands (some would argue millions) of men and women who have no association with it, nor even a desire to be associated with it.
Joshua makes the claim “[Mormons] did not object to civil unions in California and many other churches did.” While he thinks this is very “progressive” of his church, his assertion just isn’t accurate. I grew up in CA, and I was LDS when the state adopted civil unions in 1999 (although I was living in OH at the time). I remember my former in-laws being involved in door to door campaigns, phone banks, etc. to oppose the legislature’s move. All their efforts were organized through their local ward. They later went on to support the efforts for Prop 22 (which later led to Prop 8 ) in the same manner, and again all efforts were organized through their stake and ward. So, to say Mormons as a whole “didn’t object” (notice he doesn’t say “supported”) to CA’s civil unions is just not accurate.
While we’re on the topic of civil unions and the LDS church, let’s just make it very clear: the LDS church does not support the adoption of civil unions as an alternative to marriage. Joshua and many other Mormons are wordsmithing to insinuate the LDS church “doesn’t oppose” civil unions, but they are wrong. The LDS church actively worked to overturn HI’s civil unions in the early 1990s. The LDS church worked hard in UT to amend the state constitution to not only define marriage as “one man one woman” (some of us may find that one really ironic in this state), but also to prohibit anything that even functions like a marriage to be offered to same sex couples. In 2009, the LDS church made a push to oppose civil unions in IL. A letter sent via the official church communication system to ward members was even obtained as proof of their involvement. Don’t let Joshua fool you…the LDS church is not accepting to any form of recognized partnerships between same sex couples.
employment and housing protection
Joshua is very impressed with his church’s effort to protect the LGBT community in Utah with its support of non-discrimination ordinances regarding housing and employment. He marvels how “impressive” it is that his church has supported something that “very few places in the US have.” Two quick thoughts on this. First, 13 states and the District of Columbia have these protections. Additionally, more than 50 cities (10 of them in UT) in states without protections have enacted their own ordinances, some of them very large (Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Denver, etc.). I hardly think this qualifies as “very few places,” especially when you factor in the number of people protected by them. Second, I still believe the LDS church supported the SLC ordinance as a PR move in the wake of the Prop 8 mess. It’s just my opinion, but I have to wonder where the LDS church support was for the other 11 ordinances that passed in the state, and where was the LDS church’s support for the state-wide protection in the 2011 legislative session? It was non-existent, and I think that is because all the media attention over Prop 8 had settled down.
lds outreach to the LGBT community
This is where Joshua is clearly delusional. He states that the “LDS Church has done more to reach out to its gay members than any other church that teaches same-sex relationships are a sin.” I’m not really sure what he means by “reach out.” If he means convincing families to commit young men to electroshock therapy and chemical aversion therapy, then he’s correct. If he means advocating violence against homosexuals from the pulpit, then he’s correct. If he means telling gay men and women they can overcome their immorality (contrary to most medical and mental health professionals’ advice), then he’s correct.
The bottom line is that Joshua is going to believe what he will about his church, and he’s going to continue to assert the shiny, pretty idea the LDS church packages up for him. Because, Joshua is like most Mormons I know who still buy into the PR message that was masterminded by Gordon B. Hinckley starting in the 1960s as the LDS church sought to enter the mainstream. He’s not going to dig beneath that surface to find the truth. Or, maybe he will once he experiences what many of us have when we faithfully followed our church leaders’ advice into what amounts to a farce of a marriage, often as a deception to our partner.
Joshua makes a lot of claims about the LDS church and its approach to gay members (and really non-members via its political involvements). But, many of us know a deeper truth. A truth that’s based in fact. More importantly, one that’s based in experience.