On March 26-27, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) will be listening to oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 (Prop 8). DOMA states that marriage is between one man and one woman and allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where it is legal; Prop 8 reversed the ability for same-sex couples in California to legally marry. But now it is our time to show that the United States is a place of equality and justice for all. Our goal is simply to create visibility locally, and to bring awareness of the rights LGBT couples have been denied. So we will be having a candlelight vigil on Monday evening, March 25th.
I was asked to give a short speech during our city’s candlelight vigil on Monday night. Here it is:
My name is Wendy Montgomery. My husband and I were both raised in devout Mormon homes. We’ve been married for 18 years and have 5 children. We’ve raised our children in a similarly devout Mormon home. Our lives have revolved around our family and our faith. That’s why 5 years ago, when our local church leaders asked my husband and me to be involved with the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, we said yes. We knocked on doors. We made phone calls. We had a sign in our yard. When that one got stolen, we got another one. We told our children what the Church told us – that we were defending traditional marriage.
Fast forward 4 years to January 2012. Our oldest child at the time was a 13 year old boy. And he had just come out to us, and told us he was gay. The emotional and spiritual upheaval was enormous for us. But Jordan’s coming out moment was also an intense bonding moment for my son, my husband and I. He came out to us with my arms around him. We stayed that way for about 2 hours. At one point, I put my hands on his cheeks, made him look at me and told him how much I loved him, how this changes nothing for me, that we would help him, support him, and be by his side through all of this. There has never been one moment in this past year when my son had to wonder if we still loved him or accepted him.
I have asked myself many times why we reacted the way we did to having a gay son. Most Mormons do not react this way. What we did just felt instinctual – like what parents are supposed to do when their children are in need. But I was also willing to re-learn everything I thought I already knew about homosexuality. I had heard things my whole life growing up in my home, from friends and in Church about the “gay lifestyle”. I didn’t know any different and never thought to question what I had heard. But when I looked at my 13 year old son, it was obvious that most of what I knew was wrong. So I threw out all my old stereotypes, judgments, and false assumptions, and re-learned what it was to be gay.
One of the ways we did this was to go to our local PFLAG. The first time we went, I was scared to death and thought for sure we would get kicked out when they learned we were Mormon. It is a testament to their forgiving nature and open hearts that they embraced and befriended us.
I have seen first-hand the damage done by Prop 8. I have to own my part in that. It is one of my deepest regrets. And I apologize to each of you that I hurt because of my helping with it. And I wonder about the hurt we unknowingly caused our son – as he walked home from school every day, and walked past the Yes on Prop 8 sign in our yard, and thought that his parents would never accept him if they knew the truth. I hope he knows different now.
I have spent the past year traveling around and speaking from a Mormon mom’s point of view on homosexuality. I’ve written articles and blog posts, I run a Mormon LGBT Facebook group, I’ve spoken in many LGBT conferences and advocated for my son wherever anyone would listen. I am in no way a spokesman for my church. I’m just a mom sharing her experiences.
As Mormons, we do a lot of things right. There is so much that is beautiful and good with our faith. But we have this issue wrong. And I will fight to make a place in our congregations for my son, and other gay Mormons. If they want to be there, they should be allowed to be there.
My husband and I have the unique perspective of seeing clearly both sides of the marriage equality debate since we’ve spent time on each side. I can tell you that THIS side is the right one. THIS side is where the love, compassion and inclusion are. Because of how much I value my own family, it is enormously unfair of me to stand in the way of others who want the same thing. I will fight so that one day my son will be able to find as much happiness with a spouse that I have found with his dad, my husband. I will never be on the wrong side of this issue again.