I have heard many LDS people profess that they want to show love to LGBT people but don’t support marriage equality. The point of this essay is not to argue over beliefs, but to discuss how we show love when our beliefs collide with the lives that others are living.
Obviously, as an LGBT person, I feel more loved by people who support equal treatment of my family (as I have been married now for over 10 years). If you truly want LGBT people to feel loved by you, and you don’t support marriage-equality, you really do have a hard job ahead of you.
“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”
–Elder Quentin L. Cook
Let’s start of by talking about how to show respect to people who have lives that you fundamentally don’t agree with. I am going to give several theoretical scenarios and ask you to contemplate each of them:
1) I am very worried about the planet. The biggest problem facing our planet is over-population. For me it is a moral issue.
-Should I tell my sister who has 8 children that she is immoral?
-Should I fight for laws that place limits on how many children people can have?
-Should I tell my beautiful nieces and nephews that their parents are immoral for having so many kids at the expense of the environment?
2) I believe war is immoral. Our military engages in torture. It is immoral to support torture and war.
-Should I tell my brother who is in the military in Afghanistan that he is immoral?
-Should I say that to his wife who is at home with their kids?
-If my brother loses a leg or arm in the war should I spend the rest of his life reminding him that this happened because he was fighting an immoral war?
3) I am against polygamy. I work at a clinic in Southern Utah, and I see polygamists there in my clinical practice.
-Should I tell the polygamist woman who comes to see me for medical treatment that I am against polygamy and think it is immoral?
4) I am against in vitro fertilization. My next door neighbors had a baby that was conceived in vitro. Their child is now 10 years old.
-Should I put a sign in my yard that I am against in vitro?
-Should I tell their child that his parents sinned by conceiving him in vitro?
5) I think forcing Muslim women to cover their heads is misogynistic. It is bad for women and therefore immoral.
-Should I tell this to the Muslim woman sitting by me on the bus?
-Should I tell this to my Muslim colleague?
6) I have a brother who lives with his girlfriend. They have been together for 5 years. They had a baby out of wedlock. I think this is immoral. Now that baby is 5 years old.
-Should I remind them when I see them that it is immoral to have children out of wedlock?
-Should I tell my nephew that God doesn’t approve of how he was conceived?
They are also raising a 7 year old that is the daughter of my brothers girlfriend from a prior relationship.
-Should I exclude her from the family pictures because she isn’t related to us, and isn’t legally part of our family?
7) I am an evangelical Christian. I believe that Mormons have distorted beliefs about Christ, because they don’t emphasize Christ’s grace. I think that this is wrong, and I think it is wrong and bad for people to leave ‘true’ Christianity, and join Mormonism. My sister joined the Mormon church 5 years ago, and is very involved. She recently married a Mormon man, and is expecting a baby.
-Should I remind her when ever I see her that she is wrong, and might possibly be damned?
-Should I tell her husband?
-Should I tell them that they are harming their baby by not raising him as a ‘true’ Christian?
The answer to these questions is obviously NO! No matter what you believe, it would be disrespectful. Furthermore, it only alienates people and eliminate any chance to show love or develop friendship. Only the most anti-social people would think it would be ok to treat people this way.
However, for some reason, many good-hearted LDS people feel that they are entitled to treat LGBT people this way. They feel entitled to disrespect them and their families by reminding them that they don’t agree with their right to have a family.
These situations I describe above are very parallel. Every one of these is an example of projecting one’s religious beliefs on a real family with real children. It is telling them they are ‘less than’. Furthermore, the people who are being disrespected have completely different religious beliefs. Their beliefs are not being respected.
I understand that many of you came to this position because you believe it is the church’s position. You believe that in order to be a good Mormon you must not support same-sex marriage. I can’t ask you to change your religious beliefs. However, I can ask you to take some responsibility, and find out how your beliefs are impacting your LGBT brothers and sisters
We all have the responsibility to interact respectfully with people, and it is never respectful to tell someone that their family configuration is immoral (even if that is indeed what you believe). The Mormon church’s position on same-sex marriage has been broadcast far and wide. Everybody knows where the church stands on this, especially LGBT people who were raised in the church. We are bombarded with it constantly. Believe me, if you are a Mormon, I am going to assume you don’t support marriage-equality unless you tell me otherwise.
If you want to show us love, then show us love. Don’t remind us of our inequality in your church. That doesn’t feel like love. It actually drives a wedge in between us. And sometimes it drives a nail directly into our hearts. It drives some of us to depression, despair and suicide. We have been hearing all our lives that we are ‘loved BUT…’. We never seem to hear that we are loved without the qualifier. You might fail to realize that we have heard it ten thousand times. That it is engraved in our minds and on our hearts.
So my first challenge to those who want to show LGBT love is to stop reminding us that you don’t support our marriages and our families. Some elephants in the room are much better off unexpressed, because respect trumps full disclosure.
My second challenge is to stop and imagine how it really feels from our perspective. Ask yourself what it actually means to us. Take into account our reality.
Ask yourself how I might feel if you tell me that you don’t approve of my marriage of 10 years. Imagine how I might feel if you tell me you don’t support my right to have my husband live with me in the USA (as my right to sponsor my foreign husband depends on recognition of our Canadian marriage).
Imagine the lesbian couple in Michigan who have raised 6 disabled foster children for the past 14 years, but don’t have the right to adopt them together, so one of them always risks losing custody .
Imagine the man in Ohio who cares for his husband of 25 years who is dying of cancer, who knows that his husbands family won’t allow him to attend the funeral, who won’t be entitled to his husbands social security or pension (even though they provided for each other all of these years).
Imagine the woman in Kentucky who isn’t allowed to visit her partner in the hospital after she is seriously injured in a traffic accident.
Put yourself in the shoes of your single LDS gay friends who can’t have the same dream as you — to fall in love and marry the person of their dreams.
I won’t fault you for following your religious beliefs, but exercise empathy as you do it. You should always be aware of the real pain and suffering that come from policies that you support.
If you are conscious of this, you won’t want to remind us of our inferior status, or remind us that you support policies that oppress us. We feel genuine pain every time we are reminded of our place in society, in the church and in your eyes. You should be aware of that, and be sensitive to that. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were in our shoes. Imagine how would you want your LDS friends and family who don’t support your marriage to act around you, if you were gay.
My third challenge is to inform yourself, and stop believing (or spreading) myths about LGBT people, or same-sex marriage and its impact on society and children.
You also have a responsibility to recognize that opposition to same-sex marriage is primarily a religious belief (that is not supported by a substantial body of research).
You have a responsibility to be aware that children who are adopted into same-sex homes are way better off than those who are left in group homes or in the foster care system.
You have a responsibility to know that any child raised in a two-parent home is way better off than a child raised in a single parent home, regardless of the gender(s) of the parents
You have a responsibility to know that there has been a lot of research proving that children raised by same-sex parents do very well and have outcomes that are equal to those raised by opposite-sex parents.
You also have a responsibility to know that in America everybody has equal protection under the law, even if you don’t believe that their family configuration is ideal. We all know that children raised in poverty have more problems than those who aren’t, but we can’t restrict the rights of poor people to form families. We can’t restrict the rights of single parents to raise their children, even if many studies show this is not optimal. We can’t restrict divorced and remarried parents from raising their children together, even if one parent is not the biological parent. We can’t restrict people with mental illness or disability from raising their children, even if they face more hurdles than other parents. And we can’t restrict LGBT people from raising their children. In America we respect these individual human rights. You have a responsibility to be aware that this is an issue of equality, protected by the constitution and that the Supreme Court has so far shown that they agree.
You also have a responsibility to know that the church has declared that you can be a member in good standing and support marriage equality. Church leaders have declared that members should not be subject to church discipline because of their stance on this, or any, political issue.
“Regarding whether church members could disagree with the faith’s opposition to legalizing same-sex unions and still remain in good standing, [President Thomas S. Monson] said the answer “depends on what the disagreement is…If it’s something political, there is room for opinion here and there on either side.” — Deseret News
“Latter-day Saints are free to disagree with their church on the issue without facing any sanction, said L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Quorum of the Seventy. “We love them and bear them no ill will.” — Salt Lake Tribune
Last of all, if you are invited to attend a same-sex wedding, this is a really good time to show your love. Please go, even if you don’t support the idea, especially if it is a family member or close friend. They are getting married whether you go or not, and if you miss it, you will have sent a clear message that you can never undo, a message that you don’t consider them a full part of your family. Christ associated with all people, and it was in important bible lesson. Your religion and beliefs will get even more respect, if you demonstrate that you aren’t expecting others to follow your exact beliefs. More importantly, it will make a huge difference in your relationship with your son or your daughter, or your brother and sister. They will know beyond a doubt that they are loved.
You ask us to respect your beliefs, and I am willing to do that. But I ask you to respect me. Respect me by understanding the implications of your beliefs on my life and my family. Respect me by not reminding me of your beliefs when doing so is disrespectful to me or my family.
I want to publicly thank my many LDS friends and family who don’t need this message, because they already understand it. I don’t know if they make up the majority, but in my life they certainly do.
If you are an LGBT person reading this, I ask you to reverse the situation, and make sure you look at others with empathy, including your LDS friends and families. If they are willing to show you respect, make sure that you are doing your part to do the same. Asking them to change their beliefs is an unfair request. Be conscious of their efforts and of their conflicts, because you are actually in a better position to understand them, since you likely used to share most of those beliefs.