For Those Who Don’t Support Marriage Equality But Want to Show Love To LGBT People

fiddler-on-the-roof

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye debates whether to shun his daughter after she marries out of the faith

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.

 

ChavaMarriesNonJew

Chava from Fiddler on the Roof defies family by marrying a non-Jew

“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

 

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.

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.

49 comments for “For Those Who Don’t Support Marriage Equality But Want to Show Love To LGBT People

  1. December 14, 2014 at 10:46 am

    This was such a calm, respectful, well expressed article. Well done.

  2. Martin Kokol
    December 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    This is REALLY helpful, Daniel. Actually, it should be required reading – you know, at THAT level of helping several million people to become informed.

  3. Patti
    December 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you for well thought out article. I am a parent of a gay son and also devout Mormon. If it weren’t for kind loving family of individuals like yourself, I would not be able to have so much insight. I love you for your honesty and willing to risk. There was no question for me about loving my child, but I know for many that they could not accept this. You bridge that gap so beautifully for so many parents. None of us are without sin. Only One. He is reason I can love.

  4. December 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I would add that a great way to show love is always to be actively curious about someone’s experiences, feelings and concerns, to ask questions motivated by a genuine desire to understand, and to listen to the answers they give without feeling the need to offer back critiques and judgments.

    Just think about how good it feels whenever someone shows a genuine interest in knowing you for the person you are, and appreciating you as you are… If you can remember how it feels for someone to interact with you in that way, all you need to do is let that guide you in how you interact with others.

  5. Brittny
    December 14, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    i am Mormon and I support same sex marriage. Great article

  6. Sarah Siddons
    December 14, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you. I am a straight 38 year old woman raised Mormon who gave birth almost 4 months ago, my daughter was adopted by a gay male couple whom I love dearly and trust with my dear Hannah. I get to be the only mother she will ever know. I needed help, her dads gave me that in the most loving way they could by being her father’s. I will never ask forgiveness for what I have done and I will never be with anyone who thinks I should.

  7. jamesweller1965@gmail.com
    December 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    You did not address one topic. What about what Heavenly Father says? The more I search Him out, the more I feel of His love, and the more I immerse myself in His Word, and all the while live, the more I learn that all people to some extent judge what God means by assumptions we made prior to knowing Him. We assume that there is no happiness or satisfaction to be had in any alternative to His way, so when we choose an alternative, and experience levels of happiness and satisfaction, we conclude that all is well. The truth is that levels of human happiness and comfort are not the indicators of doing God’s will, but having His Spirit. What He tells us individually *will* obligatorily find a direct reflection in what He revealed in the standard works (and other inspired writings). I am a Latter-day Saint who is gay, and I welcome anyone who is gay, and I share with what God requires of us. What The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles have revealed is the will of God; I have learned this for myself, and I cannot deny it.

    • Laura
      December 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      James, I must respectfully disagree with your claim that what God tells us individually is obliged to agree with scripture. Nephi’s personal revelation to behead Laban went directly against the commandments. Many gay Mormons, myself included, have received personal revelation from God that conflicts with the teachings of our Church leaders. I cannot deny the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life. Since our leaders do not claim infallibility, I can find no reason why I should. Your spiritual experience and understanding is valid and good because it is yours. I invite you to be careful about seemingly invalidating ‘what Heavenly Father says’ to others simply because it does not agree with inspired writings.

  8. Chris
    December 14, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I am a devout Mormon in the sense that I have a very strong testimony in the role that the church has in my life. That said, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea of preventing homosexuals from being married. I’ve always viewed the denial of marriage to homosexuals like a situation in which the government suddenly begins saying that Mormons can no longer get married in a Mormon temple. To me, it is morally wrong to do such a thing, and as such I can’t agree with movements that attempt to take this right away from homosexuals.
    So yes, I am pro-gay marriage and I will always consider myself so. That has no effect on my testimony or desire to stay within the church.

  9. April MB Lewis
    December 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

    You left out one important distinction in all of the scenarios you posited, the closeness of the relationship makes a difference in the conversation. No matter my morals, religion, etc, I can and should be able to tell good friends and family how I feel about these issues, whether it has to do with their lifestyle or not. Saying that I should not tell my family and friends, who I love, what I consider is immoral, and/or not acting on my beliefs in their close vicinity (e.g. putting up a sign in my yard or upholding current laws) is closing off that relationship more than any rude statements since I am essentially pretending to be someone else in their presence. Mature adults can discuss their differences of opinion (whether they are felt to be God given or not) in a calm and respectful fashion.
    This is not to say that anyone should constantly restate their beliefs at inappropriate times, nor be rude in any way, nor do we need to tell complete strangers in random places that they are going to hell, but we all can disagree and still love each other. If we close off dialogue, we will never understand each other.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I don’t fully agree with you. You have to give respect a higher priority. There are lots of things you don’t tell even your closest friends.

      Trust me, your close friends and family know where you stand on this issue. You don’t have to remind them.

      As a gay person, I have to survive. I can make room in my life for friends and family who respect me, but I have to draw the line at those who don’t. Telling me to my face that they think my family is wrong is crossing a line and the friendship won’t survive. Everyone in my family respects this. I know they don’t support marriage equality, but they are loving enough to never tell me that. And because of that we still have a relationship.

      I am a strong person, and I am independent, so these daggers to the heart don’t phase me, and I am strong enough to let go of people who insist on reminding me of my lower place in their eyes. However, there are plenty of Mormon LGBT people who suffer in silence. There is a huge amount of despair out there, and you should be really sure that you aren’t contributing.

      When it comes to my inner circle of friends, the people who really are going to be a integral/frequent part of my life are those who really do support my marriage. I have some dear friends and family who I love and will always maintain contact, but there is always a barrier. I accept that, because I don’t want them to go against their beliefs. What I couldn’t accept from these wonderful LDS friends is if they felt they were obligated to testify to me. They are very aware that I understand what the Mormon position is, and I know what kind of Mormons they are. They choose to not judge me, and to love me, and to not drive me away by reminding me that my marriage isn’t as good as theirs (in their view). So even though there is a barrier, it is one that we manage.

      Let them tell you if they want dialogue. You have to realize that if they were raised Mormon, they know a lot more about your position than you know about theirs. If you really want to have an open dialogue with them, you probably have a lot of catching up to do before you will be on even ground to have a dialogue. I think before you remind them again of where you stand, you should listen to them for a very long time until you feel genuine empathy for them. Then you should ask yourself if you can tell them about the rules for your life and simultaneously accept that they have different rules for their lives. If you go in with the typical LDS idea that you want to save them, convert them or convince them that they are sinning, then you will not succeed in showing them love. Talk about how Mormonism impacts you. If you aren’t LGBT then the church’s stance on marriage equality impacts them a lot and you very little. So skip that and talk about the things that really do impact you.

      If you aren’t sure, then ask your friend how it feels when you remind them that you don’t support their marriage. Ask them if they would prefer not to discuss that. Ask them to answer honestly and candidly, and if you are sincere about respecting them, then they will know it and answer honestly. Whatever they answer though, give them room to change their mind later, and let them know that you will respect what they need from a friend so that they don’t have to have further stress or suffering in their lives (because believe me, it is stressful to have people voice disapproval of your life, especially when they are friends or family).

      I love my Mormon friends. They have figured out that it is not their place to judge me. My parents have figured out that showing me love will go farther than calling me to repentance. They have figured out how important respect is in our relationship. They love my husband and include him in their lives. They never tell him or me that our they don’t agree with our right to marry, and they are the most devout Mormons you will ever meet.

      • Ashleigh
        December 16, 2014 at 9:57 am

        while I 100% agree that having beliefs of any kind does not give you the right to persecute others, I also think I can see where April is coming from. I am a devote Mormon and my brother is gay. We don’t talk about it. Not to each other and rarely to anyone else. I love my brother. He was always my favorite of six siblings, and the giant elephant in the room has put a strain on our once awesome relationship. We also don’t talk about religion. When I served a mission my brother seemed to take it as a personal attack, and was very vocally negative about it. So now neither one of us feels like we can talk about HUGE beliefs that impact our everyday lives. I hope that one day we can stop ignoring the elephant to save our relationship and honestly discuss our beliefs, and respect them while agreeing to disagree.

        • Daniel Parkinson
          December 16, 2014 at 10:29 am

          It sounds to me that you don’t talk about it out of a desire to preserve the relationship you do have. It sounds like he learned that he can’t attack your beliefs anymore than he should accept his beliefs being attacked.

          So the question is…when can you start talking about it? I don’t know you or him, but I would suggest to anybody who asks that you ask yourselves:

          1) Can both parties discuss these issues in a way that is non-judgmental and imposing our beliefs on the other person.

          2) Can we listen without reacting defensively.

          If you brother takes it personally that you would get married in the temple, then he is not there yet. If you don’t feel that you could invite your brother’s partner/husband to all of the family wedding events except the sealing, then you are not there yet.

          If you can hear your brother discuss the pain that Mormonism has caused him and understand it, then maybe you are there.

          If your brother can hear the joy you get out of your involvement in Mormonism, then maybe he is there.

          If you can discuss your Mormon experience without dwelling on this one issue that impacts him way more than you (same-sex marriage) then maybe you are ready.

          If he can discuss his LGBT experience without dwelling on this one aspect (how much destructive he believes Mormonism is) then maybe he is ready.

          In the meantime….there is a lot to be said for letting the elephant sleep, because it buys you both time until you are both ready.

      • Cynthia
        December 30, 2014 at 8:38 pm

        Daniel- you make some very valid points however, you forgot that for those of us who have family members who are gay and love them no matter what they do, why do those gay members feel they need to constantly remind us of their lifestyle when we don’t do it to them? I have a brother who decided that because I’m an active LDS member, he no longer wants anything to do with me until he is allowed to be married in the LDS temple. I would love him to be married to his partner but I know what he is wanting will never happen. Sometimes the reality of the situation needs to be considered before you cut people out of your lives. If you want respect, you need to give it too. I am not the only member of the family he disowned. It hurts a lot to not be a part of his life and to see him cut himself off from family events because of his view towards those who are active. We accepted him, loved him and yet because we won’t tell him that he can get married in the temple, we can’t be a part of his life. So for those like me who are hurting on the other side of this issue, perhaps you need to think about that too when you write. Life isn’t always fair and no matter how much we may want things our way, sometimes you have to be an adult and let it go. I don’t wish what has been happening in my family on anyone but I’m betting I am not the only one that has a gay family member intent on bashing them for their beliefs if they don’t fall in line with their own viewpoint.

        • Daniel Parkinson
          December 30, 2014 at 8:57 pm

          I am very sad that your brother has taken this position. I do want to make a few points though:

          1) if you ask me not to constantly remind you of my gay marriage, then you are telling me I am not allowed to talk about my family. You probably talk about your family every time you see him. It is only fair and natural that he should talk about his.

          2) I don’t agree at all with your brothers approach, and the very last paragraph of my essay has a message to LGBT people that they should show the same empathy that they respect to receive. However, I do have sympathy for your brother. I can’t imagine the kind of suffering he must have felt at the hands of Mormons to come to such a position. What experiences drove him to have such bitterness toward the church. What daggers were thrown into his heart when he was a teen or a young adult at the hands of other Mormons that made his feel such an intense pain that he would react this way. What kind of rejection has he received from Mormons as he has tried to form his family. What barriers to forming a family has the Mormon church put in place both politically and culturally. I don’t condone his stance, but I certainly sympathize it and understand that it comes from decades of rejection and ostracism from his Mormon community. A lot of gay Mormons of my generation had that experience, and there are plenty of them who respond in this way as a defense, as they try to rebuild their lives, their self-esteem and their chosen families.

          3) Some Mormons learn how to judge others at an early age. Some of these Mormons become ex-Mormons but they still judge others just as much as they did when they were Mormons. Hopefully, more Mormons and ex-Mormons will learn how to set aside judgment so that healing can take place, and so families will not have to be divided based on belief and church participation (or lack thereof).

          He has made an unreasonable demand on you, and I hope that someday he will allow you in his life so that you can show him (and his family) the love you feel for him.

        • Wilson
          December 31, 2014 at 8:44 am

          Cynthia, I am very close to a similar situation, but on the other side. My family feels that I continually “bash” their beliefs. After all, I do such things as becoming upset when my husband (with whom I have been for 9 years) is introduced only by name; “This is my brother-in-law Wilson, and this is John”. I also, on occasion, infringe on conversations by talking about what I believe in relation to a certain topic. Saying such things as “I don’t think there’s good evidence for that policy. We can’t make decisions about that based solely on belief”. This is labeled by my family as “Always trying to make a point” and “badgering them”. I also come to them on rare occasion when I’m upset; as when members of my family did not attend my marriage, despite being mere minutes away. I explain how their beliefs injure and offend me. This is called “doing harm to the family”.

          Anyway Cynthia, I’m having trouble empathizing with you here. If you’re in Utah, you live in a culture in which you get support for your beliefs every single day in ways ranging from constant and subtle (just knowing that the majority of your neighbors agree with and support your most basic beliefs) to broad and overt (most of your lawmakers are members of your church and support your church’s stances). You and your ideas are wrapped in a cocoon of safety and agreement that is scarcely achieved in this world. Your brother doesn’t have that same luxury. He may have managed to carve out a safe place for himself with friends and loved-ones who support him, but overall he faces laws that don’t protect his rights, neighbors who don’t agree with his beliefs on the whole, and family that doesn’t feel his most basic relationships deserve respect.

          Now of course I’m generalizing and extrapolating, but I don’t feel unreasonably. Mormon people in this state have a huge network of support, while gay people have very little. However, coming from a position of privilege, oftentimes Mormon people don’t see how the “default settings” they expect from life (especially family life) favor them and exclude others.You are used to being able to talk about what you believe and not experiencing push-back. You proclaim your religious beliefs with certainty: “I know this is the true church.” “I know Jesus lives.” and people around you largely don’t question those beliefs or question your certainty. Non-religious beliefs don’t get the same respect. You expect that meals start with a prayer. You expect that people use language you approve of around you. You expect that people won’t be offended by the furnishings of your home. By and large you can even expect that when you visit other people’s homes, they will put away items they know are offensive to you (liqour, “anti-mormon” literature, nude art, etc).

          So, when you talk to your brother, you aren’t talking as equals. Not really. You have an army of supporters, social norms, and expectations at your back, and he has the small community of support he’s been able to create for himself, as well as a lot of old wounds from the daily battles he wages with society. When you explain your beliefs to him, not only is it largely pointless (because he already knows them), but you are brandishing this club of societal support. What might be a casual comment about your beliefs to you, might be a crushing blow for him. You might not be aware of how much damage those blows do – and when he tells you, you might even dismiss what he says because you don’t realize the social capital you’re bringing to bear against him. He might be too vulnerable to take those blows, and so might decide that he can’t stand to take them. In this case – in this mismatch of clout – it’s your responsibility to take the effort to handle him carefully and give him the benefit of the doubt, not his.

          I myself am very close to his situation. My family takes offense at everything I say. I spent 16 years inundated with their enormously harmful beliefs, and they can’t tolerate 15 minutes spent discussing mine without shutting down conversation, claiming I am attacking them. I am expected to not find any insult in anti-gay literature, pictures of Jesus, Proclamations to the Family, etc. hung in their homes, and yet I am judged for having alcohol, books about Mormon history, or mildly suggestive artwork (like a painting of eve, with leaves) on open display in my house. I am expected to moderate my language around them, but allow them to pray over food and say other things I find offensive, in my own home. That’s what they consider respect to be – and I suspect you might be doing the same – everything goes how they want, because that’s what you’re used to, and gay/non-mormon family members get to pick up the scraps. And when we complain that this isn’t fair, we aren’t “showing your beliefs respect”.

    • Laura
      December 15, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      April, Putting up a pro marriage-equality sign in your yard would be pretending to be someone else. Refraining from sharing hurtful beliefs with a gay loved one is being sensitive, not disingenuous (unless you are genuinely insensitive).

  10. Kersten
    December 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I am LDS and fully support marriage equality and have been vocal about this for YEARS.

  11. Karen
    December 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I applaud the courage and strength of so many Mormon’s who have shared their experiences and stories of how they came to terms with their sexual orientation as it collided with their religious beliefs, family judgment and potentional rejection, as well as their community expectations. Your willingness to share your personal journey, your support, etc., is what we need more of – not just in the Mormon community, but in all religious denominations. I once was under the impression that ANY Mormon who was LGBT could never live outside the bubble. Never EVER consider sharing their orientation with anyone albeit family or friends. Then I came across Affirmation and other organizations, and I feel like I found some secret door which provided me with an enormous amount of knowledge I had not been aware of and it has been eye opening and has provided a sense of peace. Heck, maybe I was pushed into a bubble so I couldn’t see there really are LGBT Mormons who are not afraid to accept themselves or those they choose to love. I have read stories where some have questioned their religion and decided to leave the church based on that knowledge. Others have chosen to accept who they are (whether single, or in a same sex relationship) and also continue to accept most of their religion, aside from the alienation due to their orientation. Then their are those who are straight, but advocate strongly for full acceptance of LGBT’s in the church. What a vast and diverse community of people. I thank you for opening my eyes to the incredible strength, courage and love that resides in each one of you. I had been in love with a lesbian Mormon, and we lived together for 4 years – thus where the convincing came from that you couldn’t possibly be Mormon and LGBT AND find acceptance. You certainly can, but it starts with wanting to find it and working towards that. As a child from a strong Italian Catholic family, it was extremely hard for me to lose a relationship with my father who rejected my sexual orientation. However, I just kept reminding myself that I would rather be hated for who I am, than to be loved for who I am not. Being authentic to yourself, let alone others is such an important part of ones character. So, again, I thank each of you for allowing your authenticity and courage to pave the path for other LGBT Mormon’s. You never know how many lives you have saved by providing even a glimmer of hope.

  12. Lorian
    December 15, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    This is lovely, Daniel. Thank you.

  13. amy
    December 17, 2014 at 8:59 am

    All of the reasons you listed are exactly why i believe our government should offer equal partnerships to all couples no matter what their configurations are. I believe by no longer publically calling it marriage everyine can be satisfied. Then once your public government recognized partnership is established, you can have a private ceremony that follows your religious beliefs. Marriage is very much a religious label. I believe we can keep it that way while still acknowledging equal rights and privileges to all citizens. Meanwhile i will not tell you how to live if you don’t tell me how too. It is our. human. Responsibility to choose for ourselves how we will live.

    • Jim A
      January 3, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I’m coming in late to the party. This is semantics but an important point. Marriage is civil (as in codified by the government) and the government protects and enforces the 1,025 rights bestowed on married couples. Matrimony, on the other hand, is religious, and can be defined however a religious body deems appropriate.

      Fortunately, in the U.S., one does not have to be religious, nor seek out a religious body to get married. Those that want to combine the two in the same ceremony (marriage and matrimony) are free to do so.

      My grandparents were terribly upset with the Supreme Court in 1967 when the court ruled that “negroes could now marry normal people” and were sure marriage as they knew it was gone forever.

      Better said, matrimony proponents should stay out of the marriage business.

      • Kristen
        June 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm

        Jim, this is an incredibly eloquent way to express what I have tried to say for years and years. Thank you for writing it publicly, and I hope you don’t mind that I’m going to copy and paste (and of course credit you).

  14. Fred
    December 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    “If you are an LGBT person reading this, I ask you to reverse the situation”:
    – Don’t be an antagonist. Stand up for what you believe by NOT trying to destroy what someone else believes in. You know who you are and what you do. It doesn’t build bridges as much as you might like to think it does.
    – Don’t be a hypocrite: the LGBT community loves to ostracize someone who voices their position.

  15. Mark
    December 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    What I don’t get is the idea that disagreement with same sex marriage is somehow a Mormon idea. The Bible and all of Christendom, except for the most liberal fringes of Christendom, agree that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle, in direct opposition to God’s will. The LDS church stands out because of its support of Prop 8. That’s it. The gaystapo has made this an issue of Mormons against gays, and that’s simply not the case.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Are you sure you read the article Mark? The whole idea is empathy. It seems like you have never had a real conversation with an LGBT person. You should do so someday, and try out the empathy exercise. (Gaystopo? This kind of name calling isn’t a very good first step toward showing love to people. Maybe that isn’t your desire, but if it isn’t, then I am not sure why you read the article at all, or why you commented.)

  16. Sara
    December 19, 2014 at 8:36 am

    “Just as Christ understood and taught, individuals must remember — even though many in the modern culture seem to forget — that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin, which Christ had an infinite capacity to do, and the warning against condoning it, which He never ever did even once. That pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world because righteousness accompanies it, he said.” -Jeffrey R. Holland. How would attending a gay wedding for any reason not go against this advice?

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 19, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Christ associated himself with prostitutes and thieves. He knew the difference between supporting and condoning. He would have attended a same-sex marriage. When in doubt, choose love over judgment. It can be hard to decide what is showing love and what is condoning something you disagree with, so if you are in doubt, choose love. What is the worst thing that could happen? Your attendance of the wedding will have zero impact on whether or not they get married. Meanwhile, missing the wedding will be a clear message that your love is conditional. That will make it hard for you to have any influence for good in their life in the future. Christ left the 99 to go after the 1. If you really want them to come to Christ, you have to show them unconditional love, not judgment

    • Laura
      December 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Sara, When we help unwed mothers, are we condoning their premarital sexual activities with which we disagree? Would Jesus skip the baby shower out of fear that he might be seen as condoning immorality?
      Christlike love can change the world, but it does not change orientation even in our most righteous, faithful members. If Christ does not ‘fix’ homosexuality maybe we mere mortals should stop trying to.

  17. Eddy Cage
    December 20, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Great post. Thanks for sharing .

  18. Casper White
    December 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    while I agree with much of what you say, I do not have to automatically agree with your faulty social sciences. Way to cut off debate. I can believe that it is best to be raised by your biological parents and if not, to be raised by the closest thing possible with a mother and father. I have philosophical and scientific reasons why I oppose “gay marriage,” not just religious. While I respect your belief in gay marriage and believe that civility is the key, I will not automatically accept your premise that you are right and I am wrong, but you are so generous to accept my blind belief in the spaghetti monster.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      I put the third challenge at the end for a reason. It is raising the bar slightly higher. It is asking people to really reflect on some very convincing science and legal realities in America. We could debate each point, (and I actually stand by each assertion), but that really isn’t the point. The point is that you should admit to yourself that the primary motivation to your opposition to same-sex marriage is a religious belief, which is really ok. We all have lots of religious beliefs. They all deserve to be respected and it is my responsibility to respect yours.

      All of us will gravitate toward evidence that supports our pre-existing belief system…this is called confirmation bias and it impacts me, you and everybody. Since this article is about showing love to LGBT loved ones, this is a somewhat more advanced step. It involves trying out empathy at a higher level, which is to try to truly understand their perspective. I don’t think many of us will be motivated to to do that all the time for everybody or try to understand the perspective of some random person. But this article is about showing love to LGBT people. If it is your son or your daughter or your brother or your sister (or even friend, co-worker or ward member), then it might be a very worthwhile exercise.

  19. george
    December 23, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I don’t have to accept your philosophical premises.

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/11/13989/

    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.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      I am going to copy and paste a reply I made to a comment that came in a few minutes before yours, but I think it applies (if I am understanding correctly your comment).

      I put the third challenge at the end for a reason. It is raising the bar slightly higher. It is asking people to really reflect on some very convincing science and legal realities in America. We could debate each point, (and I actually stand by each assertion), but that really isn’t the point. The point is that you should admit to yourself that the primary motivation to your opposition to same-sex marriage is a religious belief, which is really ok. We all have lots of religious beliefs. They all deserve to be respected and it is my responsibility to respect yours.

      All of us will gravitate toward evidence that supports our pre-existing belief system…this is called confirmation bias and it impacts me, you and everybody. Since this article is about showing love to LGBT loved ones, this is a somewhat more advanced step. It involves trying out empathy at a higher level, which is to try to truly understand their perspective. I don’t think many of us will be motivated to to do that all the time for everybody or try to understand the perspective of some random person. But this article is about showing love to LGBT people. If it is your son or your daughter or your brother or your sister (or even friend, co-worker or ward member), then it might be a very worthwhile exercise.

  20. Justin
    December 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    You list acts you think are morally wrong that you would not bother someone about, but I daresay there ARE things others do you WOULD say something about. Indeed, for certain things you would immoral for not standing against. You must understand that many member of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS don’t see same-sex marriage as minor. If it were a simple matter of disagreeing about a small aspect of society then, you’re right, it would be rather uncouth (or even unloving) to bring it up. It’s no big deal, so don’t worry about it. But Latter-Day Saints see same-sex marriage as about the biggest deal there is. It is seen as a SERIOUS societal problem. They feel morally obligated to take a stand just as you would about things you really believe are serious.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Jesus taught us that we should look at our own sins, and not judge others. This article isn’t about what you vote for or what political position you choose to support. It is about how you relate to the LGBT people in your life. If you want to alienate them, then remind them of your position, but pretty soon you won’t have much influence on them, because they will have stopped associating with you. This is a basic strategy for missionary work. If you want to influence them for the good you show them love, but you don’t dwell on the things they do that you might not agree with.
      I won’t stay silence if someone is being murdered, tortured, or sexually abused. If you put same-sex marriage in the same category as murder, torture or sexual abuse, then your chances of showing love to an LGBT person are next to none and this article wasn’t written for you. Fortunately there are very few Mormons who feel that way. Just the same, I encourage you to read the MormonsandGays.org website so you can see that the church encourages tolerance for those who choose a lifestyle that you may not approve of.

      • Justin
        December 23, 2014 at 8:55 pm

        I didn’t mean to indicate in my previous post that someone shouldn’t be loving towards someone who we disagree with. But your post initially strongly suggests that the degree to which you feel loved is related to the degree to which someone supports same-sex marriage. That is what I was commenting on. My point is that, for some people, same-sex marriage seen as so wrong that they must oppose it. If you read all of Elder Cook’s statement you quote in the beginning you’ll see he’s in that boat. We should be compassionate and loving. But Elder Cook’s whole point is that practice should be rejected without rejecting the people. Elder Cook opposing same-sex marriage may make you feel less loved by him but that doesn’t make him love you with any less purity.

        • Wilson
          December 31, 2014 at 9:03 am

          I actually vaguely agree with you Justin. I personally consider religious belief to be a SERIOUS societal problem, and I’m really not sure that not saying anything about it to believers is the best course of action.

          • Justin
            January 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm

            I understand that a lot of people share that view. However, those familiar with research on religion and personal well-being understand that religiosity is one of the best predictors of a happy family life and individual well-being. Indeed, the most recent issues of the Journal of Family Psychology (highly reputable, peer-reviewed journal) has a special section on this issue. Just read through the abstracts of the articles to see what I mean:

            http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=browsePA.volumes&jcode=fam

          • Wilson
            January 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm

            Yup. There are lots of indications that strong group affiliations have a very positive effect on people. There’s also plenty of evidence that religious belief leads to all sorts of other ills. So people can look at those facts and decide to take the issue of religious belief very seriously. I just wanted to point out that your previous comment essentially validated those people vocally opposing other’s religious beliefs every bit as much as it validated religious people opposing gay people.

  21. Jeanmarie
    December 26, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Just brilliantly done, Daniel. And I commend you on the patience and civility of your responses to commenters.

  22. AnnieFly
    December 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I like your article. Some thoughts:

    1) I think it is OK to discuss ones beliefs on moral issues. I think it is fine if someone were to tell me they support redefining marriage as a genderless institution. Similarly, I think it is fine for me to tell someone that I do not support such an idea. I feel it is the responsibility of the listener to understand that there exists a diversity of opinions on these kinds of topics and, if that proves difficult for them, then it is their responsibility to work through it. This is not to say that one should not be sensitive (as your examples illustrate).

    2) I think you are greatly overstating the level of scientific support for same-sex marriage. The fact is, the literature on this topic is extremely limited. Objections to same-sex marriage are not limited to those that are religious in nature.

  23. December 30, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    So, does this mean that if an election puts the legalization of polygamy. Men legally marrying multiple wives. Will you vote for that?

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 31, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Polygamy and same-sex marriage are completely different issues. My opinion about legalizing polygamy is not at all relevant here.

      It is relevant that there are people in polygamist marriages, and even if I disagree with them, I don’t need to tell them that. They already know that most people don’t agree with polygamy. So if I am their neighbor, or their doctor, it is not my place to tell them that their lifestyle is wrong. Trust me, they have heard it a million times.

      The fact is, I find that the fundamentalist polygamist cultures are extremely damaging to the people involved. However, it is neither Christlike, nor helpful, to express those opinions to the people involved, unless they are specifically coming to me for advice about it.

      If my sister told me she was going to join the FLDS church and enter polygamy, I would try to talk her out of it. But if she decides to go ahead and do it, I will just show her love. If she invites me the wedding I will attend. If she has kids I will do everything I can to love and support them without making them feel that their family is ‘bad’.

  24. Russ
    January 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Daniel, one thing rarely brought up in terms of equality is “equality for whom?” The L and G can marry, but the B can’t, so the argument as stated is a misnomer. Shouldn’t bisexuals have the same rights as lesbians and gays? Shouldn’t they be allowed to marry multiple partners from both sides? Likewise, shouldn’t any polyamorous person be allowed to have multiple marriages? Equality for only one group isn’t equality, it’s cherry picking. So the question then arises, what makes the L and G more privileged than the B or the P? Until those are given answers, gay marriage will be viewed more as opportunism to cater to one specific sector while neglecting the others. The argument must be consistent if the war cry is truly to be “equality”. Equality doesn’t only mean “equality for me.”

  25. Lorian
    January 9, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Bisexuals most certainly can marry. They simply have a larger pool of potential compatible mates to choose from. Bisexual doesn’t mean you have to have a mate of both sexes, or that you are necessarily a bigamist or polygamist. It simply means that a person is attracted to both men and women. Strictly speaking, bisexuals have always been at least *somewhat* more maritally privileged than lesbians and gays, in that it has always been at least *possible* for them to find a compatible mate whom they could legally marry. The fact that they now have even *more* legal options available for marriage does not make them less privileged than lesbians and gays. This is a gross distortion.

  26. Lorian
    January 9, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Polygamy is a completely different discussion. It is one that I believe does deserve being addressed, but it is used as a distraction technique to divert from the very real (and separate) issue of the need for legal marriage rights for people who are mainly or exclusively attracted to and compatible with persons of their own sex.

  27. Lorian
    January 9, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Additionally, the rights of transgender individuals to both live comfortably and openly as the gender with which they identify, and to be governed by fair and reasonable legislation so that they can be legally married to the person they love, regardless of that person’s sex or gender, and remain married to that person no matter their physical/surgical status and no matter what state they may choose to live in, are far too often neglected, as well. But none of that in any way suggests that gay and lesbian people’s marriage equality is receiving more attention than it is due. It all ties together, and gaining rights for one group helps in gaining rights for all. We need to all work together on each other’s behalf and not rest until each of us has the equality s/he deserves.

  28. Kristen
    June 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    While I agree with the concept of this article. It is how I personally live my life as a heterosexual #momo. However, I must call to attention at least one of your ‘scenarios’ which is both ignorant and incorrect. I will not comment on any of the religious statements (or anything that could be construed as a religious belief), because of everyone’s right to their own beliefs, however there are several ‘scenarios’ that are incredibly offensive.

    -Muslim women do not cover their heads because MEN tell them to, they cover it because GOD tells them to. Does God fit into misogyny? It is a symbol of modesty, saintliness, purity, and godliness, not to mention it serves as a reminder to men (and themselves) not to have inappropriate contact because the woman is displaying her respect of self and others.

    I understand if some of you are offended by what I have written, but I feel that it is important to be objectively accurate.

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