By Devon (also posted at his blog http://mygraylifestyle.wordpress.com/)
What the heck just happened? Same-sex marriage is legal in Utah!? How on earth did Utah jump on the progressive bandwagon so quickly? I expected the second coming to occur before gay couples would be getting marriage applications accepted here in our very own state. Granted, we still have to see what happens in the appeals process that will undoubtedly follow, but this news is really huge. After seeing the breaking news on Facebook I immediately called my wife to tell her. I couldn’t contain my excitement. We were both very happy about what this means for our many gay friends. They live in a state that (at least for now) can’t deny their right to have the same legal benefits that we enjoy as a married couple.
Now, I understand if some are surprised by my reaction. I’m Mormon, and that label carries with it a whole lot of anti-gay connotation. I’d expect many people who don’t know me well to think I’d be disturbed or horrified by the news that the “gay agenda” has taken hold of the “Heart of Zion.” However, not all Mormons oppose same-sex marriage. There are many of us that are actually pro-marriage equality. Many tithe-paying, card-carrying Mormons love their LGBT friends and relatives and desire for them to have the same rights. Some Mormons feel it their duty to keep their religious views and convictions from infringing upon the rights of others.
Here’s another thing that may make your head spin.
I’m also gay.
Now before you jump to conclusions thinking that my wife and I are happy about this because we’re going to split and I can now marry a man, or have a polygamous husband (which is also now decriminalized in Utah), allow me to establish that we are in a committed, monogamous marriage. I just happen to be more attracted to men than women, which by definition, means I’m gay. I don’t expect all to understand my reasons for marrying a woman, nor do I expect other gay people to make the same choice about marriage as I.
Soon after hearing the news, a friend asked me if this makes me rethink my marriage at all. My answer? Of course not. Why would the fact that other people who are in love can get married legally have any impact on my marriage? Even if gay marriage were legal in Utah five years ago when I got married I very likely would have still married my wife.
You see, when I got married I made my choice about the kind of person I wanted to marry with many things in mind, one of them being my religious views about family. Does that mean that I look down on other gay people who made a different choice or hold myself up as an example for other gay Mormons? Not at all. I have many gay friends that can now legally get married, and I am happy for their happiness. Does the fact that they can have a happy, successful, legal marriage pose any threat to my own marriage? Nope. In the same way, success or failure in my marriage shouldn’t be seen as a way to invalidate or validate their chosen path. I have my reasons for marrying a woman, and they have their reasons for choosing otherwise. Both our decisions ought to be respected.
I’m expecting an onslaught of strong feelings to come from many fellow Mormons and Utahns as a result of this ruling. I’m sure many will feel hurt or threatened that this happened without their vote or input. Others will mourn that the institution of marriage is being destroyed. Some may even fear that this is proof that the earth is ripening for destruction.
I cannot understand how allowing gays to marry destroys the institution of marriage. The purpose of marriage is to establish commitment and strengthen the bonds of a family. Why would we not want to strengthen the families of those that are currently in same-sex relationships? Many couples already have children, and marriage between the gay or lesbian partners would bring more security to those families. Allowing gays to marry will not take any rights away from those that are already married heterosexually. The fears that allowing gay marriage will lead to a slippery slope in which everyone turns gay and the world population ceases to replace itself are completely illogical.
These fears are very real, however, and religious beliefs surrounding the gay marriage issue can be difficult to reconcile. My wife and I used to hold those same views. Open discussions can allow for hearts to be opened on both sides of the table.
Perhaps I have more empathy for my gay friends because I’m gay myself. I’ve felt the social stigma that comes with being different from everyone else. I’ve felt the sting of hearing others say hateful and incorrect things about something that I cannot change about myself. And I understand the difficult choices and sacrifices that gay and lesbian individuals make when it comes to choosing the kind of person they will marry.
You don’t have to be gay to have empathy for other LGBT individuals by protecting their rights. It may involve taking a step back and seeing them through a different lens than we’re accustomed to. May we all strive to have humanity towards those who are of a different mindset. And I would hope that regardless (or in spite of) of our religious views, we can accept and embrace another’s right to marry the person of their choosing. May this monumental change also bring about a better understanding and sensitivity toward LGBT issues.
One great line from the federal judge’s amendment ruling: “The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”
Today, I couldn’t be prouder to call myself a Utahn.