By Scott H.
This past November 5, 2012, I shared this story on my Facebook page*. On November 6, 2012, the State of Washington joined Maryland and Maine as the first states to uphold marriage equality by popular vote. I was proud as a Washingtonian and co-founder of Mormons for Marriage Equality to have had the opportunity to work with a broad and diverse group of supporters to help make marriage equality a reality in our state. Many people on both sides of the issue found it difficult that to believe that I could be both Mormon and an equality supporter. This post was my attempt to persuade my friends to vote in favor of marriage equality. In it, I share a little bit of my background as to why I believe that marriage equality is worth fighting for.
WHY I VOTED YES ON R-74. I know that everyone is fairly sick of political posts, so I thank you in advance for bearing through this one. My position on marriage equality will likely come as a shock to, well, no one. (At least know no one on Facebook). I wanted to take a minute to explain why I feel so strongly on this issue, and why I hope that Washington residents will choose to approve R-74 tomorrow.
Nearly a decade ago my new bride and I moved from the west coast to Boston, Massachusetts. Within just a few months, marriage equality became law in the state after a court ruling. By default, I opposed legalizing same sex marriage. My entire life I had been taught that marriage was sacred between a man and a woman. My religious leaders in Boston encouraged us to reach out to our elected officials and register our disappointment at the court’s decision, and to support a proposed state amendment to ban these marriages. Doing so was necessary to preserve traditional marriage, and that the risk to the family unit was grave if we allowed gay marriage to go forward. I accepted these arguments but gave them little thought at the time.
Over the next several years though, something interesting happened. Or better yet, nothing happened. My marriage didn’t disintegrate. We didn’t start teaching sodomy in schools. Massachusetts didn’t force gay weddings in temples. What did happen was that I began to meet some really amazing, smart, happy, LGBT individuals. Some were single, others in long-term committed relationships. Their “agenda”, as far as I could tell, looked a lot like mine – be a good person/spouse/parent, get ahead at work, and live an enjoyable life.
Then came 2008. I watched as my church went full court press to support a marriage ban in California. I watched as the same messages of fear that we had heard in Massachusetts years before were trotted out, repackaged, and blasted over TV, radio, and social media. I was in business school at the time, and had come to be good friends with a gay man in my section. He stopped me one day and asked: “why is your church doing this?” He was genuinely confused. He knew that he wasn’t an evil person. He knew that he had no interest in destroying anyone’s marriage. And he also knew that the Mormons he knew were kind and open individuals. “I don’t know” was my only response. That night, I looked in the mirror and realized that I had been very, very wrong, in a very, very big way. I considered speaking up then, but I didn’t. I allowed my fear to get the best of me, and I watched from the sidelines as the combined efforts of my co-religionists proved successful in stopping marriage equality in California.
Over the next several years, I came to know more LGBT individuals. Some people who are very close to me came out of the closet to me. I’m grateful for their trust and friendship. I’ve listened to their stories of fear, rejection and attempted suicide. In one particularly poignant conversation, I was having dinner with a woman who had done everything to “cure” herself of homosexuality. She attended the temple weekly. She wore out her knees praying. Then she met a woman and fell in love. In an instant she realized that she had two paths – one of abject loneliness and despair, the other of love. She chose love, and in doing so lost her faith community and many of her family members. At the time of this dinner, work and a move had separated me from my family for several weeks, and I was suffering from the pain and loneliness of that separation. When I considered the fact that this woman had been blithely told by her family and community to simply accept that type of loneliness for the rest of her life, I felt sick. “Why would a loving Father do that?” Why indeed.
Why do I support marriage equality? Because everyone deserves the right to be with the one they love. Because homosexuality isn’t a disease, and cannot be cured. Because religious freedom does not mean that one’s religion can determine how another person should live. Because there are hundreds of thousands of children being raised by loving and committed LGBT couples who in a thousand different ways cannot provide their children with the same legal benefits that other children enjoy. Because the arguments against marriage equality have proven to be so many lies. Because it is time.
My challenge to my friends who are planning to vote against marriage equality tomorrow: talk to an LGBT couple. Ask them about their lives. Ask why marriage is important to them, and to their children. If you believe that your right to prevent their marriage trumps their right to be married – tell that couple why. To their faces. Then ask yourself this question – have I ever been wrong about something that I strongly believed? Is there any possibility that I might be wrong now?
*Edited for grammar and typos from the original post