I did want to write about the LDS Church's recent announcement regarding gay rights and religious freedom. For those who may not be aware, the LDS Church came out in favor of statewide anti-discrimination laws for gay people in Utah and encouraged the state legislature to pursue that. Heading a press conference were Apostles Dallin H. Oaks, D. Todd Christofferson, and Jeffrey R. Holland as well as Neill Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women's Presidency. You can read about it here and here.
There is a catch, however. The LDS Church also wants laws put in place that will protect them and other faith-based organizations and individuals from religious discrimination if they desire not to marry a gay couple, for example. The LDS Church admits that drawing the line won't be easy and could get "murky." You can read about that here and also watch D. Todd Christofferson and Dallin H. Oaks respond to questions in this video:
Some media outlets, such as the New York Times and the Huffington Post (here, too), have accused the LDS Church of making this move simply to gain the legal right to discriminate, and there may very well be some truth in that. Some of my friends applaud this move by the LDS Church; others view it with a more cynical eye. I can see both sides.
Here's my point-of-view: when I think about where I was 25 years ago, a young, confused, very-in-the-closet, gay-but-not-wanting-to-be-gay Mormon and how little the issues I was dealing with were even addressed in the LDS Church (and on the rare occasions they were, it was always in negative terms), I never would have imagined that three apostles from my former church would be talking openly about these issues at all or that the LDS Church (regardless of the reason) would be supporting gay rights of any kind, let alone even talking about them. To me, progress is progress. With the LDS Church, progress regarding gay issues or gay rights has been slow and, often, filled with ignorance. 25 years ago anything dealing with homosexuality seemed so taboo in the LDS Church. Nobody talked about it, and it was a very lonely time for this particular Mormon boy.
It seemed very far from my world then that I would ever be able (or even want) to marry another man and even a couple of years ago, I never would have thought I could do so (and eventually did) in my home state of Utah. I never could have imagined an LDS sponsored website called mormonsandgays.com (or even an internet, for that matter). I never would have imagined a group called Mormons Building Bridges marching in Gay Pride parades. I never would have imagined church leaders could be at all sympathetic to the plight of gay members. I never could have imagined that the LDS Church would ever change its views on encouraging gay people to get married heterosexually to "fix" their "problem." I never would have imagined that an openly gay individual might serve in a leadership position as someone like Mitch Mayne has done. I never imagined that church leaders would soften their rhetoric on homosexuality (Boyd K. Packer notwithstanding).
My point is, regardless of where the LDS Church currently stands on its treatment of LGBTQ individuals, progress has been made in the last 40, 30, 25, 10, 5 years. Who knows where we'll be in another 10 or 20? Gone are the days of electroshock therapy, using The Miracle of Forgiveness as gospel truth, and never hearing anything about homosexuality in church meetings. Gay couples can get married in Utah and in many other states; gay characters abound on TV, so many gay celebrities are out, Mormons openly and secretly are supporting gay rights; church leaders have become more sympathetic and less ignorant (they still have a ways to go, but hey...); reparative therapy is less in style, etc. The me 25 years ago never would have thought I'd be where I am now. There is progress.
I totally agree that this push for religious protection can possibly open a can of worms that allow people to continue to discriminate against gays. I mean, where do you draw the line?
But this is how I feel: I think the photographer that won't photograph a gay wedding or the baker that won't make a cake for a gay couple or the landlord that doesn't want a gay couple living in their basement are being prejudiced and sometimes unreasonable. I mean, are you supporting gay marriage just because you take a photo of a gay wedding or make a cake for a gay couple? What about the photos you're taking or the cakes your baking or the apartments you're renting to people who are doing all sorts of unseemly things you don't even know about? You can still believe what you believe. No one is taking your right to believe homosexuality is a sin.
But here's the thing. Those people live in a free country where they can believe whatever they want to believe and if they want to deny a service that they feel compromises their religious beliefs, I suppose that is their right.
But here's the other side (for me, at least). Why does the gay couple even want that person to take their photos or bake their cake or to live in a place where they are not meant to feel welcome? I say, move on. Give your money to someone who values and respects you. When Jonah and I were looking for somewhere to have our commitment ceremony, we encountered a couple of places whose owners felt uncomfortable agreeing to let us have our ceremony there. I suppose I could have been offended or tried to fight it or sue them; instead I just moved on. If they want to discriminate against me because of their religious beliefs, it's their loss, not mine. I'll spend my money elsewhere and have my ceremony somewhere where I know it will be valued and honored. And that's what we did.
Just as I think it sucks that gay people are denied the right to live where they want to live or where they want to work or denied services of some kind because some bonehead can't look past a supposed "sin" and just be charitable enough to treat the gay people with love, I also think it sucks that someone who feels uncomfortable marrying a gay couple or taking photos of their wedding or supplying them with a cake should be made to do so. I think it's equally sucky that a person loses their own livelihood simply because they speak out against gay rights or sign a petition or donate money to a gay rights cause. Do I agree with them? No. But if they want to believe my "lifestyle" is sinful or wrong, I suppose that's their prerogative. I don't think they should be fired or forced to resign because of it (and I know of instances where that has happened).
But again, where do you draw the line? Will I be denied health services because some doctor doesn't approve of my sexuality or will some fireman refuse to put out the fire in my house because a gay couple lives there? If the Church is in favor of anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people from housing or job discrimination but won't hire them to work at the Church Office Building or if individual members refuse to rent out an apartment to a gay couple, then doesn't the line become "murky?" On the other hand, why does a gay person want to work or live where he doesn't feel loved or supported? Why does the gay person want someone to marry him and his partner if that person doesn't respect or honor that marriage?
I don't know all the answers. We have two sides that believe very strongly what they believe and who both believe they're in the right. Somehow we have to find a compromise. I just don't believe an "all-or-nothing" approach.
I know there will be those who disagree with me, but this is how I feel. Anyway, that's my two cents on this situation.