Browsing through my newsfeed on Facebook, it would appear that society is trying to decimate the institution of marriage. Countless friends and family members have posted articles and disbelief regarding the supposed legalization of polygamy and whether or not Utah can ignore those pesky same-sex marriages that have already taken place.
While many have raised the question why Mormons aren’t reacting to the recent two landmark decisions, the LDS church has finally issued a statement regarding marriage equality within their state. While not surprising, it is unfortunate that even in 2014, one of the fastest growing religions in the nation views a civil rights issue as “divergent” and a “trend in society.”
2013 was an exceptional year for U.S. marriage equality efforts. Five states passed marriage equality through their legislatures and three others through judicial rulings. Conservative ideologues and activists criticize so called “activist rulings” and verbalize their concerns that their constitutional liberties and religion are under fire by these rulings.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Kitchen v. Loving (Utah’s marriage equality case currently under review by the 10th Circuit) the issue of marriage equality is once again before the Mormon or LDS church.
I was raised LDS and went to church nearly every Sunday until I was 18. I participated in weekly youth meetings, attended Boy Scout outings, and was a leader within my church. By all accounts, I appeared to be the model youth, however inside I was dejected. Severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and extreme self-loathing plagued my adolescent and teen years due to an overwhelming sense of guilt regarding my sexuality.
Although the LDS church has redefined their stance on homosexuality (honey, you’re born that way but don’t you ever dream of acting on it) and many are applauding this “progressive” step, it leaves many in a state wherein family relations are terse at best and where one is forced to choose between a life of celibacy and loneliness or between the LDS church and community.
Such a choice is not unique to LGBT individuals with religious backgrounds: while Pope Francis claims, “Who am I to judge?”, his church still condemns marriage equality and other legal rights afforded to heterosexual couples. The statement offered today by the LDS Church echoes those sentiments by proclaiming “strong families” are “guided by a loving mother and father [who] serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children.”
I have spent the last 10 years trying to reconcile my religious heritage and upbringing and my unabashedly gay self. In fact, it wasn’t until this last holiday season that I came out to my own mother.
Fear of being ostracized from my family and my community back in Idaho were real enough in my mind to prevent me from admitting to my own family that I am gay, while I am have been more than comfortable leading community rallies and public campaigns for LGBT equality throughout the country.
Whether it is in the halls of elementary schools, the wedding chapel, or feeling secure and safe in the workplace there is much work to be done. LGBT equality is an issue that will surely grip our generation for years to come. As society becomes more accepting of LGBT individuals, I remain optimistic that progress will be made, at least within civil society.
While groups such as Mormons for Equality have been seen around the nation at Pride parades trying to bridge this gap, much work needs done. Our society will be forced to reckon with questions of basic human dignity and equality and how to reconcile those with declarations from conservative religious leaders. The showdown between democratic laws and religious beliefs is becoming increasingly common, if not increasingly reported on. These conflicts should serve as a medium for society to discuss the intersection between civic society and religious ideology.
There are no easy answers for the countless number of LGBT individuals with conservative religious backgrounds and the struggle to find an identity within that intersection is a fight that will continue throughout our lives.