I'm an 'inactive Mormon.' That means I don't go to church and don't give 'em money anymore. For my grandchildren's sakes, it sounds better in Mormon parlance for Grandpa Parker to be inactive rather than a nonbeliever. Semantics...but don't we live and die by it sometimes? Even Grandpas?
With 12 grandchildren, including six grandsons so far, all in 'active' Mormon families, I have an overwhelming wish to protect them from their parents and the LDS Church, in case one or more turn out to be like Grandpa...gay. Statistics being what they are, there's a good chance one of them is gay. Abhorrently, gay Mormon boys in Utah commit suicide at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. Their families and the Church generally leave them with what they believe is no other option. So sad.
Whenever I'm interacting with Mormons, like my kids, old friends in the church, and Mormons in positions of power and authority, it is vitally important to me that I keep giving them the message to listen to their children. What influence I have may save the life of one of my precious little ones someday.
To that end, I wanted to publish for your edification an exchange of emails I had with a member of Mesa's City Council. It's important, because a basic strategy of the Mormon leadership in America is to put Mormons in office wherever they can. The problem is they can't separate their religion from their governing...and that is bad for us gay guys/gals. Do you know where Mitt Romney is these days? He'll be baaack!
(Note: The last part of this post is something you might want to copy and send to a Mormon friend.)
The exchange was with Councilmember Dave Richins, an 'active' Mormon and a friend I've worked in the trenches with. Mesa is the Nation's 38th largest city and about the same size as Sacramento and Long Beach, CA, but no one has ever heard of Mesa. Since Dave is young and has political ambitions, his influence is going to be felt for a long time by a large population. I was hoping to educate him but found a man with a sincerely closed mind. Mesa is a Mormon stronghold in the southwest, with Arizona's first Mormon temple built 75 years ago.
Arizona has been a state for 97 years and I had some young friends who decided to walk 97 miles in the August Arizona sun to talk to people about LGBT equality...which Arizona has been without for 97 years!
They were well received and given the red carpet treatment in Tempe and Chandler, Arizona, but in Mesa it seems like everyone in city government was 'on vacation' when they arrived. As a former long time resident of Mesa I was pissed that the city I worked so hard to build up would dis my young friends. I got on the phone with Councilmember Richins and he eventually found one guy to come and talk to them. He was a Mormon too, and didn't even know what LGBT stood for, so you can tell how that interaction went. The young walkers were kind and helped educate him, he was nice, and gave them some water and chap stick for their journey.
I later emailed Richins, and this is our exchange up to this point:
I have copied below a recent article from ECHO magazine written by Meg Sneed the leader of the Equality Walkers. I was disappointed that the City of Mesa basically blew them off, while the Police Chief in Tempe and the City Manager in Chandler welcomed them and they had wonderful meetings. These meetings were not confrontational, but based on mutual goodwill and loving acceptance. Each was trying to better understand the other so that they could work together for the common good.
As Meg says, Steve Wright, Public Information and Communications Director, is a nice man, but instead of ambiguous I would have used the word oblivious...he had no idea what GLBT stood for or anything about gay people and their challenges in general. At least he got some education.
Your question about whether there were 'drag queens' with this group was in poor taste. There are some things you can joke about, and some things that you can't.
They'll be walking again next year, but will be in the West Valley or up north where it's cooler.
They are an extremely brave group of young GLBT leaders who will make a difference in life. I'm proud to have them as friends.
Of course, I'm proud you're my friend, also, but realize that as liberal as you may seem, you have a long way to go in understanding at least 6-10% of your population in Mesa. I'd put it a little higher, because I am finding Mormon families have more gay children than the average (based on my own experience that is).
Bobby Parker, Chair
Arizona Stonewall Democrats
I appreciate your point of view and concern. I think the major reason you didn't get a "warm" reception in Mesa was more about timing than anything. We all have other jobs and management is very busy and often off site doing the business of the city.
Basically, your walkers choose a bad day in Mesa.
I am glad you got all this off your chest. I am glad to count you as my friend but simply do not agree with your assessment of the city, state or the LDS Church. We will just have to agree to disagree. Its not that I don't think equality isn't important, I just want the government to have a limited role in enforcement of their view of "equality."
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men....
The Declaration of Independence.
Thanks for making my point.
When your rights are in conflict with my rights, government should intervene. That is not the case here.
Simply put, you desire something that (gay marriage) I do not think is a right granted by government, but only by God. Government shouldn't even be in the marriage business. Marriage is the bastion of the church, not the state.
If you want to co mingle assets, go ahead, I don't care, but marriage is a sacred institution to be sanctioned by God, not man or government.
Isn't that what this is really all about?
To which I responded (with a little help from some brilliant friends):
Your point that government should not be in the marriage business is a good point -- but it happens to be in the marriage business: it issues licenses to marry, it gives tax incentives to marry, it enforces law re benefits that favor marriage, it establishes probate laws that favor marriage, etc. Civil marriage laws set a level playing field for all religious and non-religious citizens of our nation bestowing 1138 rights and privileges within the law on this institution. Yet it does not support civil rights for gays.
Since it is in the marriage business, why is it not in the marriage business for gay couples, too? Marriage among gays and lesbians provides benefits to society the same as heterosexual marriage does: it would encourage supportive companionship, allow for stability in households, provide security, discourage promiscuity, allow dual parenting with authority, etc. The "family unit" is seen as the basic unit of society. "The most important work a person will ever do is within the walls of his/her home." There is no rational reason for denying same-sex couples the right to marry and establish a family unit.
As far as the "God's law" issue, there is no scriptural authority for the proposition that God does not condone gay marriage -- you won't find it anywhere -- there are a few verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality, and that is in reference to homosexual acts outside of marriage (since no nation recognized gay marriage in biblical times) just as it condemns heterosexual acts outside of marriage. I don't know of any latter-day scriptures that even speak to homosexuality. Of course, there are many things condemned by God's prophets in the Bible that are not punishable by the laws of the state, such as lying (except under oath), lusting after a woman (or man), denying aid to the poor and needy, etc. That is the problem with relying on God's law as a basis for interpreting governmental law: it allows you to pick and choose based on religious views when there should be separation between church and state.
Marriage is an institution that exists and serves a vital purpose independently of God or any religious belief. Marriage is a reflection of the human heart. Marriage is a reality of how people build their lives. Marriage is a neat legal package that recognizes the joining of lives and assets that most people across our society enter into at some time in their lives. Marriage, contrary to popular belief, is not about procreation, since procreation can commence in the absence of marriage. If marriage were about raising children, people beyond their procreative years would be barred from it, and unmarried couples conceiving a child would be forced into it. None of that is the case. No one even proposes such a thing.
Marriage is about property; specifically, shared property that results from committed relationships. This has been true for centuries. You are in part correct in that marriage as a religious concept has no need of governmental intervention. However, marriage as a joining of two lives and two sets of assets, as well as mutually created assets over the course of a marriage, creates a large and complex set of legal issues which over the course of this republic have been dealt with one by one under the collected legal banner of marriage. Such a large body of law surrounding marriage exists for a reason. It serves a vital purpose in people's lives. This is true of any two people who enter into a committed relationship, share in the assets of that relationship, and build their lives around that relationship. Just as you feel that marriage as a religious concept has no need of governmental intervention, I'm sure you'll agree that marriage as a legal concept has no need of religious intervention.
So the fact remains. Legal marriage exists. That is undeniable. It is a large body of law which addresses the reality that people love each other, they enter relationships with each other, and they build lives with each other. These simple facts of human lives are in no way limited to heterosexual relationships. Same-sex couples love each other. They commit to each other. They build lives with each other. They are no different than a differing-sex couple. They are people. They love. They have lives. For this large body of law to exist to serve only one segment of the population, while cutting out other segments whose circumstances are functionally identical is untenable in a nation founded on equal protection under the law.
This is discrimination. It is no different than laws that gave the vote only to white, land owning men. In their day, those laws made sense to those in power. Today, they seem barbaric, and we don't understand how our nation ever behaved in such a way. So too shall it be someday viewed of our current state of marriage. Just as we are stunned that in the time since the Beatles released Sgt. Peppers it was illegal for a mixed race couple to marry in many states of this country, it will in the coming decades be shocking to think that it was once illegal for a same sex couple to marry. Limiting marriage to people of differing sex is fundamentally un-American, and is clearly on the wrong side of history. To oppose it will some day be seen no differently than those who opposed the abolition of slavery. Why anyone would want to stand on what is clearly the side of wrong only to eventually face the harsh judgment of history is unfathomable.