Bobby Parker

Mormon Men of Power and Authority in our Governments: Why They're Big trouble!

Filed By Bobby Parker | September 12, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Arizona, Dave Richins, Mesa, Mormon, power and authority

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 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 wrote:


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

Dave responded:

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."



I replied:

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.

Dave wrote:

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.

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"It's Like Trying to Argue with a Dining Room Table"

Kudos to anyone willing to try to reason with the unreasonable, but for LGBT people who have lost their partner's pension after a death and are now homeless (or any similar horror that results when rights are denied), I'm not sure things like reasoning and "discussions" are desired. It's like having someone steal your child, and instead of chasing down that person and doing ANYTHING necessary to save your child (violence included) you sign a petition and donate some money to an organization and hope for the best.

It's as if we do not even acknowledge the HEART of what we are fighting for - FAMILY. Personally, I can almost taste blood at this point.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Jesus in John 8:32)

There is a ruthless and obedient discipline within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I know this as an infidel.

The question that I have put to this argument about religious views ruling marriage concerns what then should we do about religions like mine which do recognize same sex marriage. I am a clergy person in my faith and I perform the ceremonies in Mass. Sop if I'm a clergy person and I perform the marriage then is it a marriage? Or is it that only a particular religion should decide who is married?

It's like arguing with a signpost. Not just any signpost, but one of the FAIL signposts that say "Do not throw rocks at this sign".

I'm not clear on this:

"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."

Are you implying that drag queens, who were among the uprisers in Stonewall and other insurrections, are somehow not a part of the "GLBT" movement?

As for the state being in the marriage business: shouldn't we then fight for the state to get out of the business completely rather than fight for the unequal terms of marriage?

Dave seemed to mean in his comment about drag queens that he would have been more interested in leaving what he was doing to come and visit with my friends if they had brought drag queens. Like the attraction one might have to a circus sideshow. He also made a couple of other uncouth statements that I didn't reference. It was his attitude that offended me. I have a good friend who is a drag queen. I knew he didn't know anything about the Stonewall queens who staunchly defended themselves and everyone else. He also does not know of the millions of dollars raised by drag queens for charity. I was not disparaging drag queens, I was trying to tell him of my respect for them, and point out that his flippant attitude regarding them was unappreciated.

I'd also call that offensive. Especially here in Indiana, there are still plenty of people who do the whole, "Oh. You're gay? Are you a drag queen?"

It's as if they're knowledge of anything gay hasn't gone past To Wong Foo.

Thanks for answering the first question. I'm glad for your explanation, but none of that came through in your original post.

And I think the best response to someone asking, "Oh, you're gay, are you a drag queen?" might well be, "Yes, why?" And then carry on a conversation from there that doesn't treat anyone among us as an outsider. I see why the questioner might mean it to be offensive, but that's no reason not to carry on as if we *are* offended.

I'll leave aside the fact that you haven't responded to the second question.

Marriage existed outside of Judeo-Christian tradition, hence the issue of "Caesar's wife."
The Churches ought not be able to lay claim to it as private property.

As for the Mormons, well, we all knew that the Osmonds were sending secret messages with their music, didn't we? And the strong Mormon presence in NOM continues to snap at our heels as we march forward in search of equal citizenship.

Is Richins a Democrat or a Republican? I'm curious.

You MUST be kidding me. I believe myself and one other friend may be the only Mormons in Arizona who aren't Repubicans! LOL! To be Mormon and a Democrat creates immediate suspicion that you aren't really 'converted' to the church. You really can't be trusted, no lie. Recent PEW polling puts Mormon men as the MOST conservative group in the nation, even ahead of evangelicals and others you might think might win the spot.

I am a member of the reffered to church,I am convinced those who have some insight into history and also political history of the world, cannot possibly remain to the right wing side politically, nor to the far left. There is a rather wide room of mixed political democracies with more compatability with my church for sure centered in the middle politically with small leanings to left or right, social democracies if you like. Picking the best from all sides. How an intelligent person like Romney can be further to the right I cannot understand, it certainly does not come from the scriptures, more traditions. Right wing Americans seems to think normal regulations all of a sudden end up in dictatorship in a communist system, whereever they get that idea from!!! We have had apostles from the democratic wing as you know, and as an LDS at least that is easier to understand. However, when it comes to Gay policies, the Church has a great love for all people and their dilemma as members of our LDS church, but it cannot support marriage between two same sex partners, legally of course the church would agree that both in a partnership need legal protection and I do believe these areas are under improvement everywhere. I can understand that the actual marriage as such is limited to man/woman relationship, as in the Bible which we use this is the outset plan. I understand it is a very hard situation for those affected, but it is understandable from the scriptures we believe in. It does not make us haters of anybody different and nobody should believe they do not have the same value as persons, they do. And the church leaders have explained this as well many times. But marriage is a very specific union, any other partnerships to secure rights are also different. Ok, so I may think it is fine then, and I am happy and have everything. I tell you I do not, most people do not, most of my life I have also been lacking in that special relationship and not had the full package in life. Still life goes on and there are also many aspects of this life. I do not deny the enormous difficulty life is seen from a gay persons viewpoint as an LDS, but it must also be possible to accept facts as an LDS and these facts are that in our particular group the truths as we believe are set out about marriage and how it is planned and not much can be done to alter just that very union inside LDS or what we can support. But friendships and support is also worth something and difficult situations can be more bearable, for all gays and heteros. Life is rarely ideal, but with support that also is scriptural! There should be no need for parents to overstress their gay children,let them live their lives with as much support as they can possibly get, there is no need for suicides, all must be respected whatever they decide, they are free to find their way. And they are free to change their ways any time they like as well. Problems are probably because many are not ready to accept the different lifestyles, even if the freedom is accepted. They must aslo accept that LDS church has to follow what they profess to follow and cannot change here and there according to individual dislikes and likes whoever they are. Can it not also be respected that there is an integrity in the church and one cannot compromise what one believes is from God, who are we to go against him (as we believe him to be and to have organised us as a population). We also believe in a future where differences that are hard to understand and bear here most definately will be ironed out and rectified. Naive?? Well up to you, but we sincerely believe it, so for us we have to follow our beliefs. Legally responsible contracts of course! All want legally responsible people. So rights can be safeguarded for all necessary in a relationship. A traditional marriage cannot be termed the same, a legally binding contract, must be able to be accepted by all. As I see it. Easy never.