Friday, December 27, 2013

On Staying Silent...

I know I’ve been blogging about exercise and fitness for the last few months, but I’m going to switch it up this month. A lot. People who know me the best will probably be a little (or a lot?) surprised by this entry, but I feel compelled to write it.

Something pretty momentous happened on December 20, 2013. In Utah, arguably the most conservative state in the nation and my former home for nearly 10 years, a judge struck down the state amendment banning same-sex marriage there. Let me back up a little.

 When I was 18 years old and a freshman in college, I went to a photography exhibit called, “Love Makes a Family.” The was the year 1997 and the idea of gay Americans raising children was a hot-button issue. The pictures touched a chord in me somewhere very deep. They were families just like mine. Families who loved each other, parents who were trying to raise their children and do the best they could. I was aware of the widespread prejudice against homosexual couples. Fueled mostly by ignorance, the AIDS epidemic and misinformation, this prejudice grew and marriage equality became a controversial issue for the next 15 years.

Now, I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my entire life. I believe in the Gospel taught there with all of my heart. My faith is firm and something that is at the very core of who I am. Most of you know that the Church has taken an active role in the ‘defense of traditional marriage’ for many years. And this has bothered me since high school when the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed.

Being a Latter-Day Saint, I have been taught from an early age to trust the Spirit. That in times of trial or confusion, I should turn to the Lord and trust the feelings and promptings I felt when I prayed. For many years, I have felt that the push against gay marriage was a misdirection of resources, for myself and for my church. It’s been a difficult position to be in, feeling that the Spirit was guiding me to embrace my brothers and sisters (gay or otherwise) and love them and the general consensus amongst Mormons that ‘defending’ traditional marriage was more important. I don’t personally know anyone who dislikes or hates gay people, who are unkind to or actively discriminating against them. They feel that the defense of traditional marriage is important. My point of view is that it is MORE important to love our fellowmen than it is to make sure that only men and women can marry each other. I have strong feelings that the old ‘hate the sin, love the sinner,’ adage is outdated and a nearly impossible position to maintain or defend.  I know many people, in and out of the Church, whose position against gay marriage has colored their thinking and actions in a way that makes it impossible to love their gay brothers and sisters. I testify that the Gospel  of Jesus Christ is about love, inclusion, understanding, respect and the power of the redemptive love of our Savior and Heavenly Father. Many of you might not understand how I can reconcile my support of gay marriage and my testimony, but I have the similar feelings about the opposing view. How can we keep the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, when our efforts are being directed in such a way?

I have felt for a long time that there was something wrong with the way that I felt. Those of you who know me know that I’m not one to shy away from a debate, but this is something I’ve stayed quiet about until now. It’s something I’ve only discussed with my husband in the privacy and confidentiality of our relationship. Utah can be a scary place to live when your ideals differ from the ‘norm.’ I have sat on the sidelines for too long. I firmly believe that the Spirit planted and encouraged these feelings in me and a number of my LDS brothers and sisters in order to help us help ourselves. The number of gay LDS young people who commit suicide is staggering. The fact that these young people would rather die than be who they are, who they were made to be, is appalling. I feel a certain amount of shame that I didn’t do what I feel I was called to do: stand up and let my voice be heard on the matter. So, I’m doing it now. To anyone who will listen and open their minds just a tiny little bit: I support gay marriage. I support people being able to have what I have: a loving marriage in which people build and raise a family, where they help and support each other and become better because they are together.

So there. J

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