Growing up gay in Arizona I have experienced first hand the struggle Mormon’s face with fully accepting the gay community. I have had Mormon friends say they love me in the same sentence they said marriage should be a union between one man and one woman.
Simply, when it comes to the issues important to the gay community, how Mormon’s incorporate it and feel about it is often complex, dynamic, and fluid.
I say this just days after more than 300 members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (also known, in mainstream media at least, as the Mormon church) marched in Utah’s gay pride parade, and have been drawing attention all over for their support.
This comes just four years after the Mormon population was blamed and somewhat brutality attacked for their support behind California’s anti-gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. Now, do not get me wrong, I certainly do think that Mormon church played a huge part in turning out the little more than half a million votes that made a difference in that election. However, I think their views on gay marriage — and gays in general are quickly changing.
When I was in high school, I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper for three years. During that time I more or less picked the person who was going to replace me when I was gone. She was a Mormon girl. I bring this up because years after the fact, her and I ran into each other in college, and it was in the middle of a campaign over gay marriage (proposition 102 in 2008, in Arizona) and I asked her to vote no on it. And she very loudly said to me that she was going to be supporting it, and that I knew it.
She was right, I knew she would support it. And despite our incredible political differences, we still had a spirit of camardery that lacks in today’s political spectrum.
Or does it?
When I think of some of the most bipartisan folks in Washington, I often think of the Mormon members. For instance, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, has to work with Republicans everyday. He has been called a “Mormon in the Middle” by Salt Lake City Tribune because of complex views, where equality and fairness are part of moral code.
The same code crafted by his religion.
Another strong contender on my list of bipartisan Mormons is surprising Congressman Jeff Flake. Flake, who represents Arizona’s six district, the same district I grew up in smack dab in the middle of Chandler, voted in favor of one of the two Employee Non-Discrimination Acts in 2007. Who knew? Right. When asked by then-Congressman Harry Mitchell why he supported it, Flake said that he is Mormon and Mormon’s believe in fairness — in equality.
This was shocking news then, and surprises people today who learn this little known fact about him. As Flake attempts to win a now open Senate seat in Arizona, he is not going around telling people his support for the gays (as he could to gain some indepedent votes). No, instead, he quietly supported it, and gained my respect in doing so. He hasn’t supported much in the gay community, but when he did, I think he did it right.
I think the lesson here is that the wounds from Proposition 8 are healing, and that the more the Mormon community learns about the gay community the more they support our cause.
But this newly paved street of friendship is not one-way. Instead, we need to remember that it’s a two-way street. And while we might want to point fingers and call Mormon’s “flip-floppers” (as we have with Republican nominee for President, Governor Mitt Romney) we might want to remember that their views are complex, dynamic, and fluid. That means they are subject to change, especially when they start questioning their own moral code.