I consider myself to be from Utah, although I moved there when I was 18. I went through big changes there, I came out of the closet there, and learned so much about my own beliefs during my time in Salt Lake City. I was so excited by the rush of same sex couples getting married in Utah courthouses, but it felt almost too good to be true. I knew there would be a backlash, and I have always joked that Utah would be the last state to have same-sex marriage. But now I know 3 people who have married their same sex partners in Salt Lake City since December 20. As of January 6, there is a temporary hold on same sex couples marrying in Utah.
Unfortunately I’m not surprised.
I moved to Utah from Illinois 2008 and stayed until 2013. When I arrived in Salt Lake City I was a teenage Mormon newly coming out. This was a really stressful time period for me, filled with a heavy amount of guilt that was not only unproductive but traumatic.
I was 18 years old when I started hearing announcements about Proposition 8 in California taught from the pulpit at church. The Bishop of the Ward I attended instructed us (on behalf of the Prophet of the LDS church) to fight the legalization of same sex marriage. He instructed us vote “yes” on the proposition (making marriage only between a man and a woman).
I was hopeful for a period of time that the Church would have empathy, and recognize their LGBTQA members as equals. But when I started asking questions about homosexuality I was given only vague answers. I constantly heard the word ‘tolerate’ thrown around in regards to homosexuality. The more I learned about the history of this issue in the LDS church and specifics of the doctrine the more hurtful, self-deprecating, and confusing it all became to me. I knew that if I continued to live my life as a Mormon I would only be tolerated and not embraced as a part of the community. So I left the church to find a community that was more nurturing to me.
It took some time to come out to myself, come out to friends, and eventually come out to my family. All of which turned out to be an empowering and rewarding experience for me. And three years after I moved to Salt Lake City I had my name removed from the LDS Church’s records. I wrote a letter to the church headquarters requesting my legal right to have my name removed from their records and no longer be contacted.
I had to do this for myself. Distinguishing myself from the church marked the beginning of a new life.
A boundary I had to make for my own self-worth.
I found a lot of support outside the church from other queer folks and allies who had also grown up in and around the LDS Church and could relate to the changes I was adjusting to.
I met many people who had a similar path in life as I did, growing up in an LDS family and finding themselves coming out in Salt Lake City. Soon I was surrounded by progressive thinking people in Salt Lake City. Which is not a community that is that hard to find if you spend any time at all at events in downtown, art walks, and bars. Allies make up a huge piece of the LGBTQA population in Salt Lake City. Many Allies are also ostracized by their Mormon families and church members as well.
Throughout the five years I lived there I saw Salt Lake City grow into a more accepting, sustainable, and queer friendly community. The LDS church even made strides to tolerate homosexuality. They now recognize that ‘same-sex attraction’ is a real, and that some are even born this way. And my fellow Millennials are more accepting of the idea of same sex relationships overall, even active Mormon members are overall more comfortable with same sex relationships than their parents were/are.
However, they still affirm that acting upon your same-sex attraction is not God’s plan for us. But despite the LDS church’s attempts to be more accepting, they will not budge when it comes to giving members of the LGBTQA community the same membership rights as other church members.
Recently I was overjoyed by the news of my dear friends Kayla and Megan engagement on October 22, 2013 and were planning a wedding for June 2014.
However, Kayla and Megan decided to get married on December 23 because they knew if they did not get a marriage license immediately, it would be unobtainable. That Utah would dispute marriage considering that the LDS Church (62.2 % of the state is Mormon) and has a history being involved with fighting same-sex marriage. Treating it as a threat to their rights. Send members out door to door, proselytizing their Californian neighbors to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8.
But Kayla and Megan were right to rush the wedding.
The marriages that have already happened will be recognized on a federal level but the state level is a different story. Utah Governor Herbert does not want to recognize Kayla and Megan’s marriage, along with more than 1,000 same sex marriages that have taken place in Utah.
What will happen next?
My guess is that history will repeat itself. The Church has a long history of updating their doctrine when US legal issues force them to. In 1890, the LDS church banned the practice of polygamy because the Federal Government heavily sought to eradicate it. In 1978, church leaders received revelation allowing African-American and other racial groups males to hold the Priesthood. As states continue to legalize same sex marriage we will continue to see the LDS church’s doctrine tweak change.
And I suspect that the LDS church will hold out as long as it can.
Until the damage is too great and they concede to accepting Homosexuals into the church. They have lost a lot of the millennial population because of this very issue and their treatment of Homosexuals will most likely be remembered alongside polygamy, and black men having the priesthood.
But despite my fears, I hold out a glimmer of hope that Governor Herbert and the LDS Church will read the signs of the times and chose to be on the right side of history.