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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Queers and Marriage: Messieurs, I Respectfully Disagree

by Luke Warmer (bio)

I'm mormon and I support Gay Marriage. Lots of mormons do; I don't think it makes me special. What makes me special are these fantastic gay socks that I wore today in a show of solidarity with all of the happy New Yorkers.

The second most commonly asked question I get from mormon friends who don't support same-gender marriage is, "How can you sustain the prophet and support gay marriage." I love this question because it is gorgeously complicated and messy - just like all of the best religious questions (see: Eden, Garden of*).

I'll be brief with my answer, but it ain't easy:

Firstly, the church's stance on a lot of controversial topics has evolved over the years. Think of Polygamy, Blacks and the Priesthood, etc.

But mostly, I’m one of those people, for better and worse, that needs to feel spiritual confirmation when the prophet speaks, especially on sensitive and controversial topics. And, I feel spiritually inspired to support gay marriage despite the church's official opposition.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I come from an especially gay family. Five years ago, my brother passed-away from complication associated with type 1 diabetes (childhood onset). I miss him profoundly. He was gay. My parents think of his partner as a son. Like most families, unfortunately, my brothers and sisters (I’m the youngest of six) have seen some bitter divorces and marriages have had ups and downs. My brother and his partner, however, seemed to be the exception to this rule. They were always up - no downs. They remained perfectly true and loving to each other despite the tremendous stresses that come with the medical complications that eventually took my brother’s life. They were the ideallic picture of what a healthy marriage should look like, and I often use them as a model when I'm trying to improve the dynamic in my straight-marriage.

Just before he died, my brother was planning a Civil Union in Los Angeles. I was touched beyond words when he asked me (a conservative return missionary) to be the only legal witness - the equivalent of a best-man. I was moved because at that moment we were extremely close, but only a few years earlier he was totally absent from my life. He had distanced himself from the family for fear we would reject him. That thought crushed me. It also crushed me that when I was eighteen, I visited him in the hospital, he was barely hanging on to life, and my first thoughts were about his sexual orientation instead of compassion.

I repented, got over my awkwardness and cultural biases and reached out repeatedly and often. Eventually, we connected to the point where his sexual orientation didn’t matter any more. He was just my brother, no longer my "gay" brother.

A few days before the ceremony, he called me to cancel. Although there was significant emotional benefit for registering as domestic partners, tax-wise it was worse than remaining single. Given his health, his budget was limited and it didn’t make practical sense to pay more to be domestic partners. He was very cavalier about the whole thing. I wasn’t. When I hung up the phone I cried. It all just felt horribly wrong.

Since then I’ve been a strong proponent of legally extending marriage to gays and lesbians.

Each time the topic of mormon opposition to gay marriage has come up over the last few years it has felt like a sock in the gut. But it is comforting to know I am not alone. This Walt Whitman quote has helped sustain me emotionally; I hope it resonates with you too:

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.” ~Whitman

P.S. The first most commonly asked question is, "How can I get a pair of those socks?" Answer: here.

*Garden of Eden: don't you love that one of the most sacred and core stories in the Mormon version of Christianity reads like an ode to the complex and ambivalent nature of man? I paraphrase: "Adam, here’s rule #1, don't you dare bite that apple; but seriously you're going to have to give it a good chomp; but, c’mon, don't eat it. Okay you did it? Good job, but you’re kicked out of the garden and I’m not talking to you anymore."

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