by Mike Maxwell:
I grew up in Holladay, Utah in the 1980’s as a member of a pretty conventional Mormon congregation. In my 9th grade year, a new family moved into the neighborhood and a 10th grade boy (I’ll call him Doug) from that family began attending our Teachers Quorum. Doug and I shared common interests in sports and music and quickly became friends. I recall many evenings shooting baskets in his driveway with Molly Hatchet blaring from the car stereo in the carport.
I visited Doug’s home a few weeks after meeting him at church and met his mom. She was nice to me but seemed an otherwise unremarkable woman. I asked Doug about his dad and he told me his mom and dad divorced when he was a kid. His dad worked in the Las Vegas gaming industry and he rarely saw him. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it further so I did not press him.
After a few more visits to Doug’s home, I realized there was another adult woman living there. Over time, I learned that the woman and Doug’s mom were a couple. My 14-year-old Mormon boy self had no frame of reference for “lesbians” so I just kind of rolled with it. I got to know them better and found them to be considerate, caring, pleasant people who were as dedicated to raising a good son as were any of my other friend’s parents.
I would hear conversations among some ward members about the evils of the Doug’s household. Many were cruel and others were sensational. Some of my peers parents would not allow them to be in Doug’s home, for fear that this evil would somehow rub off on them. Through all of this, Doug continued to attend church, progressed in the priesthood, went on a mission, and married in the temple. Doug’s mom and her partner were always very kind to me and I saw them be very supportive of Doug, even in his attendance at a 1980’s church that defined their lifestyle with words like “abomination,” “perversion,” and “lasciviousness.”
Doug’s mom spoke at his mission farewell, as parents often did in those days. I can only now appreciate the courage it took for this woman to stand in front of a congregation of people where some knew her only as symbol of an abominable lifestyle. I remember her professing a belief in God, her love for her son, and her support for the decisions he was making in his life.
So with my life experience, I don’t really understand all of the hand wringing I see from many LDS members around the SCOTUS ruling. I see Facebook posts on how this ruling is a sign of the coming apocalypse, “Straight Pride” infographics, and defiant postings of the Proclamation on the Family. I don’t get it.
Families and children are being challenged today by many issues and they are particularly acute among the poor…. poverty, disease, the effects of pollution and global climate change, sex abuse and trafficking, substance abuse, pornography addiction, and many other ill’s. In many western societies, social welfare policies that reward poor parents for not staying together have had a devastating impact on family stability. I don’t see how government giving same-sex couples the rights to legal marriage partnerships contribute to any of these ills.
It has been 25 years since I've seen Doug. I don’t know if his mom and her partner are still alive but today I am happy for them. I am happy for two parents who raised a good kid, and courageously supported him in his religious, scholastic, and athletic pursuits, in spite of the bigotry and mean-spiritedness of some who could have been ministering “unto the least of these.” If the SCOTUS ruling is a pat on the back for those parents, they deserve it.
Image credit: AP Photo, Matt Slocum