Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Here we go again

The legislature of the state where I live is just about to enact marriage equality for same-sex couples. A number of Republicans have crossed party lines to support the bill. There is good public support for the proposed law, and the governor has pledged to sign it.

In other words, it's only a matter of weeks before Tobi and I will be equal to other couples under state law. (Federal law is another matter.)

Religious conservatives have vowed to place a Prop. 8-style referendum on the November ballot that would reverse the action of the legislature and write discrimination against gay families into our state's constitution.

Powerful out-of-state interests, such as the fact-challenged and unscrupulous National Organization for Marriage (NOM), are swooping in with seemingly limitless funds. It's looking virtually certain that I'm going to have to live through a year of high-profile political campaigning that is specifically targeted against me and my family. To say that I'm not looking forward to it would be an understatement.

Unlike Maine and Minnesota, there are a lot of Mormons where I live, probably as many or more as California as a percentage of the population. A lot of these folks are prosperous and have the means to contribute to lavish political campaigns. What will the LDS Church ask its members to do?

I'm not going to make predictions. My track record on predicting what the LDS leadership will do on this issue is poor. (I was completely blindsided by Prop. 8.) However, it's worth looking at the Church's options.

1- Do nothing. There are expensive billboards all over my town with smiling, racially-diverse faces saying "I'm a Mormon!" Public engagement in controversial, divisive politics would undo every bit of this campaign, and more. The Church might decide that it's just not worth the cost.

As an aside, the folks I've talked to who've seen the ads think that they are weird and creepy. People are justifiably suspicious of advertising that does not directly state its value proposition. It's what scammers do.

2- Act covertly. The LDS Church could easily act by proxy simply by funding an organization like NOM. Such funds are untraceable. There are existing ties to NOM: the Church helped create this organization back in the Prop. 8 days, and highly-placed Mormons have been on its board of directors. In any case, NOM isn't the only channel the Church might use. There are other ways to work behind the scenes without being detected.

3- Use code words to ensure deniability. The Church might try to have it both ways. We saw this in Minnesota with advice from the pulpit to "Prayerfully read the [anti-gay] Proclamation and vote your conscience." Anyone who has had even brief exposure to Mormon culture knows what a verb in the imperative mood means when modified by the adverb "prayerfully."

4- Repeat the Prop. 8 fiasco. It's possible that the Church could turn its meetinghouses into precinct halls as it did in California. As hard as it is to believe, they might willingly sign up to repeat the Prop. 8 PR train wreck.

So that covers what the LDS Church might do. But a more important question is what I should do. Clearly, this is an issue that is close to me. So far I've committed to donate money to the cause of marriage equality, and I may end up on the phone banks if my stomach can take it.

But I have another thought, which I want to throw out for consideration, dear readers. It's an idea so crazy it just might work.

What if I went back to church?

The idea is this: attend sacrament meeting for the four months before the election. I (and any who joined me) would simply be present during the meetings on a weekly basis. If I did this, I'd make sure to be extremely quiet and respectful. If the folks at the pulpit wanted to speak against me and my family, they'd have to do it to my face. If I had a chance to meet any of the members or leaders personally (for example, in the foyer afterwards), I'd be open to hearing them out and might even invite them to dinner at my home if I got to know them a bit.

I think I'm at a point with my Mormon identity where I could do this. I feel no need to challenge anyone on points of doctrine or any other topic. I just want members of my tribe to look me in the eye and say whatever they have to say to my face.

One glitch is that Tobi has a very bad impression of Mormons. I'm pretty sure he'd rather swim in a sewage pond than step foot in an LDS chapel, and I'm not sure how he'd react to LDS dinner guests. He might have to stay out of this plan.

What do you guys think? Is this a horrible idea? Does it have a possibility of doing any good? Would I just be signing myself up for unproductive conflict?


Trev said...

Do it! DO IT!!! Ha, of course, easy for me to say as a distant observer, right? Yes, yes it is. Still...

As for involving Tobi, I think that would take the most consideration. It might not be fair to him. For you, though... you're saying you're at a point where you could handle it, so is there any downside other than losing some time and being a little annoyed? As a distant observer, I would think you're doing this would be worth it by default just because of the food for thought it would give so many--not just food for thought; it goes beyond that, of course, as you know.

Well, so that's my vote for you, for what it's worth. I also think it would be an awesome thing to read about you following up with in your blog.

J G-W said...

You know I'm on board with this "crazy" plan. Anything to get you into church!!! :-) The thought of it only makes me sad that we are half a continent apart, because I would so enjoy going to church with you.

You may be surprised how little is said over the pulpit on this issue. If your ward is like mine, nothing will be said at all. But I guess a lot depends on whether the Church takes an official stand in Washington like it did in California. A lot also just depends on the quirks and the "personality" of your ward.

Even if nothing is said, maybe you'll make some friends, like I have, which can't be a bad thing.

The few interactions Göran has had with members of my ward have all been extremely positive -- despite Göran's expectations to the contrary. Maybe Tobi will be similarly pleasantly surprised if he attends with you.

For the record... The only letters read in Minnesota (that I'm aware of) have come from 2 Stake Presidencies. (There are 5 stakes in the Twin Cities Metro area alone... So this is hardly a statewide phenomenon.) I'm not sure I would characterize the wording of these letters with the terms "plausible deniability." I don't think anybody's trying to pretend that the Church is "neutral" on this issue.

However, I know a fair number of Saints here locally who support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. Some of them might feel conflicted if the Church had taken a position explicitly supportive of the amendment. (It still could... We're a long ways off from November...) The fact that it hasn't isn't inconsequential... It leaves much more leeway for same-sex marriage supporters to vote their conscience on this.

Neal said...

Your plan is brilliant. Make them look you in the eye...

Quiet Song said...

We are in the same state. I do not think any potential Referendum is going to go down like Prop 8 at most it will be something akin to the response to 71. I think we are ready for this here and there will be some noise but mostly not from our Church. I say go to Church. There will be people in the congregation who are waiting for your return and who will welcome you.

Taryn Fox said...

Personally, I'd die on the inside if I had to actually confront them. Every now and then I want to, but it wouldn't go down well at all.

I'd really suggest asking how your partner (soon-to-be husband?) feels.

Adrian said...


I've been a member of the Church since I was a teenager and have been active to the present day. For a period of time I had a beard (25 years). During that period I got a lot of flack for having it, like it was somehow...well, bad, an "appearance of evil". I was hassled frequently for having it. I was relunctant to shave it off because everyone would think I was coming around, doing the "right thing", and somehow "growing in my spirituality". I know this from experience.

I would encourage you to go to Church if that is what you would really like to do but not with the idea that your presence there will have any effect toward your desired outcome. Members and leadership alike would probably see you and think, "Whoa, maybe he's seen the light, the error of his ways!"

As a closeted gay married man in the Church I have at times held different leadership roles. I have had opportunities, and taken them, to express my concerns openly to local leaders and members about the way they treat gay youth and adults in the Church and the way they feel toward gay people in general. My expressed views were not usually accepted with much grace or understanding.

I know that if i were to come "out" as a gay man or even a bisexual man, I would be OUT...Whatever amount of influence I had had up to that point would be history.

C. L. Hanson said...

I think it's a great idea!

If you're OK with doing it, you can be a very friendly and positive example, challenging the claims that gay people are XYZ, that they don't really have families worth protecting, etc.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi all,

Thanks for your comments. I've read them carefully and thought about them all for several days.

It's true that whatever I do, I'll have to take Tobi into consideration.

I'm heartsick at the idea of direct political action specifically targeted against me and the person I love being so solidly prosecuted by the church of my youth. It breaks my heart.

Michael Closson said...

MoHoHawaii. Its my first time reading your blog. Let me introduce myself. I'm a life long active member from Toronto Canada who is going through a faith transition. Pleased to meet you!

Here's a thought. If only the orthodox* attend church, then church will always be a haven for orthodox ideas. A place where people "feel the spirit" because they feel solidarity with others who value their same counter-culture ideas.

On the other hand, mormonism has this keen sense of "you're with us, or you're against us". So you might just be giving yourself an ulcer for nothing.

I wish you the best of luck!

* I can't think of a better word than orthodox, but it doesn't really hit the nail on the head. When I say orthodox ideas, I mean ideas like "being gay is a choice", or "the atonement is powerful enough to help you in your desire to be straight".

lisacolorado said...

I grew up in the LDS church and the folks I know who stayed in it are mostly really trying to do what they think is right, in spite of some naivete and ignorance. They may think they don't know any gay people. I support your idea to just go to church and be an example to them, that you're real and you're there, and force them to live the gospel as they're taught, and don't try to argue more than that.