Yesterday, the people of North Carolina approved an amendment to the constitution that would further strip civil rights from their fellow citizens in a state where marriage between two men and two women is already illegal. I am a straight married Mormon woman with nobody and nothing in North Carolina, but my heart is heavy. I am not angry, only sad. Like most of my people, on both sides of this issue, I am thinking about Prop 8. Unlike most of my people, I think about Prop 8 almost every day. I am a straight married Mormon woman with nothing but straight cousins and friends and future vacation plans in California, but Prop 8 is a thorn in my religious life that I can’t pull out. That nobody will let me pull out, not the Mormon church or those who hate it, not my gay friends or those who hate them, not the left or the right or anybody, really.
I was living in Michigan when that whole hateful, misguided campaign went down. I was in law school. I was a Mormon who wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. Nobody asked me to support Prop 8. Nobody read a letter from the First Presidency over the pulpit. Nobody asked me to campaign or handout leaflets full of misinformation (lies). Nothing directly challenged my naïve notion that the Mormon church didn’t get involved in politics. We talked about it though. I talked about it with my mom and sister and friends in Arizona. I talked about it with my liberal Mormon friends in Ann Arbor. I talked about it with Robert, my boyfriend then, rightfully suspicious of what the LDS church was doing. No, wait, I have to say this right or we’ll lose our tax-exempt status: what it was asking its members to do, with their own time and their own money. I heard the same phrase so many times: “I’m just glad I don’t live in California. I wouldn’t want to have to make that decision.” They never articulated it clearly: I don’t want to choose between my church and my politics. I don’t want to choose between what I know to be true and what I know to be right. I don’t want to choose between my religion and my morals. They also never acknowledged that they couldn’t just refuse to make that decision. Sooner or later they’d have to choose which side to support, in the voting booth, or the bishop’s office, at the side of their brother/friend/neighbor/co-worker/child saying, “Yes, that’s right. I’m gay.” In their hearts and heads while talking to God. They never asked the question, “If my church is asking me to do something that feels so wrong, what does that say about my church?”
This is where I want to be clear. For me, there was never a question. I thought, I’m glad I’m not in California so I don’t have to hear crap spew from the mouths of my co-religionists. I knew which way I’d vote, though, and that I’d never commit time or money or a single thought toward supporting Prop 8 or anything like it, that I’d campaign loudly against Prop 8 or anything like it, and that I’d tell people at church just as much.
I don’t think I’m taking some bold stand, choosing between faith and love. I (perhaps naively) think I can have both. I’ve never heard of someone being excommunicated from the church for supporting gay marriage. I’ve heard rumors of people being denied temple recommends because they actively supported LGBT lifestyles. Lucky me, I never lived in a ward where that was a problem.* This is where I want to be really clear, though. My position would not change, even if supporting equality for all people meant I couldn’t go to the temple, or that I couldn’t be a member of the LDS church.**
This is not a case of me putting something that I don’t understand on a shelf and saying, I don’t understand the church’s position now, but maybe I will come around, because I know that my views won’t change, and that I am right. This is not a just a matter of supporting civil rights for oppressed minorities, it’s about the fact that “all are alike unto God.” This is not a case of loving the sinner and hating the sin, because I’m pretty sure there’s nothing sinful about loving who you love.
I guess this is where I can say that I am glad that I don’t live in California, or North Carolina, or in a place or time where I’m not free to believe the way I do. Not because I don’t know what I’d choose, but because I don’t want to face the answer to the question, “If my church is asking me to do something that feels so wrong, what does that say about my church?”
*Fact: Although the LDS church is hierarchical to the extreme, local leaders have quite a bit of discretion. One bishop might not bat an eye at my leftist politics; another might see this very blog as a sign of apostasy. Because of this, the ward a person lives in could have a huge effect on his or her experience as a Mormon.
**Note that I said member of the LDS church, as opposed to Mormon. I don’t foresee any circumstance ever where supporting equal rights for all people would mean that I’m not a Mormon. No church in the world could take that away.