Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why I Support Equality

Have you been around Facebook lately?
There's a lot of red and pink on there today.

The Human Rights Campaign asked anyone who supports marriage equality to post this picture to show their support of marriage equality:


I am a Mormon.

I am also a supporter of marriage equality.

I am also taking a risk at outing myself like this, which, quite frankly, is a crying shame. I feel like I'm coming out of the closet (so to speak) outing myself as a bleeding heart liberal and someone who really, truly believes that everyone who wants the opportunity to be married can be married.
Or in the words of Dolly Parton, "I believe EVERYONE should have the opportunity to be unhappily married."

I may lose readers, I may even lose friends, but before you go, I'd like to tell you why I support marriage equality--and it has nothing to do with the Family Proclamation, the history of marriage, the Bible, the Constitution or even California's Prop 8.

Instead, I want to tell you about an afternoon I had four years ago that shifted my perspective on everything, and it has to do with people.

At the time, I was serving in my congregation as the leader of a youth mentoring program called the Young Women's Program. Ironically, I was in the church building preparing for an evening to celebrate the accomplishments of the young women in our congregation. There's always a lot of decorating for these things, and it was just me in the church plugging away.

Suddenly, there was a voice at the door.
I turned around and saw a woman standing there. She asked me if there was a bishop around that she, "Needed some help."

There was no one there except me--and I told her so.
"Is there something I can do to help you?" I asked.

She told me that her name was Dawne and that she and her friend had been asked to leave the motel where they were staying and they needed some financial assistance as they were driving across the country for Dawne to speak at a Human Rights function. They had been driving for two weeks and had run out of money.

Dawne was transgendered. Meaning: Dawne had been born a man but had always felt that she was born into the wrong body. Dawne had several surgeries to change her physical body to match the spirit she felt that had always been there. Dawne's friend--and I'm so sorry, I can't remember her name-- had been born with both male and female genitalia. At birth, her father chose to surgically remove her penis and thus condemned her to live life as a female. Unfortunately, she didn't identify herself as a female.

There was so much sadness.
As we shared lunch together, my heart hurt.
My heart hurt for Dawne's journey, the pain of not knowing where she fit in--of always feeling like she never belonged. She was raised in the same church I was. In her hour of need she turned to the church of her childhood seeking help.
My heart hurt for her friend, of the obvious sadness of just being that she carried with her every waking moment. You could see it in her eyes and in every single line on her face, the exhaustion of just existing.

My heart hurt that they had been asked to leave a motel where they had paid for their room and were being discriminated just because they didn't (in the words of the manager) "fit in". My heart hurt because of the blatant and blind hatred they had endured in the town that I called home.

I walked away from lunch with Dawne a different person. I walked away better.
Was Dawne gay?
I don't know...
                       ....and I don't really care.

I don't care if people are gay or straight or married or not. Being gay doesn't tell me if you pay your taxes or are nice to your mother. (Incidentally, being gay also doesn't tell me if you cut people off in traffic or are mean to your grandmother either.)

For me, supporting marriage equality boils down to the fact that I want all of God's children to be able to share the kind of relationship I have with Mountain Man. I love being married to him. I can't wait to get my hands on him. I love talking with him and no one can make me laugh like he can.
I just love being with him. I also like the way he smells (just in case you were wondering) and I've lately thought: It wouldn't matter if Mountain Man was a Mountain Woman because I. Just. Love. Shiloh. (Which is Mountain Man's name, in case you didn't know.)

My attraction to Shiloh isn't because he's male--it's because I am in love with Shiloh the being-- Shiloh the person--he just happens to be male, and I female.

But what if we weren't us? What if we couldn't enjoy the marriage that we now have?

This is what I came away with that afternoon with Dawne.
Dawne and her friend were people. Beings with feeling hearts and marvelous minds. Divine spirits with Heavenly Parents who loved them. I could feel these loving Parents shining through me to Dawne and then right back onto me. We weren't three ladies at lunch. We were three people, three spirits, sharing a brief moment of great beauty because all there was was love.

All equal.
All real.
All heavenly.

How can I not support that?

77 comments:

  1. Couldn't have said it better myself.. exactly my feelings. Love you.

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  2. So very well written. Love this.

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    1. Love you, Helen! P.S. Why don't we live closer??

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    2. That would be awesome. Maybe one day:)

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    1. *clink...(that's us toasting at our next breakfast.)

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  4. And this-in addition to many other reasons-is why you rock!

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  5. And this-in addition to many other reasons-is why you rock!

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    1. ...says the best neighbor EVER!! xoxo

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  6. Yes, I have felt this with many who I have cared about, deeply, all of my life. I can't say that I better than any of them.

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  7. Lisa- Thank you so much for writing this. I feel like so often I have to remain quiet on how I feel because it doesn't "fit" quite right into traditional Mormon realm of thinking. I love how you likened it being "outed." Well said. Heart felt. We are all daughters (and sons) of our Heavenly Father who loves us...

    (PS- This is Courtney Erickson Brown, I think you went to school with my brother RB. I went to school with Matt.)

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    1. It ain't easy being green. Welcome with open arms!! xoxo

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    2. Johnandcourtney-

      I have struggles with whether my views, and life experiences, could ever convince me that there is even one "traditional realm in Mormon thinking." It may come from growing up outside of an are that has a majority of the population Mormons. In my experience in a high school that is roughly 20% LDS, is that I know and knew too many beautiful children on God who were thrown away by "Mormon thinking."

      I am always proud of my Mormon brothers and sisters who choose to stand up, sharing their truth, without the weight of secrecy and shame.

      Of my closest LDS friends, at age 12, I am the only one who is still a member. Four are lesbian or gay. Another one renounced her membership in the church at her wedding. The last I had lost track of until recently. The name that she asks me to call her is her middle name, although she did not grow up as a girl. All of them have been excommunicated or resigned, or gone so inactive the church hasn't bothered looking for for them.

      All of those men or women are more than my equal. Their standing in any particular church should not in any way impact their right to marry the person they love, and to love in whatever way they choose.

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    3. Julia-

      I think you may misunderstand me a little, which tends to happen over social mediums when someone not quite as eloquent as Lisa is writing. I don't feel the same way that most Mormons do on most subjects. (This coming from someone who has lived in Utah for the past 13 years). I am not "conservative." I am not "anti-guy marriage" and I prefer to look to Jesus' example in all things, which is much more inclusive than we give him credit for most days.

      I don't feel like a keep my beliefs secret or that I am ashamed of them. However, I do struggle how to openly express them without causing contention and anger. Because I have often found that when I do express them, that is the result. Again, this could be because I am not very eloquent or because I hate to offend.

      I, like everyone, am just working my way through it, as best I can. It strengthens me to read posts like this and your comments and know that I am not alone in my beliefs.

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    4. I totally got that from your comments, Courtney! xo!

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    5. I also got that from your comment Courtney! You words touched me, and I felt inspired to share a little more of my own experience with Mormon childhood friends and how much it hurts me to see good people, pushed away by the church. Courtney, you, and so many other Mormons (many MoFems, but not all) who are willing to stand up for marriage equality, all of us signing our own names, standing proud together.

      I know what my childhood friends expect from other Mormons, and I am so grateful that there are so many people proving those expectations wrong. I am sorry if my earlier comment sounded like a criticism. It was not meant to be.

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    6. Love your point of view Court! I feel very similarly to you as well.

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  8. What's the difference between being married or getting a civil union? If you get all the rights of marriage but it's called something else who cares?

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    1. Anon, it's like the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero. They claim to be the same thing, but they clearly are not. :)

      Namaste.

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    2. In some countries there is no difference. All marriages are first civil marriage, essentially vocally recognized unions.

      Would you be willing to forgo marriage to have a civil union Anonymous?

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    3. Sorry, I know that I am late to the party. There are lots of reasons why civil unions don't equal marriage. But the most obvious reason is the argument emphasized by anti-equality folks. By emphazing the unique and special status of marriage, they make the case that no one should be deprived of its unique ability to convery many messages at once, from a status-marker to entitling individuals to many its many legal benefits.

      The best summary of this point that I have seen was in the Ninth Circuit's decision upholding the trial court's decision that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional:

      "[W]e emphasize the extraordinary significance of the official designation of 'marriage'. That designation is important because 'marriage' is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name 'registered domestic partnership' does not. The word marriage is singular in connoting 'a harmony in living,' a 'bilateral loyalty,' and 'a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred." As [Prop. 8's supporters] have admitted, "the word 'marriage' has a unique meaning," and "there is a significant symbolic disparity between domestic partnership and marriage." It is the definition of 'marriage' itself that expresses validation, by the state and the community, and that serves as a symbol, like a wedding ceremony or a wedding ring, of something profoundly important.

      . . .

      The incidents of marriage, standing alone, do not, however, convey the same governmental and societal recognition as does the designation of 'marriage' itself. We do not celebrate when two people merge their bank accounts; we celebrate when a couple marries. The designation of 'marriage' is the status that we recognize. It is the principle manner in which the State attaches respect and dignity to the highest form of a committed relationship and to the individuals who have entered it."

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  9. Brilliant post. Everyone deserves the right to be treated the same as their neighbour. It surprises me that equality is still such an issue in the 21st century - shouldn't we have had all this sorted a long time ago *sigh*

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    1. I couldn't agree more...seriously, what is wrong with us that we can't get it together??

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  10. I kind of want to hug you right now, Lisa. You, my dear girl, are all sorts of awesome.

    I'm what I jokingly call heteroflexible (straight, but shit happens), but I have so many friends who are gay and who are seriously disadvantaged because they can't marry their partners. There are medical proxy issues, child custody issues, shared asset issues. It's just so unfair that they don't have the same rights as the rest of us just because of who they love.

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    1. Heteroflexible!!! BEST decriptive EVER...

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  11. Beautiful. It made me smile. :)

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  12. Love. It's what life is about. Thank you for spreading it. You are awesome.

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    1. It IS what life is really about. :)

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  13. Awesome. Truly awesome. Keep sharing stories like these.

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  14. Absolutely! We're all just people and it's love that counts above all else.

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  15. I come to this blog from Canada and we have allowed gay marriage for a number of years---it shouldn't be such a big deal. I have a very close friend who has been in a relationship with his partner for over 20 years---we went to high school together. I didn't know until just a few years ago that he was gay----my mother always thought he and I would get together (LOL) but of course we didn't. His parner officiated at my sons' wedding and I had to tell my mother---who was dead set against anything gay---that they were coming and J was going to marry her grandson and soon to be granddaughter. Well, that 89 year old woman made a complete 180 and opened her arms to both of them. All she really needed was to actually meet them and find out that they were just like anyone else. I was very proud of my Mom that day.
    What is wrong with allowing 2 people who love each other and want to spend their lives together to make it official?? We should be cheering.
    Sorry---long winded.
    J

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    1. I couldn't agree more! AND another reason Canada rocks. :)

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  16. Very touching piece. I applaud you for sharing this important story.

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  17. Lisa, as always, so well said my friend. I totally agree with you. As you know, I like to say that we are all climbing the same mountain but we are just on different paths. I love that this sparked such great comments and conversations.

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  18. Lisa you're so brave!! Love you so much, you're one of my favourite bloggers and a great example for me!! :)

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    1. You, SUSANNA, are an amazing person! Much love to you, my friend!! xo!

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  19. “Use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven.”

    Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse

    Does that sound like we are supposed to be organizing ourselves differently than we are wont?

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  20. I loved this post and the thoughts of the post and comments, was a huge influence in getting me to the point that I was ready to write this post. I posted it on my blog, with a link back to this post (and a couple others), so my readers can understand the different posts that I was reading that then prompted me to writing. Thank you! I do believe that there is a completely gospel based reason for the church to stay out of the lives and marriages of people, no matter what their gender or orientation, who are not of our faith!


    http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2013/03/my-mormon-perspective-why-i-believe-in.html

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  21. You won't lose many readers at all. This is such a painful issue for everyone--and I think it won't be 'sorted out' well by any court.

    It is a wait and see.

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  22. I've loved reading all the different blog posts by other Mormons on this subject and yours was so simply eloquent. I loved it! I also love how reading all these blogs has shown me I'm not a lone Mormon feeling this way, that we can embrace everyone's right to live as they choose, isn't that what we fought for in heaven after all?
    Thanks for being brave and putting yourself out there, I love the authenticity!

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    1. Thanks, Crystal. It's important for all who believe in Christ to share that love unconditionally, without expectations.

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  23. Yeah, I'm a Latter-day Saint too, and I think these are very trying times as we near the end of time as we know it. If it's gay marriage we are talking about here, then I don't see how any LDS can support that since it goes against all we believe. That doesn't mean we hate gays or are negative towards them or we are insensitive to anyone with same-gender attraction. I just can't imagine Jesus at the Second Coming saying, "Yeah, go on then, it's fine to be gay." Can you? While this whole thing is a very sensitive topic, I feel this is a test for church members to sift out who will obey the words of the Lord and who won't. I know who's side I'm on...

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    1. "...I don't see how any LDS can support that since it goes against all we believe."

      As Latter Day Saints we don't believe in forcing our beliefs on others. We don't really have a right to force those who don't believe the same as us to live our beliefs. How is this a test of who will obey they words of the Lord and who won't? I don't remember the Lord ever commanding that we should try to force everyone to live within the realms of our own moral code. However, I do remember him speaking about loving each other, being kind to those who have different beliefs, and not judging.

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    2. Malina, I never said anything about "forcing" our beliefs

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    3. Malina, thank you for your thoughts.I hold fast to the Savior's love, compassion and joy in all of our Father's beautiful children!! xo!

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    4. "If it's gay marriage we are talking about here, then I don't see how any LDS can support that since it goes against all we believe."

      I'm born and raised LDS, served a mission (as did my wife), married in the temple, and attend church. And I support gay marriage and my gay brothers and sisters.

      "I just can't imagine Jesus at the Second Coming saying, 'Yeah, go on then, it's fine to be gay.' Can you?"

      Yes I can. Our own church has caught up to science and now teaches that being gay is something you are born with, i.e., it is an innate part of who a person is. If they were born that way, I don't see how Jesus will reject them. Can you?

      "While this whole thing is a very sensitive topic, I feel this is a test for church members to sift out who will obey the words of the Lord and who won't. I know who's side I'm on..."

      36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

      37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

      38 This is the first and great commandment.

      39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

      40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
      Matthew 22:36-40

      I too know which side I am on. Love. Love is the law. I will do my best to love everyone and to leave God to judge. I am hoping that he will be lenient in judging my own faults. It's the least I can do to not judge others when I ask so much of God with regard to myself.

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  24. Duncan, as a faithful Latter-Day Saint, I have no problem with gay marriage. The church itself has said that same-sex attraction is something people are born with. We may not alow such marriages in the church, but if we want to keep our own freedom to worship as we choose, we must recognize that other denominations do allow same-sex marriage and have the freedom to do that. It's a matter of legal definitions, too. And finally, I believe that Christ welcomes all of us and has mercy enough for all of us. Let us show that mercy to one another.

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  26. I actually can't picture Christ coming and rejecting someone because of who they are. That's what I can't picture. And if that is the case, I want none of it. I think this is a sifting of the members, but not in the way that Duncan implies. Who is willing to follow Christ's example vs. blindly following cultural patterns set up by men who lived in a less tolerant time? Christ loved the outcasts, the down trodden, and he tended to have a lot of bad to say about the rule followers and the judgers.

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    1. I couldn't agree more. The Christ I know loves us all. I can't say it better than you did, Anna! Thank you!

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  27. You just made me cry. This post was absolutely beautiful.

    I support equality. I think everyone should be able to make their own choices. If they will be happy marrying somebody of the same gender, a different gender, or no gender, then its honestly none of my business. Everyone deserves happiness and to be loved.

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  28. Well we're all open to our own thoughts on this. This is just my view on it. Rachel, I emailed you since I don't want to clog up the alternative viewpoints on this lovely blog :)

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  29. I'm just getting caught up with the blogs I read, but I just had to comment and say that was a lovely post.

    The world needs more people like you. :-)

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  30. One of the MANY reasons why I simply ADORE you!!!!

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  31. Lisa, I stumbled across your blog, and this post this evening. I really loved this post and feel privileged to know you. Thank you for expressing your love and light openly, as you have so beautifully in this post.

    ---Dave H.

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