Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mormons Building Bridges (MBB) has been denied participation in the "Days of '47" parade in SLC for the second year in a row. MBB is a group of believing and adhering Mormons that stick with church policy, yet promote the full inclusion of LGBT people in church activities. They also promote civil and positive discussions among Mormons concerning LGBT people. They do not take a stance on SSM, nor do they officially approve of actions that go against Mormon principles.

The parade is an annual recognition of Mormon pioneers for the state holiday "Pioneer Day." Because the parade organizers take their orders for the privately funded event from the Mormon contributors, they denied MBB participation on the grounds of "advocating", which is against parade policy.

MBB had a theme of "LGBT Pioneers of Utah", to express the inclusion of the LGBT residents of Utah and the major obstacles they have had to overcome to be included and recognized in the state. Since Utah now has legal same-sex marriages, and it recently passed an anti-discrimination law for the state protecting sexual preferences and gender identity in most housing and workplace situations, it was a disappointment to hear that the parade organizers are still hosting an event of exclusion, instead of inclusion. MBB has participated in the annual Gay Pride Parade for a couples years now, growing each year.


Ireland First Nation to Legalize SSM by Popular Vote

Ireland, by a landslide, voted "yes" on the legalization of same-sex marriages in the nation, making it the first to do so by popular vote. All political parties and nearly all government officials supported the yes vote, to the dismay of the once highly influential church there. It was a 62.1% win for same-sex marriages, nearly 2 out of three citizens. Although gay people are a minority in Ireland, if you include their family, friends, and associates, there is a clear majority of support.

With the bad reputation of the church, few follow its teachings let alone attend mass. The waning influence of the church is the most likely reason that it's stance against SSM did not prevail.



Friday, May 22, 2015

BSA Leader States Gay Leader Ban "Unsustainable"

In a recent national conference for BSA in Atlanta, BSA President Robert Gates told listeners that groups in NYC and other cities are starting to defy the ban, and that continuing to support the policy was "unsustainable". Given the national weather (and world weather) on gay rights and equality, BSA might see itself socially ousted if it doesn't match the progress. Currently, if a scout leader is discovered to be actively gay, he/she is immediately removed. Boys in the program can be openly gay, but discussion of it or acting on it within the program is forbidden.

Mr. Gates said that no policy changes would occur at the conference, but that it is likely for changes to be made that allow local groups to decide whether to permit or deny openly gay men as leaders.

The LDS Church has been one of the largest supporters and sustainers of BSA for decades. If the Mormons decide to withdraw from BSA as a result of unacceptable policy changes, BSA might find itself struggling to its end. But if the policy permits local groups to decide to keep the ban, the LDS church will certainly do so, probably estranging itself from other groups or camps that include units that reject the ban.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

India and Ireland: Social Advances for LGBT

In India, it is common for mothers to put ads in local papers for their sons to find a spouse to wed. But one Indian mother, with the help of her gay son, successfully posted an ad for a groom for him. The ad says it's looking for a "25-40, well-placed, animal loving, vegetarian groom... caste no bar, lyer preferred." The Mumbai tabloid was the first to accept the ad. The social buzz went viral for the progress in India that this story represents.

Some criticized the discrimination of caste being mentioned in the ad. The lyer caste is known to be more wealthy. Although the caste system is not as strict as in the past, it is still common-day in India. Harish, the man in the ad, says he does not discriminate caste or religion. He does discriminate against non-vegetarians, though.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2009, only to be re-criminalized in 2013. But transgender citizens are now counted in the country with a transgender woman mayor newly elected this year. Many see this as huge steps for equality.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, lawmakers, politicians, and activists alike are pushing for the first country in the world to vote in legal same-sex marriage. The Netherlands was the first to legalize SSM, but only from the legislature. Ads, flyers, and huge signs are all over Dublin urging voters to vote "Yes" for same-sex marriage. The church has long played the conservative role, over-reaching, some say, into the law. Although many in the church oppose SSM, the secular government wishes to turn the gay marriage ban on its head this year.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

World Congress of Families: For and Against

The World Congress of Families purports to be a "pro-family" institution, and only claims the "natural family", or that of a male and a female being married and the biological parents of all of their children, the be the best and legitimate family unit for society.

This October, the institution will be holding its annual conference in Salt Lake City. Several religions are participating, local, and worldwide. The LDS church will have significant contributions to the speaking and hosting of the event. Sheri Dew and one LDS church leader are expected to speak.

Mayor Ralph Becker of SLC stated that although it is his responsibility to protect free speech and rights to assembly, he does not believe the conference's message reflects Salt Lake City's values. He hopes that those in the conference can learn from SLC's commitment to "inclusion, acceptance, and equality for all".

The irony of the conference is that it comes to SLC following the most heated debates concerning same-sex marriage. SLC was the first in Utah to put in nondiscrimination policies for sexual preference and gender identity. Utah was the first state to bring SSM to the US Supreme Court. Utah now issues same-sex marriage licenses. Utah's anti-gay laws and predominantly Mormon culture accelerated the process of equality, much to the church's and its members' dismay. The conference representatives says all registered attendees are welcome, even if the conference does not approve of same-sex couples. They hope for "respectful civil discourse" concerning any differences.

A newly organized coalition, "All Families Coalition", is supported by Restore Our Humanity, Equality Utah, Atheists of Utah, and Mormons Building Bridges. The coalition celebrates diversity in families. It says people like those in this conference like to ignore problems like poverty, violence, and drugs in order to blame things like same-sex marriage, divorce, and female reproductive rights on the "decline of the family".


Monday, May 11, 2015

Equality Utah Celebration in St. George

Every year, Equality Utah puts on a celebration dinner and fundraiser for the southern part of the state. The tradition began years ago in Kayenta, a beautiful community hidden in the renowned red rocks of St. George. As the attendance grew, organizers were forced to find a larger venue, and so started doing the event at the Dixie center.

This year, as part of the success of equality in Utah, event planners decided to return the celebration to Kayenta anyway, hoping to remind everyone how it all started and to take advantage of the beautiful landscape southern Utah has to offer. Although rain put off some of the event in the early evening, the skies eventually cleared for another epic fundraiser in the name of equality for LGBT Utahns.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Opinion: Traditional Marriage Defenders

I need to take a post to express some feelings. I know only a small group looks at my posts, and I'm grateful to those who do. But writing here allows me to express myself, like in a journal, to myself.

What baffles me is how adamant traditional marriage defenders rally so regularly, so insistently, and so vehemently to express their views on a subset of "sinners", where there are so many other "sinners" that they pass by and don't bat an eye. Why all of a sudden is there an outrage when this one, new concept--same-sex marriage--pops up in US law?

OK, I take that back. Civil Rights and inter-racial marriage have almost identical images of religious protesters like the one above. Both those religious wars lost. I think this one will, too.

I know that marriage is a very important ritual in religion (having been a Mormon in my past), but it is also a very important aspect of secular life. Marriage may have ties to legally binding a man to protect and provide for a wife and children (when women/children couldn't work or own land). But that culture is long gone. In secular society today, divorce is always an option, women (and men) can provide for children without a partner, and marriage is no longer a requirement or expectation for anyone. Although religions (Mormons especially) woe over these "destructions to the family", society seems to think it's all fine--mainly because the world hasn't destroyed itself as a result of its "decline".

Marriage has become a government benefit and protection for the family as a whole. Power of attorney, inheritances, parental guardianship, medical benefits, tax exemptions... these are all extremely valuable protections for a family. Religions can define what a family is for their own members. But individuals can define for themselves who their family is. Years ago same-sex couples decided to have families (including children) without government or societal approval. Now that same-sex couples have suffered from the lack of protections (that many heterosexual couples take for granted), gays have stood up to be equally protected.

There are stories of people tearing apart same-sex couples lives simply because legally... they can. Shane Crone was devastated at a fatal accident involving his fiance, Tom Bridegroom. When funeral services were prepared, Tom's family threatened Shane to not show up at the funeral. The funeral service had no mention of Shane or any reference to Tom's life as a gay man.


Several couples--many of which are involved in the dozens of SSM lawsuits in the US--have children where one partner is a biological parent of the child, and the other wishes to adopt the child, putting both parents' names on the birth certificate. Currently, most state laws make it extremely difficult or even impossible for this to happen.

One plaintiff couple in Kentucky had a story along these lines. A mother took her son to the hospital for a coughing fit. The hospital had to call the mother's partner (the boy's biological mother) to get permission to treat the child. Since the mother in the hospital is unable to officially be the boy's mother, she could lose her son if the biological mother is unavailable, sick, or dies.


These are just two of thousands of real examples where law that only permits traditional marriage harms families. People who blindly support anti-gay laws love to rally under the banner of "God" and "morality", hoping that their fight will win them points in heaven and that they will be seen as brave for "standing for what is right".

But right is relative. Especially when it comes to religion vs. society, or even religion vs. religion. If religion became the primary factor for governing the US, we're going to need another America to escape to. I don't believe it's right for religion to indoctrinate its members with lies, to leech off society, and to put down others that don't meet its ridiculous requirements. But our government protects religion and allows people to "worship" (or not) as they please. But nowhere is it protected for religious people to impose standards and beliefs into others' lives via law, especially when the main reason to do so is "God". If that were legitimate, divorce, fornication, and adultery would be illegal--and in Utah, smoking and drinking as well. But God doesn't hold any water in law. Because who's to say the Mormon God is the real God? Or the Jewish God? Or the Islamic God? Or an atheist's source of decision making (him/herself)?

It makes me absolutely mad to hear that only a man-woman relationship is healthy or good for the upbringing of children. First, let's get out of the way that children of divorced, widowed, or otherwise singled parents can still turn out just fine--not to mention it is legal and common for all of those things to happen. Second, gay men exhibit both male and female and attributes. Same as gay women. Children won't be missing out on the "unique gender-specific" tendencies of either gender. If it's all about having a penis and a vagina, why don't they just come out and say that? Yes, biologically, you need sperm and a uterus. But again, surrogacy, adoption, and artificial insemination are all socially acceptable methods for putting children into families. Why is it all of a sudden bad to put them into a same-sex couple's lives?

Also, there are plenty of sterile couples or mothers that miscarriage all the time. If marriage was about natural procreation, should these marriages be cancelled? Of course not. It's not about just the children. Marriage is still a way to been seen by the world as a committed, loving couple that the government protects in situations such as death, illness, or child-rearing.

So why do traditional marriage advocates still hate on the gays? They want to feel empowered. They want to feel like they are fighting for a noble cause. They want an enemy to fight in the name of "God". They want to keep their privileges and rights (that the take for granted) to themselves. They want to be seen as superior and model families. They want special treatment.

This is in no way every religious person, nor heterosexual person in a man-woman relationship. Most people get it. Most people don't care if you're gay, married, and have children with your same-sex partner. But the religious zealots that incessantly fight against equality in the name of "God" are what drive me nucking futs.

Again, I know I'm either preaching to the choir or talking to deaf ears if you're reading this. But this is mainly for me. Although... it would be great to know that I encouraged a friend to fight for equality, or discouraged another from fighting against it.