Friday, July 31, 2015

Opinions: Tax Exemptions for Anti-Gays

Ultra Mormon and conservative US - Utah Senator Mike Lee has questioned the IRS about the possibility of tax-exempt status being stripped of religious institutions for their beliefs on same-sex marriage.

IRS representatives have committed to not take action or lawsuits up against anti-gay religious institutions--for now. It may be a couple years, but it is foreseen to be an issue in the future.

Religious institutions are not ever (as we see the law now) going to be forced to marry any couple. But there are other religious institutions, such as schools, that hold religious beliefs and have and still will punish students for violating certain moral codes. The greatest example here at home: BYU.

BYU schools are known to investigate the personal lives of students. Roommates, friends, and even family have turned in students to the "Honor Code Office" to rat out people that were seen drinking, smoking, or committing "sexual sin". One of the largest remaining witch hunts is for active homosexuals. If there is even one witness to a homosexual activity, a full investigation on that student often leads to expulsion and sometimes withholding of academic records. Such an event can ruin any person's future.

But BYU wants to reserve the right to meter punishments for such things. It also wants to keep its federal funding and ties. Can both exist? Can you have a legal right to discriminate in this situation and still be tax-exempt?

Most conservatives believe "yes". They believe they are being targeted for holding these beliefs. But aren't they targeting people they merely "believe" to be wrong?

Here is my response to one who thinks they are wronged by being stripped of their ability to judge another:

As much as I think your view is inhumane, you believe mine is "evil". So whatever. You are welcome to hold your opinion. As am I. But if you kick me out of a school or directly cause me harm verbally or physically because I am gay or have married my partner legally, you betcha I will fight against your government protected religious privileges. I would expect you to retaliate similarly if I disrespect you, slander you, or physically harm you for holding your belief as well.
This is NOT about the "gay agenda". How insulting. Can you possibly imagine the hate, fear, and emotional pain of a gay person hiding their identity because people like you condemn them to hell for having such feelings? The young people depressed and committing suicide because they would rather die than have their family reject them?
This is about changing attitudes so that one can live who they are without society belittling them to animals. You don't have to participate, but you MUST respect them and allow them to live their life. You are not violating your religion by providing services to people that you think are "sinning". It is not your right to decide who deserves to receive your service or product. The gays are not infringing on your rights. You are just upset that you now have to share your rights with them. Shame on you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Utah Majority Still Opposes Gay Marriage

Recent polls show that support for gay marriage in Utah is down, lower than earlier this year. The Supreme Court ruling has spiked strong opinions concerning the matter. Most people, other than a small margin of 25-34 year-olds, strongly oppose the ruling. Many also support protections for people and businesses that wish to discriminate against gays for situations like wedding photographers, bakeries, and counseling.

Many on both sides argue that a poll is meaningless. SSM supporters reiterate the great judiciary branch of government we have is what prevents the tyrannical rule of the majority and provides us with the unique blend of our democratic republic. Anti-gay groups say that a poll doesn't affect a child's "right" to have a mother and father.

It's not surprising that there is such a push against the ruling of such a controversial topic. Over time, the support will settle at a strong majority, even in Utah, as the integration and equality of contributing LGBT citizens becomes the norm.

Book of Mormon Musical in Utah

The Book of Mormon Musical is coming to SLC just a few blocks from Temple Square. Although the musical is critical of Mormon beliefs, and is considered to be explicit and profane, critics laud its humor, catchy tunes, and unprecedented portrayal of crisis-of-faith.

The LDS Church purchased ads in the playbill when the show opened in NY, hoping to intrigue watchers to learn "the real Mormonism". They also started the "I'm a Mormon" campaign to take advantage of the free publicity the musical created.

Tickets are already sold out for the Broadway performance. The irony of its visit in Utah has already done its job.

LDS Issues Strong Opposition to Gay BSA Leaders

It's official. And immediately. Gay men and women are allowed to participate in the BSA volunteer program if their charter chooses to select them. And despite a group's ability (also part of the new policy) to still deny it based on sexual orientation, the LDS Church cries foul and is going to re-examine its relationship with the program.

BSA knew it couldn't sustain the policy given the weather of the social changes concerning LGBT people. But the LDS church is still one of the largest associates of the program, and it's separation from it may lead to its decline.

There is already another program that started in protest to allowing gay boys in BSA called Trail Life USA, with about 25k members already. It wouldn't be surprising if Mormons create their own program, join Trail Life USA, or upgrade their "Duty to God" program to mimic BSA.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Same-Sex Couples To Foster Children

Same-sex couples on the foster waiting lists are getting calls to house children.

Since the SCOTUS ruling, several couples have additionally applied to foster children together... something that wasn't legal in Utah previously. Obviously, there is resistance from groups that believe only a mother and father should be eligible. But loving couples are eager to join the ranks of fostering.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Same-Sex Parents Can Adopt Like Opposite-Sex Parents in Utah UPDATED

A federal judge recently ruled that same-sex couples should be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples in Utah. Roe mothers Tami and Angie have been working through the difficult system of step parent adoption Utah has in place and have waited for months for the protection of both their names listed on their child's birth certificate.

Now all couples, male and female of any combination can adopt non-genetic children legally and have both parents' names on the birth certificate.

The state may challenge this ruling, but it is unlikely due to the legality of SSM in the SCOTUS ruling. Utah has already spent $1.2 million defending its failed Amendment 3 that banned same-sex marriage.


Utah has decided to not appeal the court ruling granting the Roes the right to have both mothers' names on their child's birth certificate. This solidifies the opportunity for all same-sex couples to be legal parents of any and all children of theirs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BSA to Lift Gay Adult Ban

Boy Scouts of America has unanimously approved a new policy that removes the organization-wide ban on openly gay adults as leaders. The move will go on to the board for ratification.

The LDS church is one of the biggest sponsors and partners with BSA, and stated that it has always had and expects the right to choose what leaders it believes are "moral" for the position, according to its religious expectations.

The move allows any approved charter to have parents and organizers select the leaders they deem appropriate for their groups. If a group votes to allow gay men and women as leaders, they are now allowed to do so. The LDS church is not expected to allow openly gay people into its unit, as the LDS church still considers homosexuality a "serious sin".

BSA in 2013 approved the admission of openly gay teens into scouting, but the LDS church handles such cases in its own way within its organization.

There are several cases where leaders have been expelled from the program due to information leaking to BSA that the leader was gay. Hopefully this move will pass and those who which to support the program, regardless of sexual orientation, are able to do so in groups where they are accepted as equals.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Idaho Constitution Still Contains Anti-Gay Language

Idaho, as well as 30 other states in the US, have language within their state constitutions that state that marriage is "only between a man and a woman". Although such law in unenforceable, there is debate as to whether to remove the language or not. SSM supporters say it is confusing and offensive to keep such wording on the books. Others say there is no reason to completely obliterate traditional marriage, even if gay marriage bans are in conflict with federal law.

Montana Polygamist Stands for Polygamy

In response to the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the US, a Montana man wishes to legally be married to his two wives. The first of his wives shares 7 children and is his legal partner. The second was only religiously wed to him.

Many feared and predicted this as a next-step in marriage re-definition. But others see it as a legitimate union and have no quarrel as to who wants to marry who, in of-age, consenting situations.

Nathan Collier says he was denied a second marriage license from the clerk's office, which stated it would seek advice concerning the matter. Collier plans to sue up to the US Supreme Court to legalize if not decriminalize bigamy.

Greatest LDS Opponent of LGBT, Apostle Boyd Packer, Dies

Boyd Packer, the eldest member of the 12 Mormon Apostles, and next in line for Church President, known as the "Prophet", died on July 3rd. It was reported that he died from complications of old age.

Packer has always been the largest vocal opponent to any progress in the LGBT community with respect the LDS Church. Here are a few quotes from the late apostle with added emphasis on anti-gay statements.

One of the most explicit anti-gay messages Packer had was in a Priesthood talk in 1976, later published (and still used) as a pamphlet called "To Young Men Only":

Now a warning! I am hesitant to even mention it, for it is not pleasant. It must be labeled as major transgression. But I will speak plainly. There are some circumstances in which young men may be tempted to handle one another, to have contact with one another physically in unusual ways. Latter-day Saint young men are not to do this. 
Sometimes this begins in a moment of idle foolishness, when boys are just playing around. But it is not foolishness. It is remarkably dangerous. Such practices, however tempting, are perversion. When a young man is finding his way into manhood, such experiences can misdirect his normal desires and pervert him not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. 
It was intended that we use this power only with our partner in marriage. I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord. 
There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.

While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done. 
After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, “I hit my companion.” 
“Oh, is that all,” I said in great relief. 
“But I floored him,” he said. 
After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.” 
I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself. 
There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men—masculine, manly men—ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers.
This vile and discriminatory talk outlines four hateful beliefs. (1) Homosexuality is forbidden perversion and of the devil. (2) It is more acceptable to resort to violence than to submit to homosexual acts. (3) God did not create homosexuals, and such tendencies can be overcome. (4) Males are to be masculine manly men, and there is no mistake as to a mismatch of physical and spiritual gender.

Another statement he made was in 1993 to the "All Church-Coordinating Council":
It is so easy to be turned about without realizing that it has happened to us. There are three areas where members of the Church, influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away. I chose these three because they have made major invasions into the membership of the Church. In each, the temptation is for us to turn about and face the wrong way, and it is hard to resist, for doing it seems so reasonable and right. 
The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.

This talk is commonly known as the "three enemies of the church" talk, where the very fundamentals of the LDS Church are unraveled by the social progress of gay rights, women's rights, and questioning history and authority with intellectual and scholarly research.

In October of 2010, Packer stated in his General Conference Talk:
If we're not alert, there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that will legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God's laws and nature ... what good would a vote against the law of gravity do? ... 
Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.
The church later edited the text of the latter paragraph of the talk to say:
Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.
Completely changing the tone and meaning of the statement. The first part also advocates that it is immoral to vote in laws that go against "God's Plan". Immorality is relative, and in no way should match the rules of any particular religion.

Many are relieved (inside and outside of the church) that the outdated opinions of this man didn't have a chance to rule the LDS Church in succession to Thomas Monson, current president. There are a few other LDS leaders that hold on to negative and destructive views regarding LGBT people, but the numbers are waning. Just like Spencer Kimball had to wait for several racist leaders to die to exclaim that the priesthood could then be given to black people, so will another LDS leader have to wait to exclaim similar changes for LGBT people.

Ordain Women Leader Kate Kelly Steps Down

For reasons not disclosed, Kate Kelly of the Ordain Women movement to protest equality and ordination of women in the LDS church, has decided to step down from leadership.
After two years of dedication, hard work, and passionate leadership, Kate Kelly has decided to move on from her leadership role with Ordain Women and has submitted her resignation from the executive board. 
Since January of 2013, Kate Kelly has been an integral part of the Ordain Women movement. She was the catalyst and has served as one of our most recognizable voices. She has given her time and energy to help make this movement possible. 
--OW Facebook page
Whether a new leader will be selected, or the group will continue it's protesting is not certain at this time.

Religious Freedom Conference at BYU

BYU held a conference on July 6 to address the issues of religious freedom as a reaction to the US Supreme Court Decision of June 26 that forced states to recognize all same-sex marriages, as well as perform them.

Gene Schaerr, the lawyer that defended Utah in the Amendment 3 Case, says that he does not regret his attack on SSM, and that this new SCOTUS decision creates "12 grenades" against religious freedom. Schaerr explained these "grenades" at the conference, and was also joined by Gov. Gary Herbert. Alexander Dushku, author of the LDS Church's friend-of-the-court message asking the SCOTUS to uphold state's rights in traditional marriage, also spoke of the future of religious freedom.

Schaerr encouraged anti-gay-marriage to continue back to the courts to reverse the decision. He believes the "forcing religion to accept" gay marriage chokes the rights of religious people. The decision is a can of worms and says that it threatens "churches' tax-exempt status, religious schools' housing policies, accreditation, government contracts and employment and churches' ability to have marriages recognized".

Herbert stated that he was happy with the nondiscrimination template that LDS leaders and LGBT supporters worked together to pass earlier this year, SB296. Although he says not all the aspects of the issues were addressed in the law, he is hesitant to make adjustments to it. He expects a few lawsuits, but is afraid it will topple the balance of the historical agreement. He understands the baker that doesn't want to cater for a same-sex marriage, but admits it's inappropriate to be able to say, "'I'm going to pick which sinner, in their perspective, I'm going to serve."

Dushku said there are two potential paths for religious liberty as a result of the decision. The first would follow similar results as the Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia decisions, which minimized religious freedom with respect to racism. Racists are not tolerated in most social situations. The other path is that of Roe vs. Wade, which said abortion is a woman's right. Although there is great religious opposition, pro-lifers held to their beliefs and stood their ground, still finding place in the public square to respectfully disagree. Both opinions exist and cannot be punished. This is the path that will keep religious freedom at the strength it currently has.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Episcopal Church has officially voted to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church by willing leaders, and include them in all sacred rites.

LDS Church Donates to SLC Pride Center

In an unprecedented move, the LDS church agreed to donate to the Utah Pride Center in SLC in order to help feed homeless and low income adolescents and youth. The Pride Center works with the Utah Food Bank, but the bank is unable to provide more than just a few breakfasts.

After the Bishop's Storehouse was approached by Kent Frogly, the Pride Center's board president, the LDS church graciously stepped in to help the cause. Many are pleased that despite major disagreements, both parties are able to work together for a positive cause.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LDS Church Addresses SSM to Members

The LDS Church issued a statement reiterating its support for traditional marriage following the June 26th ruling of the Supreme Court. Now the high leaders of the church will be sending announcements to each congregation for leaders to read and instructions for local leaders on how to move forward with the new law. Some important points will be as follows:

Same-sex marriages will not be performed by LDS leaders.

Same-sex marriage events, including receptions or otherwise, will not take place in LDS meetinghouses.

If members have concerns with the Church's policies on SSM, they should address it to their leaders. If leaders have concerns, they should contact their general authorities.

Although people have differences, everyone is welcome to attend LDS meetings and is expected to be treated with respect by church members, so long as they respect the LDS standards of conduct while there.

It is no surprise that the LDS church is making it publicly known that the laws of the land do not change the laws of "God". The church did participate in the new nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people in Utah. However, the stark opposition to same-sex marriage in the church will still perpetuate negative feelings and stigmas LDS members hold against LGBT people.