No One Deserves Discrimination

discrimination

This is a post I’ve been working on for months now. It’s been in my drafts folder waiting to be published. There are many reasons why I haven’t posted it yet, but I suppose mostly the timing hasn’t been right. After last weeks #fairness4all press conference from the LDS church about anti-discrimination laws I decided I wouldn’t wait any longer to add my voice to this critical conversation.

Every citizen of Provo—whether we realize it or not—associates with someone who publicly or privately identifies as LGBT. They are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our siblings, our children. Even still, for most of my life I’ve made casual judgments about the LGBT community without the benefit of thoughtful consideration. I regret my uninformed judgment.

All major religions share the concept of compassion–doing to others what we would have them do to us. On its website Mormonsandgays.org, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints says “Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. Whether sinner or saint, rich or poor, stranger or friend, everyone in God’s small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Latter-day Saints believe that our true commitment to Christian teachings is revealed by how we respond to this commandment.

Reiterated in the press conference, Elder Dallin H Oaks said, “…we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation.”

Like many of you my close circle includes those with gender attractions different than mine. I wasn’t prepared for this, I’ve had to rethink many things and I have had more questions than answers. However, no matter where I turn or where I look I’ve had an overwhelming confirmation that we need to treat our gay friends, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters with dignity, love and respect. While this seems obvious to me, there are many places in our world, and places in the state of Utah (including Provo) where gay and lesbian people feel marginalized, shunned and severely judged. It pains me to watch my loved ones in a world that is so quick to judge them without knowing how how hard they try to be good people.

There is so much good in Provo, but sometimes I worry that our kindness is reserved for people who look, act and believe like we do. It is sobering to think that LGBT youth are at least three times more likely than heterosexual youth to attempt suicide, and our homeless youth have a disproportionate share of LGBT members. It is my hope that the city of Provo will foster an atmosphere in which every young person—gay or straight—feels that his or her life is highly valued. And, I have faith that our city can be exceptional in encouraging families to be safe places for their gay and lesbian children to stay in the home.

My message today is not about surrendering our positions or our values. Today, it’s not about legislation or governmental policy and it’s not about why some are gay and some are not. If we complicate how we treat others with a demand to first know the answers or have all the solutions we will fail. Instead I hope our compassion will be extended as we work together as a community to make our city a safe place for everyone—our kids, your friends, our neighbors, everyone. No one deserves discrimination, instead let us choose inclusion.

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  1. Jessica

    Amen.

  2. julie

    Well said. Thank you.

  3. Vance

    Great post! I’m hoping to see some fair housing and non-discrimination language applied to Provo, combined with freedom to worship. This can be done on a city level just as well as legislative. Let’s show the Utah Legislature what Provo can do.

    1. Jason Williams

      I appreciate your comment on fair housing but what exactly needs to be protected about the freedom to worship? It is already protected by the constitution. I am always concerned when I read comments like this because it appear to suggest there should be some special language given to religion. Being religious and faithful is not and should not be a license to discriminate. I hope I misunderstood your comment and you simply support equal rights

  4. Love that last paragraph… If Provo Property owners… who are not residents could vote for you… I would vote for you again in a heartbeat…

  5. “It is my hope that the city of Provo will foster an atmosphere in which every young person—gay or straight—feels that his or her life is highly valued.”

    It is my prayer that every person’s life be highly valued. Thank you for letting your light shine brightly John.

  6. George

    Thank you, Mayor, for these thoughts. I stand behind you.

  7. David

    Very well said! I appreciate the time you’ve taken to put together a thoughtful and meaningful post on this subject. I hope that this understanding is shared more in this community.

  8. Terri

    Amen!

  9. Rudy

    Beautifully written Mr.Mayor. As Christians we are taught to love one another. We must be inclusive in our thoughts, in our actions and in our laws.

  10. So happy to see this, Mayor John. I appreciate you and this great invitation to your community to be even more welcoming to even more people. I grew up in Provo and love the city. I send my love and blessings, Carol Lynn Pearson

  11. Don

    Magnificent, Mr. Mayor!

  12. Tom

    Thank you Mayor for underscoring that while most people cannot change their own sexual orientation, they can change their views:

    “It’s more than tragic—in fact it’s shameful—that faith communities, especially Christian ones, continue to be complicit in putting our children at risk and abetting the attitudes that oppress them, thereby encouraging the aggressors who would subject our children to pain, humiliation, and violence.

    LGBT men and women will continue to be vulnerable to the sins of homophobia and heterosexism, to the violence of hate and fear until we in the church can say to homosexuals now what it has said to heterosexuals for 2,000 years. Your sexuality is good. The church not only accepts it. The church celebrates it and rejoices in it. God loves you as you are, and the church can do no less.” – 2014 Episcopal Proclamation – National Cathedral

  13. Rebecca

    I’m literally touched beyond words. For the first time I feel like someone is finally understanding the issue with LGBT members. That Last paragraph nails it right on the head.

  14. Kelly

    As one who experiences same-gender attraction, i really do appreciate this article.

  15. Darren

    Well said. Very well said. I wish the Provo I lived in 30 years ago were more like the one you envision.

  16. Mindy Gonzalez

    I appreciate you sharing this. It makes me happy to be a Provo resident and know you are looking out for the marginalized.

  17. Angela Darancou

    Wonderful words of wisdom! I hope everyone takes a minute to reflect on what you said. I hope people of all gender preferences and all religions, races and backgrounds can feel welcome in Provo and appreciate its beauty.

  18. Connell O'Donovan

    YES! Thank you for your beautiful, compassionate, and thoughtful words. Bring it on!!!

  19. Dan Humphrey

    I grew up in Provo until my father was transferred to the Salt Lake branch of his employer when I was twelve. I have very good memories of that beautiful town and always wanted to return there one day to look around, see the old house, take a hike up Rock Canyon, but wondered if, as a gay man, I might be venturing into hostile territory to even visit the old neighborhood. Thank you for your wise and courageous words, Mayor Curtis. Next time I’m in Utah, I think I will, indeed, come down and spend an afternoon in your beautiful city–my home town.

  20. Thank you John, for your leadership on many issues, including this one. If we are to ever become an ideal or Zion community, our capacity for acceptance and inclusion will be vital. As a BYU professor, I’ve seen so much suffering by some students through the decades. As a father of ten in our public schools, I was always shocked by some of our neighboring youths’ experiences. As an advocate for the homeless, seeing the travails in Utah & Salt Lake valleys of some who were gay, have been heartbreaking over the years. Having a mayor now who leads with a higher vision for our community is a wonderful thing.

  21. Jason Williams

    A great post, thank you Mr. Mayor!!

  22. Billy Lewis-Croft

    Did I just read this from the Provo Mayor, a mayor of Utah County? Thank you! If all politicians had such a way to view the world this would be a better place for not just the LGBT community, but for everyone. Maybe I will not avoid Provo like the plague going forward. Again, Thank You!

  23. Troy Carter

    Thanks for beng the leader you are.

  24. Jessica

    Well said. Thank you for your position in sharing & doing it so eloquently.

  25. Donna

    Something I never thought I’d have to deal with in my life is now a huge part of my life. I have two children who are pansexual (meaning they are not attracted to a specific gender, but rather the soul of the person). And with that has been a lot of heartbreak and a lot of eye opening. I have seen so much ugliness, hatred and bigotry and sadly most were from active faithful LDS members. I will add that there were also some LDS friends and family who absolutely understood “love thy neighbor” and loved unconditionally and let the situation be between them and Christ. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Anyway, as a parent, my heart breaks when they’re shamed because their brain functions a little differently. Some brains get math. Some brains write novels. Some brains create beautiful works of art. Some brains are political. Some brains love broccoli and brussels sprouts. Some brains love femininity. Some brains love masculinity. And some brains simply love, and are not gender discriminatory. And I don’t know how to phrase this without being blunt, but when it comes down to it, we all want to feel safe in our own choices. We all want to be able to choose for ourselves, follow our own path and do for ourselves what we feel is right for us. And it hurts and stings when others tell us that we’re wrong. So why then is it okay for us to turn around and cast judgement on others for choosing something different? It’s not. Thank you for writing this. I hope this opens a lot of eyes and softens some hearts.

  26. Cindy Bateman

    Thank you cousin. Well said. I’m very proud of all you have done for Provo.

  27. Roice Luke

    Spoken by a true “Virginian!” The Mayor spent a number of good years in Richmond, VA and left many admiring friends at his parting. His comments are so on the mark that we feel we have a right to take some credit for having shaped his thinking. After all, discrimination against our fellow citizens has its deepest roots in Virginia and one cannot have lived here for too long without having come to understand the meaning of bigotry and discrimination. American slavery began here: Virginia took the lead in establishing the legal codes that defined African slavery, it led all other states in importing enslaved persons from Africa and, after African importation ended, it led all states in trading and shipping out enslaved persons (breaking families and destroying lives). Virginia also played key roles in the Jim Crow era and has been no shirker in discrimination focused on the LGBT community. Mayor John had to have been impacted by his “formative” years in Virginia. Again, spoken by a true Virginian. Congratulations, John.

  28. Peggy Tomsic

    John,

    Thank you for believing in and promoting fairness and equality in Provo. Inclusion will bring a brighter and better future for all members of our communities.

    Peggy Tomsic

  29. Elizabeth Daily

    Very well done. Provo joins humanity at last. Kindness, its so easy!

  30. Kim

    Those of us who ultimately found refuge in Utah (after ancestors left homes, navigated oceans, crossed plains, lost loved ones, and/or gave lives in their escape from terrible religious discrimination/persecution), have, while not wishing to deprive another human being of roof or bread, looked on with concern as some have been forced to act against their religious beliefs in areas of the U.S. where the pendulum has swung to favor sexual rights. May the elected officials of our city and state rise to the “highest level of true statesmanship,” for which Elder Holland recently called at the LDS News Conference, as they consider amending current law, and “achieve a balance in protecting the freedoms of all people while respecting those with differing values.” (Elder Oaks) In any amendments to current ordinance/law, may the freedom to act according to the dictates of one’s own individual conscience be also preserved and protected. It is the teachings of the Jesus that have most consistently advocated for the kind, respectful treatment of all, (including the “religious,” “same-sex attracted,” etc.) and it is in the best interest of all, as we go forward, to preserve a place in our laws for the freedom to act, for those so inclined, according to consciences informed by the enduring value of charity that He espoused. May any pendulum in Provo come to rest at respect for all.

  31. Sydney

    This makes me smile. This makes me happy. A great addition to the happy fulfilled life I live as a lesbian in Utah County. My partner and I have been so happy with the response in the last few years of people in our community. The response to our love and life style in the community has been unexpected honestly. We get very few stairs and pointing fingers anymore. We get seated and greeted and helped in restaurants and public places just like anyone else. In fact, we get complimented on us as couple and feel very welcomed and accepted in so many ways. We get asked if we are a couple a lot, and see that people are becoming curious and no afraid of us anymore. Utah, Utah County, Provo and surrounding areas have come SUCH A LONG WAY.

    I know it’s hard to understand for some, and others it’s easy. For those who have come a long way and made the effort as you have today, I solute you (I hug you) warmly. A sigh of relief in so many ways. I can only hope that we continue to grow, together. UNITE, enjoy our equal rights as a family, after all… aren’t we?

  32. Nathan Hadfield

    Thank you, Mayor Curtis!

  33. Lloyd

    Thank you for having the courage to make this statement. Beautifully written, but it is the prinicple that you articulate that is important. If the heart of Happy Valley can adopt these loving and accepting attitudes, we all can. By the way, John, I was impressed with you when you were a young man, I’m even more impressed now. Happy to have had the honor to know you.

    Lloyd Eldredge

  34. stephenie

    Thank you!

  35. John C. Hadlock

    First, I give my props to you for finally speaking out in support of LGBT non-discrimination. I’m glad we’ve got your voice and support. Thank you. And thank you for recognizing your past judgments of the LGBT community was “uninformed” and wrong. That’s an admission well-received and greatly appreciated.

    But, quite frankly, I’m bothered a bit by your post. And it’s not just because of something you implied, but because what you implied illuminated a sad Mormon reality. Whether you realize it or not, you admitted in your blog post that you finally went public with your long-held support of LGBT non-discrimination precisely because the LDS Church gave you cover to do so. Indeed, the LDS Church’s “‪#‎fairness4all‬” press conference last week gave you cover – politically and personally – to finally take a position that was right and just long before church leaders even stood and read from the teleprompter.

    That’s what’s bugging me. It’s not just your “delayed” leadership on this issue, it’s that the vast majority of the Utah County community are “sheeple” – people following and waiting to receive permission from the Church before they speak out for what’s actually right, regardless of their stance. It’s a shame.

    And Mr. Mayor, it’s not just a shame, it’s very sad. You write: “It pains me to watch my loved ones in a world that is so quick to judge them without knowing how how hard they try to be good people”. That statement hurt and brought tears to my eyes. It made me recall all of the stuff I’ve personally gone through in life, but didn’t have to go through (even from family), because so many were so quick to judge. And they were quick to judge because it seemed okay, for the Church’s position on LGBT individuals and non-discrimination wasn’t all that formulated, understood, or public. Very few dared stand up, push back, and stop the painful judgments cast towards me – the very judgments you now say pain you to witness! Nearly all in my community (Spanish Fork) were not willing to speak out for what was right then. But you are now? Why? Ah yes, that’s right, because you now have the green light from Temple Square to do so. Think about that… Think how sad this Mormon reality is…

    So friends reading this blog post. Yes, I appreciate the Major finally taking a stand, but can you only image all of the good that could have been done, all of the pain that wouldn’t have to have been felt, all of the judgments that could have easily been avoided if members of society (especially in the Utah County community), including Mayor Curtis, had stood up, spoke out, and done the right thing WITHOUT first needing Church permission/approval? I know I can.

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