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.