It’s exciting to think about the advancements in public opinion regarding gay rights. Really, things are going well despite some recent setbacks. It’s hard to keep perspective when you’re so surrounded by Mormonism because the opposition to gay rights seems so prevalent, but even within the Mormon community, things are looking up. Here’s some anecdotal evidence for you. When I announced that I was getting married to Michael, I got tons of surprising messages, wall posts, and status comments congratulating the two of us and voicing support and excitement for the wedding. I was shocked at the positive response, a large portion of which came from high school friends from Chicago whom I don’t here from often. What surprised me even more, though were all the active Mormons who congratulated me and expressed support. Some 25 % of the many comments I got were from active, straight Mormons. I didn’t expect that.
To me it reflects a generational difference. I think the younger generation of Mormons is more accepting of gay rights than the older generation, which leaves me believing that the Church may yet change it’s discriminatory policies in the distant future. Though of course such a change would be accompanied with a dramatic revelation from the Brethren, I don’t think it will come from an overnight change in opinion.
A recent article in the New York Times made me think about what that kind of change would entail. The article outlines the years it took Adm. Mullen to change his mind about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. During those years he had to ask questions like “How are we going to handle a gay member who is married in one state but is stationed in another that doesn’t approve of gay marriage? How are we going to handle troops who are uncomfortable around gay members? Are we going to force people to accept openly gay roommates? What about people who want to leave the service because of it?” (Gen. Anthony Zinni).
The President of the Church will have to ask similar questions. How do you approach members in Uganda or Nigeria or Ghana where homosexuality is extremely taboo yet where the Church has had recent growth? How do you deal with homophobic ward members in Utah? What do you do with a missionary who freaks out about having a gay companion or district leader? What about people who leave the Church over it?
Those are real questions that will have to be posed, questions that reveal some real deep problems with homophobia in the Mormon culture, and yet won’t it be exciting when those are the kinds of questions that are being asked? Of course, we’re not there yet. If the Church follows the path of the military, then it is much further behind. Church policies today are more similar to pre-DADT patterns. Perhaps we can look forward to a President who will, like Bill Clinton, compromise with the Church’s more conservative leadership and issue a policy like DADT in which Church members who are gay are no longer excommunicated. And then years down the road attitudes and circumstances will change, and the Church will move towards complete acceptance.
It’s definitely exciting to think about.