Look Who’s in Bed Together on Marriage Equality Fight

Washington Post
May 17, 2009
L ying on his cot in the Longworth House Office Building in the small of the night, Jason Chaffetz had a scary dream: The conservative Republican from Utah had beaten the odds, defeated an incumbent and made it to Washington, only to end up by some bizarre twist of events arm-in-arm with Marion Barry, the crack-smoking laughingstock former mayor of the District of Columbia as they both work to oppose the freedom to marry for gays. [link]

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Mommy Wars

Salt Lake City Weekly
April 30, 2009

The couple split up in 2007 and now are fighting for custody of their 3-yearold son, which Dickson had given birth to through artificial insemination. As the biological mother, Dickson, now remarried and with a husband, legally has all rights to the child, with no challenge to her fitness as a parent. Edvalson, formerly one of two mothers in the household, is now a "legal stranger." Fundamentally, the issue is whether one parent can cut off the other after both have done everything possible under Utah law to secure their relationship to the child. [Link]

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Governor Challenges Utah’s Conservative Verities

New York Times
March 13, 2009

In February, when Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. announced that he would support civil unions for gay couples, many politicians here braced for a backlash...But the backlash never developed. Indeed, after his announcement, a poll by Deseret News/KSL-TV found that two-thirds of respondents said their opinion of the governor had not changed or had become more positive because of his position on civil unions.

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Calling The Christianist Bluff

The Daily Dish
February 19, 2009
Andrew Sullivan says that despite the defeat of all the bills in the Common Ground Initiative, Equality Utah disproved with the legislative packet the Mormon church's claims that its support of Prop. 8 was only related to marriage: "It's not about protecting marriage; it's about treating gay citizens and their relationships with contempt." [Link]

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All Gay-Rights Bills Fall Short, But Neither Side Is Giving Up

The Salt Lake Tribune
February 19, 2009
The Utah legislature rejected the last remaining bill in Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative Wednesday. State democratic lawmakers say they will bring back the bills -- with some variations -- next year. [Link]

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TALKING TO NEIGHBORS: A Mormon Calls for Compassion

Guest Blogger: Ross "Rocky" Anderson

I was raised in Logan, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah, as an active member of the LDS Church. I gained so much of great value from all the years in Primary, Mutual, and the priesthood quorums. From that association, as well as the great example of my parents and wonderful teachers along the way, I learned many positive lessons that have formed the foundation of my life.

I learned that we should all love and care for each other--that we are all brothers and sisters and should treat each other accordingly. I learned that perhaps our highest calling is to help those who are in need and to be compassionate and kind toward those who are faced with difficult challenges. I learned, generally, that hatred, prejudice, and meanness toward others should be rejected in favor of love, inclusiveness, and kindness.

Those seemed to be the fundamental moral messages from my church.

However, I learned other, very different, lessons as a young Mormon boy. I learned that discrimination against African Americans, including their exclusion from the priesthood and their exclusion from worshipping in LDS temples, was compelled by God because their skin color was the mark of Cain as a result of their wrongdoing in an earlier life. I even learned that Brigham Young maintained that slavery was an institution ordained by God, that a white person who “mixed his seed” with a “Negro” should be killed, and that African Americans were not to be treated as brute animals, but were to be treated as the servants of servants.

I learned that we were not to question religious or civil authority. I recall once hearing someone say from the lectern in my ward that, according to the Twelfth Article of Faith, we are to unquestioningly follow the directives of leaders, including military commanders, and that if the directives are immoral, those giving them, not those who follow them, will be held responsible on judgment day. Even as a young boy, I recall being appalled at that call for individual moral abrogation. The idea that we are all to fall in line when ordered, even when doing so harms others, is abhorrent, dangerous, and contrary to the most fundamental lessons taught by Jesus and other major religious leaders.

Until 1967, antimiscegenation laws in many states prohibited interracial marriages. An African American and a white, like Barack Obama’s parents, could not marry each other under those laws. Society advanced, and the laws caught up with those advances. In 1978, the president of the LDS Church said he had a revelation from God that the exclusion of blacks from the LDS priesthood was to be lifted.

I learned another thing as a young boy: I was taught that gays and lesbians--they were called “homosexuals” in those days--were inferior people engaged in perverse wrongdoing. It was common for many people to use derogatory terms like “homo,” “queer,” or “faggot.”

Since then, I have learned to liberate myself from those bigotries. I have learned that I can grow--and that, as I do, not only do I treat others better but I also become a better person myself. My life is enriched as I learn about others who are different from me and as I learn to value, not just tolerate, those differences.

I know many gay and lesbian people who have married. In fact, I recently attended a wedding reception for two men, Idaho farmers, who were married in California. They have been together, committed to each other, loving each other, for thirty years. So many of the gay and lesbian couples I have known are loving and committed, and have demonstrated a remarkable stability in their relationships--a stability that has so far eluded me in my relationships. These good people, and those who love them, are hurt every day of their lives when they are treated under the law as second-class citizens and as they face the sort of prejudice, discrimination, and hatred generated by such measures as Utah’s Amendment 3 and California’s Proposition 8.

The LDS Church is repeating a tragic and deplorable history through its vast involvement in the passage of Proposition 8--except that the bigotry and discrimination is now being directed not at African Americans but toward gays and lesbians. It is an outrage--and it is an occasion of great sadness for the LDS Church, for its members who are once again being, and allowing themselves to be, led astray, and for those who are victims of the hurtful judgments of those who think they are somehow superior to their gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

Let us all call for greater love, better understanding, and dignity and respect toward all, regardless of race, regardless of faith or lack of faith, and regardless of sexual orientation. Let us all follow, rather than just talk about, the Golden Rule. Let us move beyond the false and hollow judgments that result in such pain, even to the point of suicide, for many LDS youth. And let us embrace each other as brothers and sisters and rid ourselves of the pernicious distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation that, with tragic consequences, have been drawn in the law and in so many hearts.

Just as racial discrimination is now forbidden in the United States, and just as antimiscegenation laws are now nothing more than a shameful part of our nation’s history, we will celebrate full marriage equality some day. We have come so far in just a few years, particularly because most young people do not carry with them the burden of bigotry as I did, and as did so many of my generation. There will be obstacles, but reason, fairness, and a higher morality will prevail--if we join together in demanding it.

Let us all keep up the proud fight--the fight for fundamental fairness, the fight for compassion, the fight for love.

Rocky Anderson is founder & director of High Road for Human Rights in Salt Lake City, Utah and a member of Freedom to Marry’s Voices of Equality. Rocky is also a former mayor of Salt Lake City.

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Governor Endorses Civil Unions

Salt Lake Tribune
February 9, 2009
A spokesperson for Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., said Monday that the governor backs Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative and also supports civil unions. [Link]

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Wicked’ Composer Won’t Withhold Work from LDS Groups over Prop 8

The Salt Lake Tribune
December 16, 2008
Though he says he found Mormons' extensive support of the Prop. 8 campaign "reprehensible," Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz says he has no plans to withhold the use of his songs from Utah- or Mormon-related singing groups. [Link]

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PFLAG enters Prop 8 fallout fray, seeks LDS Church support

The Salt Lake Tribune
November 17, 2008
While some PFLAG members were discouraged by the Mormon Church, Kathryn Steffensen refused to be. The faithful Latter-day Saint said that while she doesn't think the LDS Church should have moved "into taking away peoples rights that were given by the state and government," she's been heartened by the support of her community and bishop. [Link]

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Church Action Prompts Tourist Boycott of Utah

AP via AOL Travel
November 16, 2008
Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to impact the Mormon church for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay couples' marriages. [Link]

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