Defending Discrimination: LDS church joins brief defending Prop 8

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Just when you thought the LDS church had learned its lesson and was working to improve its image when it comes to its treatment of the LGBT community, comes news that the church has joined other anti-gay religious zealots in asking the Supreme Court to uphold California’s Prop 8.

You’ll recall that the LDS church had a huge role in getting the highly discriminatory proposition passed by California voters.   While certainly not the only religious organization supporting the proposition, it can not be denied that its huge network of  members, media and money was utilized  in a big way to ensure Prop 8′s passage.

As Chris Johnson over at WashBlade reports,”In a 38-page friend-of-the-court brief, filed before the Supreme Court Jan. 29, religious groups — including the Mormon Church — emphasize that justices shouldn’t strike down Prop 8 on the basis of religious support for the anti-gay amendment. The brief is signed by Von Keech, a Utah-based private attorney who has previously assisted the Mormon Church, as well as other private attorneys with his firm Alexander Dushku, R. Shawn Gunnarson and Kirton McConkie.”

The church has also filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

“In a statement on Monday, Affirmation, a national group for gay and lesbian Mormons, questioned why the Mormon Church would participate in a legal brief in favor of Prop 8 after backing off its support of anti-gay measures since the passage of the California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2008,” Johnson reports.

Other names included in the unholy document include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; the Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America; and Truth in Action Ministries.

One wonders if the LDS Church realizes that no matter how hard it tries it can’t have it both ways. Either its going to support its LGBT members or its going to continue to lobby for hate. There is no middle ground.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Proposition 8 case March 26, and the DOMA case the following day.

The Top 10 of 2012: The Agenda Looks Back (Part 1)

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Much to the dismay of the Mayans, a handful of tin foil conspirators and several anti-gay religious types, the world didn’t end. For anyone  taking notes, however, there was certainly a shift in the American conscience regarding LGBTQIA equality in 2012.

Not even the great red state of Idaho was totally immune from the feeling that,”Hey, maybe ‘the gays’ are people after all.”

So with that in mind, we take a look back at the top ten stories that impacted our community over the past year:

Number 10: The Stars Come Out

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Remember when it was cool to be coy about your sexuality, show up with your mom at award shows and join the Church of Scientology? Yeah, o.k., we don’t either but things certainly have changed since Ellen DeGeneres forever “destroyed” the traditional American family by using her top rated sitcom to announce to the world that she kisses girls and she likes it way back in 1997.

2012’s class of “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it” closet kickers includes CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons, “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion, Boxer Orlando Cruz, “White Collar’s” Matt Bomer, Hip-hop artist Frank Ocean, Former “X-Files” star Gillian Anderson, Former NFL player Wade Davis, McClatchy newspaper heir Kevin McClatchy, 70’s and 80’s star Kristy McNichol, “The New Normal’s” Andrew Rannells, Olympic gold medalist soccer player Megan Rapinoe 

“The Jefferson’s” star Sherman Hemsley and Astronaut Sally Ride also both came out of the closet this year, albeit posthumously.

2012 was also the year to put the “T” in the LGBT with Against Me! punk rocker Laura Jane Grace and Matrix director Lana Wachowski both revealing that they are transgender.

Number 9: The LDS Church calls for Gay Compassion

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LDS LGBTQIA members still can’t have sex and expect to be admitted into the temple but you’ve got to give the church credit, it has come a long way since the days of “reparative therapy”, using the scriptures as  justification to “smear the queers” and good old fashioned ex-communication.

In April, an openly gay BYU professor made headlines after he released videos, not only telling the LGBTQIA community that,”it gets better”, but also demonstrating that it’s possible for Mormon families to love and accept their relatives for who they are, no matter what their sexual orientation.

Earlier this month the church also unveiled a new website that,”reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

Only time will tell if the church is simply trying to clean up its image after its much publicized, disastrous, involvement in California’s prop 8 or if  it’s truly repentant but as we all know Rome, or in this case, Zion, wasn’t built in a day.

Number 8: “Wanna Grab an Anti-Gay Sandwich?” Chick-fil-A Comes to Idaho.

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In a board room somewhere in College Park, Georgia, there is an executive face palming himself, “Why didn’t the fast food chain think of expanding its operations into Idaho earlier?”

Judging from the crowds that filled its three new restaurants in the Gem state during 2012, Idahoans have an appetite for hate laden greasy chicken served up on a toasted homophobic bun.

Never mind the fact that last July,Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy spoke favorably of the company’s donations to anti-gay groups.

Who cares, it’s just fast food, right?

Apparently, the company also believes its  answering God’s call.

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Cathy told the “The Ken Coleman Show,” during an interview.

It looked like there was a little hope in September when Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno met with Chik-fil-A executives and announced that the company would end its donations to anti-equality organizations.

The news was to good to be true.

As The Dallas Voice points out,”Chick-fil-A later clarified that the contributions were misconstrued and they would continue to donate to current beneficiaries, some of which fund campaigns against marriage equality. The company released a statement that all customers are valued at its restaurants, but ultimately the company’s views didn’t appear to change.”

MMMMM…nothing like a chicken sandwich served up with a side of support for intolerance. Yummy!

Number Seven: Discrimination of  Transgender Employees is against the law!

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In April, a five member, bipartisan, federal commission ruled that employer discrimination based on a person’s gender identity is a violation of the 1964 civil rights act.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that such action violates Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, told the Metro Weekly that,”it would be hard to overstate the significance of the EEOC decision.”

“Transgender people already face tremendous rates of discrimination and unemployment,” Davis said. “The decision today ensures that every transgender person in the United States will have legal recourse to employment discrimination and with it a way to safeguard their access to vital employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans.”

Number 6: Hate returns to North Idaho

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Just when you thought Idaho was “too great for hate”, 33-year-old Shaun Patrick Winkler, reportedly a member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and links to the Aryan Nations and Church of Jesus Christ-Christian  made headlines around the world when announced his candidacy for Bonner County Sheriff in March.

Luckily, Winkler, who stood proudly with members of the Westboro Baptist Church when they protested a production of “The Laramie Project,” at North Idaho College in 2010, lost the election.

But, in this case, a loser never quits. Not only did Winkler go on a crusade against Mexican restaurants and a Martin Luther King Day event in Coeur d’Alene,The  Spokesman-Reivew reported in November, the now 34-year-old,”is building a new compound in North Idaho where he hosts Ku Klux Klan cross burnings and anti-Semitic Christian Identity church services.”

It sounds like maybe Chik-fil-A should consider building another on-campus restaurant, it would,  no doubt, feel right at home.

Number Five: State Lawmaker Finds Anti-Bullying Measures and Broke Back Mountain Offensive

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If the majority of individuals that make up Idaho’s LGBTQIA community didn’t know who House Education Committee Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, was before this year, we certainly do now.

When State Senator Nicole LeFavour mailed out copies of Ang Lee’s Academy Award winning film, “Brokeback Mountain,” last December, she did so in hopes of helping to educate her fellow lawmakers about the struggles of Idaho’s gay and lesbian community.

Nonini, who is catholic and who has a record of supporting anti-equality measures, wasn’t in the mood to learn about such topics as hate, discrimination, and gay bashing,””We drove home to Coeur d’Alene and in the mailbox was this copy of “Brokeback Mountain,'” Nonini told The Idaho Statesman in March. “Just the timing of receiving it after Christmas Mass was offensive to both my wife and I. We opened it and my wife just immediately resealed it and asked me if I’d just deliver it back to Nicole.”

He was, apparently, just as equally offended when an anti-bullying bill came before his committee during the last legislative session, as well. Despite overwhelming evidence of a high rate of bullying in schools around Idaho as well as an increase in reported suicide attempts, Nonini held the measure hostage telling  Coeur d’Alene Press, “There is no need for lawmakers to impose additional anti-bullying policies on schools.”

The anti-bullying bill, which passed the Senate 25 to 8 last session, would have directed Idaho’s 115 school districts to develop clear anti-bullying policies and procedures.

No offense, Bob, but we sure wish Idaho could quit you.

LDS Leaders refuse to meet with Soulforce Equality Riders

Despite numerous requests for a meeting with high ranking church officials this week, a group of gay activists were instead forced to discuss their concerns with members of the church’s public relations and public policy teams.

According to Q Salt Lake,”Members of the Soulforce 2012 Equality Ride reached out to Church leaders to ask them to cut ties with to Evergreen International, a group that promotes so-called reparative therapy, to stop funding and promoting groups that are fighting marriage equality, to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on gays current with Mormon teachings and to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the faith’s policies for church employees.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports,”Equality Ride had sought a meeting with Mormon higher-ups, including apostles or members of the church’s governing First Presidency. Instead, the advocates huddled with LDS legislative lobbyist Bill Evans, public-affairs representative John Taylor, former TV reporter Ruth Todd and LDS attorney Alexander Dushku, who helped write briefs defending the church’s position on California’s Proposition 8.”

Equality Rider Robert Moore, tells Q Salt Lake, “I am a member of this church, and because I am gay my leaders apparently find me so revolting they refuse to be in the same room as me. It just makes me realize how important it is to have this dialogue.”

Jason Conner, Equality Ride’s co-director, described the meeting to the Tribune as “overall positive,” noting that Evans in particular was “very gracious and hospitable.”

The Equality Ride, launched in 2006, targets its tour at college campuses and those communities in which religious oppression and prejudice have major strongholds, most often at the expense of those who are part of sexual orientation or gender identity minorities.

The riders will pull into Boise this afternoon for a 4:00 pm press conference on the State House steps. The stop in Boise will include a potluck dinner, screening of the award-winning documentary film”Love Free or Die” and an informal discussion with the riders themselves.

“An Evening with the Soulforce Equality Riders” will be held tonight from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship located at 6200 North Garrett Street in Boise. The event is free and open to the public.

You are encouraged to bring a dish to share during the dinner.

Watch: Gay Mormons at BYU say “It Gets Better”

A panel discussion on homosexuality at Brigham Young University drew a standing room only crowd this week.

According to blogger Trevor Antley, the “panel of three self-identified homosexual students and one bisexual student talked openly regarding their struggles with their sexuality and how they have coped with their same-gender attraction along with their Mormon faith.”

“All four students were attending BYU and had committed to living Church standards and the BYU Honor Code,” Antley reports.

While the students are to be commended for creating positive dialog regarding a subject that has long been taboo in most LDS circles, as Queerty’s Dan Avery points out, positive is a relative term.

“Most disturbingly, one of the speakers, Brandon Bastian, is married to a woman and has a young daughter. The secret to his “success” over homosexuality? “A genuine love… not based on physical intimacy,” he told the crowd.”

“That’s not a healthy marriage—that’s a perversity.  Is it any wonder, as Bastian casually mentioned, that his blushing bride is on medications that suppresses her libido?”, writes Avery.

Still, it’s a far cry from the days when the university ran a program that used electric shock therapy and other methods in an attempt to change a student’s sexuality.

Carri P. Jenkins, assistant to the president of BYU, told ABC News last march that,”Our understanding is that most behaviorists no longer believe this is an appropriate treatment for those who are seeking change.”

As further proof that attitudes among the university and its leaders maybe changing, a group of gay LDS students have produced an amazing video for the “It Get’s Better” project.

According to the video, there are over 1800 LGBT students who attend the church owned university.

 

 

Will Washington State’s Voter Initiative Become another “Mormon Proposition”?

Is the LDS Church on its way to involving itself in another Prop 8-like  showdown? It’s too early to tell but we do know that there’s been some talking going on.

According to Mormons for Marriage, Less than 24 hours after filing  Referendum 74 with the state’s attorney general’s office, “Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington and John Paulton of Focus on the Family (has) met with “Mormon Church Leaders” in Washington.  A staffer at the Family Policy Institute initially disclosed the meeting by phone, the meeting was later confirmed directly by Joseph Backholm.”

Backholm is a real sweet guy.  On the day Washington’s Governor signed the marriage equality bill, His group released a statement indicating marriage should only be used in cases of baby manufacturing,”Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for good reason,” wrote Backholm. “Marriage is society’s way of bringing men and women together so that children can be raised by, and cared for by, their mother and father – the people responsible for bringing them into the world.”

Meanwhile, Focus on the Family can’t really afford to be a player in the hate game without the LDS church’s involvement.  It’s been a little strapped for cash as of late. The Christian Post reported last fall Focus on the Family’s, “budget declined from $160 million for fiscal year 2008-2009 to $138 million for 2009-2010, and is expected to continue its downward slide for the current fiscal year.”

According to MSNBC,”The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been criticized for strongly encouraging its members to support Proposition 8, assigned a dollar value of nearly $190,000 to its role in getting the California initiative passed. More than half, or $97,000, went to the time staff of the Utah-based Mormon Church devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign, according to the church’s report. Another $21,000 was for the use of church buildings and equipment during the campaign. Most of the rest went to airline tickets, hotels and meals for church officials.”

That $190,000 doesn’t include the vast number of church members who attended anti-equality “firesides”, volunteered with “Yes” on Prop 8, or gave donations of their own.

Mormons for Marriage points out that,”It is unknown what was discussed or agreed to at (this weeks) meeting, or which church leaders attended.”

For a good idea of just how large the church’s role in Prop 8 was, be sure to check out the documentary, 8: A Mormon Proposition:

 

 

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