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HRC Spurns 'Deeply Flawed' Mormon 'Deal' as Utah Gay Dems Celebrate It

The Human Rights Campaign today criticized a proposal from leaders at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which the Mormon church pledged support for Utah LGBT non-discrimination initiatives in exchange for religious exemptions, couching its proposal in "religious freedom" rhetoric.

LdsSaid HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a press release:

"Symbolically, seeing the church leaders advocating so openly for these protections will no doubt be deeply meaningful to Mormon families with LGBT members, and provide encouragement to LGBT youth in the church. But, as a matter of public policy, it appears deeply flawed....We share the church's commitment to freedom of religion. We embrace the principles of the First Amendment and believe churches do and should have the right to make determinations about who fills their pews. But non-discrimination protections only function when they are applied equally. It should be stated that there are countless LGBT Mormons, and Mormon allies, who support equality, not in spite of their faith but because of it. All Americans should have the right to be employed, receive housing and services in environments free of discrimination. We await the day the church embraces that fully, without any exceptions or exemptions."

Meanwhile, gay Utah Democrats were celebrating the 'deal'.

DabakisSaid state Senator Jim Dabakis in a statement:

"I am proud that the LDS Church has seen fit to lead the way in non-discrimination. As a religious institution, Mormons have had a long history of being the victims of discrimination and persecution. They understand more than most the value and strength of creating a civil society that judges people by the content of their character and their ability to do a job. Since serving as a Senator, and as the only LGBT member of the Utah legislature, I can say one of the joys of the job has been to meet and enjoy the company of LDS officials. I know that together, we can build a community that strongly protects religious organizations constitutional liberties and, in addition, creates a civil, respectful, nurturing culture where differences are honored and everyone feels welcome. Now, lets roll up our sleeves, get to work and pass a statewide Non-Discrimination Bill."

Equality Utah also saw the Mormon deal as a win.

Said Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams in a statement:

“We laud the LDS Church’s statement of support. The Church joins a growing number of faith, civic and corporate leaders who also stand on the side of compassion and fairness. We believe that gay and transgender Utahns can live and work beside people of faith. Many within the LGBT community are themselves people of faith. We look forward soon to the day when all Utahns have the opportunity to live and work freely in the state we call home.”

Watch the Mormon press conference from earlier today HERE.


Mormon Leaders Say They'll Support Gay Rights in Exchange for 'Religious Freedom': VIDEO

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Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered for a rare press conference on Tuesday at which they said they'll back statewide protections for LGBT Utahns in housing and employment in exchange for "religious freedom" exemptions, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Utah's predominant faith issued the plea for such measures at all level of government during a rare news conference, featuring three apostles — Elders Jeffrey R. Holland, Dallin H. Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson — and a high-profile women's leader, Neill Marriott, second counselor in the church's Young Women general presidency.

Said Oaks in a news release:

"We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country."

The shift in LDS policy appears to be the latest cog in the wheel of the religious right's attempt to reframe the conversation about LGBT rights into one in which religious people are somehow the victims and those who are seeking protections from discrimination, the oppressors.

We saw Jeb Bush blowing a similar dog whistle earlier this month in response to marriage equality in Florida.

ChristoffersonFrom the LDS press release:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (pictured) affirmed that this appeal to government leaders for a balanced approach between religious and gay rights does not represent a change or shift in doctrine for the Church.

Elder Oaks said that “those who seek the protection of religious conscience and expression and for the free exercise of their religion look with alarm at the steady erosion of treasured freedoms that are guaranteed in the United States Constitution.”

And he explained: “Since 1791 the guarantees of religious freedom embodied in the First Amendment have assured all citizens that they may hold whatever religious views they want, and that they are free to express and act on those beliefs so long as such actions do not endanger public health or safety. This is one of America’s most cherished and defining freedoms. Yet today we see new examples of attacks on religious freedom with increasing frequency.”

Elder Oaks shared several of those examples. The university system in California, he said, is forcing some groups to compromise their religious conscience if they want recognition for their clubs. And in one of America’s largest cities, lawyers acting for the city government subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new antidiscrimination law on religious grounds. Recently, he noted, the head of a large American corporation was forced to resign from his position in a well-publicized backlash to his personal beliefs.

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” Elder Oaks said. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”

The AP adds:

It's not clear how much common ground the Mormons will find with this new campaign. The church insists it is making no changes in doctrine, and still believes it's against the law of God to have sex outside marriage between a man and a woman.

Watch the LDS press conference and an explanation of the church's announcement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mormon Leaders Say They'll Support Gay Rights in Exchange for 'Religious Freedom': VIDEO" »


Mormon Church Moves to Excommunicate Critic for Supporting Marriage Equality and the Ordination of Women

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John Dehlin, a Mormon advocate for progressive change in the church, is facing excommunication after being charged with apostasy for supporting gay marriage and the ordination of women.

Dehlin, who runs the Mormon Stories website that serves as an online forum for Mormons critical of church teachings, says that his regional church leader has scheduled a disciplinary hearing for January 25.

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Dehlin said he would be excommunicated if he refused to take down podcasts that are critical of the church and to disavow his support for women’s ordination and gay marriage.

“I would prefer for them to leave me alone,” he said in an interview, “but if given the choice between denying my conscience and facing excommunication, I’d much rather be excommunicated.”

Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer who founded the Ordain Women movement in the church, was excommunicated last June, and Mr. Dehlin was warned then of the charges against him. But after the excommunication of Ms. Kelly created an uproar, the Mormon church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held off on excommunicating Mr. Dehlin while simultaneously disciplining dozens of others who had publicly questioned their faith.


Their Husbands Aren't 'Gay,' So Let's Stop Acting Like They Are

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The Interplay is a special biweekly series exploring the intersections of sex, pop culture, and current events.

BY CHARLES PULLIAM-MOORE

Last Sunday TLC invited us into the homes and lives of married Mormon men who, despite being in committed relationships with women, still felt sexual desires for other men. Taken at face value “My Husband’s Not Gay” is exactly the kind of contemporary sideshow attraction that TLC specializes in. As casual viewers we’re meant to poke fun at the documentary’s subjects and to decry TLC’s morally questionable exploitation of them. Having watched the show, however, there’s a much more interesting story being told about the complexities of modern relationships and broader cultural difference.

The joke built into the special is eye-rollingly simple, if a bit heartbreaking: here’s a group of men living in denial about who they really are; ain’t that funny? If we accept the show’s central premise as being true, then sure, there’s potential for some dark humor at the couples’ expense. When you really stop and think about it, though, there’s a degree of truth to the show’s title. These men aren’t gay, at least not socially.

Not a day goes by that someone somewhere makes the valid, though cliched, point that there is no real “X-community.” The idea is that queer people come from too diverse a set of backgrounds to simply lump together. In terms of political correctness, that’s all true.

But in our day-to-day interactions we all participate in various activities that compose a larger LGBTQ or queer culture. You there, sir or madam who’s reading this post? Congratulations; you’re creating queer culture. Everything from the music that we listen to to the legal happenings we follow is a part of of a group subculture that we, as non-straight people, are a part of.

It’s important to point out, though, that the LGBTQ community is about more than not being heteronormatively straight. Similarly, the gay community, culture, and identity cannot be reduced to gay men not wanting to have sex with women. Gays and lesbians who choose to remain celibate in accordance with Catholic beliefs, for example, shouldn’t be denied right to their identities simply because they choose not to have sex with others of the same sex. The husbands of “My Husband’s Not Gay” are up front about their urges, but they’re also fundamentally removed from the gay culture and community in a way that’s worth thinking about.

These families’ lives are built around the teachings of the Mormon Church that require certain behaviors that the typical gay man would find untenable. Unlike many popular examples of cultures that forbid homosexuality, the families here deal with the elephant in the room in an open way that comes across as both endearing and, for lack of a better term, weird.

These men are able to openly discuss their thoughts and desires with their wives and each other. If we think about these men as self-identified homosexuals, rather than gay men, who have chosen to abstain for religious reasons, then there’s a novelty to seeing them discuss their thoughts frankly.  As off putting as the the documentary’s premise may be to you or I, it isn’t fair to write off their entire way of living simply because we can’t imagine ourselves in their situations.

To be clear, there are many things about “My Husband’s Not Gay” that are problematic and made all the worse by TLC’s decision not to contextualize some of its content. Though none of the Mormon characters explicitly endorsed reparative therapy during the course of the first episode, three have been directly linked to the practice in their personal lives. Other plot elements such as the sliding danger scale and the implicit pathologization of same-sex attraction also deserve a more appropriate counterbalance that TLC could have easily provided.

That all being said, “My Husband’s Not Gay” profiles a group of families united in their faith that have somehow managed to carve out a curious, but valid cultural niche for themselves. Though we may not agree with their beliefs, the documentary is an opportunity for us to learn across our differences and perhaps come to understand that certain similarities don’t always equal sameness.


Thousands Sign Petition Calling For TLC To Cancel Mormon Reality Series 'My Husband's Not Gay' - VIDEO

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A petition calling for the cancellation of TLC’s new Mormon-centric reality program “My Husband’s Not Gay” has drawn the network’s attention before the documentary premieres this Sunday. 

“As a devout Christian, I understand the important role faith plays in the lives of the show’s main characters,” writes Josh Sanders, who started the petition. “As a gay Christian man who’s seen first hand how this message can harm people, I am calling on TLC to cancel “My Husband’s Not Gay” and to stop telling America that LGBT people should lie to themselves and to their faith communities about who they are and who they love.”

Sanders continues:

“The men featured in this show deserve to be shown compassion and acceptance. Perhaps even more importantly, TV viewers need to know the horrific consequences of trying to change who you are.

Instead, TLC is presenting victims’ lives as entertainment, while sending the message that being gay is something that can and ought to be changed, or that you should reject your sexual orientation by marrying someone of the opposite sex.”

Currently, the petition has just under 100,000 signatures. As word of the petition spread, TLC made a point of issuing an official statement to US Weekly magazine reaffirming its decision to air the program.

"TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment," said a network representative. "The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves."

The Salt Lake Tribune, meanwhile, reports that three of the Utahns profiled on the show are closely tied to groups that peddle dangerous, discredited conversion therapy:

Preston "Pret" Dahlgren is the former chairman of Evergreen International, a Mormon-linked organization that promoted so-called "reparative therapy." After Evergreen shut down last year, Dahlgren joined North Star International – yet another such group – as a board member.

His wife, Megan, has worked with three "reparative therapy" groups — Evergreen, North Star, and People Can Change.

And Jeff Bennion, another of men profiled in "Not Gay," is a spokesman for North Star.

None of this is mentioned even in passing in the special. Which is a clear attempt to deceive the viewers.

“My Husband’s Not Gay” airs this Sunday on TLC. Watch the trailer for the program AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Thousands Sign Petition Calling For TLC To Cancel Mormon Reality Series 'My Husband's Not Gay' - VIDEO" »


TLC's 'My Husband's Not Gay' Documents Gay Mormon Men Dating Women To 'Overcome' Their Sexuality: VIDEO

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TLC will air a documentary on January 1st about gay Mormon men in Salt Lake City who are married to women.

The men claim to use their faith in god to overcome anything that goes against their religious beliefs. Featuring three married couples and one bachelor, one of the men says he has “chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle.” Another participant helpfully explains “I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”

Some of the wives are delusional.

Watch a trailer for the TLC special, AFTER THE JUMP...

Mormon leaders recently reiterated the church's opposition to homosexuality.

Continue reading "TLC's 'My Husband's Not Gay' Documents Gay Mormon Men Dating Women To 'Overcome' Their Sexuality: VIDEO" »


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