Thursday, March 1

Gay Marriage and Anti-Gay Discrimination

Having same-sex attraction as a part of my life has meant, for me, that I honestly care for others who have same-sex attraction as much as everyone else... and maybe even more. I feel a kinship to them. I think that's normal - I feel connected to people who have lived lives similar to mine and faced the same mountains to climb.

I also know that acting on that attraction, like every other action, is a controllable, personal choice. Homosexual activity is not an inborn trait. 

I have no problems with laws that forbid discrimination based on inherent attraction. It actually shocked me when I first realized that situations like that existed - where I could lose opportunities simply because I feel an attraction to other men, regardless of my choices or actions in relation to that attraction. 

And there is definitely still work that needs to be done in that respect. Even with laws, discrimination still happens on a far more personal level... a level that doesn't ever really see the light of day in the modern debates and protests.

I overheard a conversation between a few women who were talking about guys they knew... and one remarked that a guy she had dated was really into fashion. The response to her comment made me catch my breath: "You have to be really careful. Some of those guys are gay... and you definitely don't want that!" The conversation then drifted to stories of family members who had been abandoned by unfaithful gay husbands or fathers, and the frustration and betrayal they had seen.

I've heard those stories before. I know some of them personally. But, perhaps naively, I had never turned them back on my own circumstance. Each of the women in the group made a clear assertion that she didn't want to marry a man who was gay; and, from the tone of their conversation, it was apparent that gay meant not only those who acted on their attractions, but all of those who only had the attractions in the first place.

That would mean that I, by simple nature, would have already been cut from their dating pool... without ever having a chance.

I wonder how widespread that kind of feeling is in the world. 

I definitely don't want to marry an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or someone who doesn't keep their covenants. But would I be willing to marry someone with major trials and baggage, even if they matched me, I was in love, and they had done everything they could to choose the right? Are there things that I would never want in a marriage that, in reality, are just prejudices without substance?

I think the error there comes from the assumption that having same-sex attraction is the same thing as acting on same-sex attraction. But there is a big difference between discrimination based on inherent traits and discrimination based on action. Choices based on action are the core of what I see as society. I choose employees based on their past actions. I choose to serve customers or not based on past actions. I choose which employers to pursue, which restaurants to frequent, which candidate to elect, which church to attend, which people to befriend, and every other social and relational choice based on actions. 

I believe what is outlined in the family proclamation: that the sacred powers of procreation are reserved only for expression between husband and wife, legally and lawfully wedded. Anything outside of that - adultery, homosexual behavior, whatever - is a violation of the law of chastity, and I don't support, condone, or endorse sin.

Some of the laws and rulings on gay marriage include protections for religious institutions. But none of them include protections for me... and on that count, society fails to make a major distinction. If I'm a photographer and refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding because I believe same-sex marriage is inherently wrong and do not wish to support it with my time, creative effort, and indirect stamp of approval, today's judges will tell me I'm discriminating against people with homosexual attractions when, in reality, I'm discriminating against homosexual behavior. 

There are plenty of other things that I can legitimately refuse to photograph, but this one is somehow different in their eyes. The same if I won't open a party room to a commitment ceremony in my restaurant, or a guest home for the same reason. Along the same line, I could be relieved of my license to place children through adoption if I refuse to consider homosexuals... and the list goes on. 

I'd be happy to photograph men or women with same-sex attraction. I take pictures of myself already. But not in a circumstance that endorses or condones immoral behavior. I'm happy opening up a restaurant to anyone who supports actions I support, men and women with same-sex attraction included. I'll even place a child for adoption with a husband and wife if they both had same-sex attraction, as long as they were good parents. But I will not condone or endorse immoral behavior, and that has nothing to do with attraction. If asked to place my approval on anything that I don't agree with, I treat everyone and everything exactly the same, regardless of sex, race, gender, religion, or any other trait - because I would not be willing to endorse their actions.

Today's debates gloss over that. Ultimately, they're not talking about the issues that I see as central - the relational discrimination that is still happening, against people regardless of their actions, and the impact of laws on gay marriage. And, if it keeps moving the way it's moving, people will still discriminate against others in their personal relationships, and I'll be the next target of discrimination - the guy with same-sex attraction, who, unlike churches with legal protections, will be barred from practicing or asserting my beliefs about same-sex attraction... because of my faith.


  1. I am so grateful I have stumbled upon this article and your blog! The words you have written have answered questions I've been wondering about and feelings I've been trying to put into words for YEARS! I personally do not have to deal with same-sex attractions or anything like that, but now I feel I finally have something to say to people when they decide to attack me for not supporting homosexuality. Thank you SO much for your inspiring words! I have also learned a great deal from reading this- about homosexuality in general! I've always had a hard time understanding it, but I think I understand much more now. This was an answer to my prayers! I wish you the very best! God bless. :)

  2. You are exactly right, and the fundamental difference between identity and action is at the root of the problem in this discussion in our country today. It's where the analogy with the Civil Rights movement breaks down. I wish this aspect of the issue were discussed more often. Thanks for your insights.

  3. Interesting your thoughts about already being eliminated from the dating pool... As a divorcee I get that all the time. Sure, different item, but same underlying issue. People don't know some intimate details about people around them , and they go on to make a blanket statement about an issue and they think it has no impact on their acquaintances. This sort of discrimination you're talking about is far broader than just same gender attraction. People need to be more conscientious about what they say and who it impacts. I appreciate your blog, it helps me personally think a little more before I talk.

    On a side note, I've found that a number of people are okay dating a divorcee when they know the person first. Suddenly they realize it's not just a vague concept they're writing off, rather a real person they have a connection to. As frustrating as society's general disapproval may be, individual people still come around when they open their minds and hearts a bit.

  4. Faith:
    Please be careful about using things here in your relationships with others just because they seem to match circumstances. I appreciate your support. Please remember, though, that these are my thoughts, and while they work for me, I encourage you to turn to the Lord and build your own answers when you're faced with difficult decisions... as the way that you communicate with others is crucial to improving relationships and growing closer (together) to Christ.

  5. Perhaps it is more that they are not willing to take the risk that a mixed-orientation marriage may not be successful, not that they believe it is impossible? If you expect to be able to make your marriage last for all eternity, it makes sense to give yourself the best possible chance so that you are more grounded when trials arise.

    1. Joe -
      I totally agree. And looking at the statistics of marriages broken by same-gender attraction isn't really useful because we don't have many on those that are functional... except that we know some of them don't work.

      If that was their thought, and not just a blanket statement, then that would make sense. It makes sense to find someone who is best compatible with you to try for better success in marriage. I don't know for sure if they were making the comments from that perspective or from a more impossible/negative light.

  6. I really appreciate your thoughts, and especially your "Hidden Struggles" post. (I even blogged about it a week or so ago.) They are enlightening in many ways, and I thank you for being so bold to declare them, albeit anonymously.

  7. I'm glad that you are discussing this. My eldest daughter and I have had a couple of conversations in which your name (well, the name you use here) has come up. In the conversations I have asserted that you would make a perfect husband ... that it is your decisions and choices that qualify you to be an eternal companion to some blessed woman. She, in turn, has stated that she hopes to find someone like you. That it is not what crosses our mind, but what we allow to perform on the stages of our minds that matter. My greatest desire for my children is that they find a good, righteous spouse. From there, love can grow beyond our wildest dreams. Too bad for those women you were overhearing. They appear to be disqualifying themselves from many great and wonderful things!

    1. J and R:
      Thanks. I think there are a lot of men who would make great husbands - and many of them carry less (or different) baggage than I do. Any guy who is faithful could make a good husband to his wife and father to his children. The question then becomes: Which relationships fit best? I don't know how old your oldest daughter is, but if she's around my age, maybe I'll meet her and fall in love. That would be ironic. And somewhat awkward, as I'm not planning currently to tell my in-laws when I have them. "Mormon Guy, have you ever heard of this blog?" "Um, yeah. I have." "What do you think?" "Um... (insert something that doesn't make me sound arrogant, but is positive, and also doesn't give away who I am... and quickly changes the conversation.)"

    2. I don't think the girls are necessarily missing out on anything by not wanting to marry a same sex attracted man. Each of us has the right to know ourselves and what we want in a relationship. Maybe those girls want to be with a man who feels attracted to them on all levels. To them, that might be an important part of the equation. Knowing what they know about themselves, they might decide they'd actually be missing out on something by entering into a marriage with a homosexual man.

    3. Lol! Maybe awkward for you, not so much for me. I think I would be ecstatic! And you are right, any faithful member is just fine - baggage or not. I'm pretty sure that baggage makes us who we are and can help us stay the right course. As for best fit, I believe that any righteous man with any righteous woman can create a beautiful eternity together. Afterall, I'm not the same woman my husband married AT ALL (sorry for yelling) and he is not the same man. If we had depended on that relationship "fit" we would not have made it far. Thankfully our lives ebbed and flowed around the Gospel and we have built something of far greater worth than any romanticized Disney movie could have come up with! So if I should happen to ask one day if you have ever read (Gay) Mormon Guy you can answer any way you like, but for me, if you said "Yeah, that's me!" I'll have peace and joy in knowing my daughter has chosen someone truly worthy of her eternity.

    4. JonJon:
      If you put it that way, then I totally agree. One of the counsels that the Brethren have given regarding marriage in this context is the requirement for deep affection - something that matches what you described as being attracted on all levels. I would never dream of marrying a girl without being attracted to her on all levels - but I guess, from the outside, some people may think that it's impossible for a guy with same-sex attraction to fall in love with a girl in every way when he's never even been attracted before. I can totally understand why people who haven't had close personal experiences otherwise would believe that.

  8. Bravo! Well said. Thank you once again.

  9. Simply for the logic of your argument on discrimination - would you also choose not to photograph or to turn away from your business: liars, divorcees, adulterers, and other sinners? These are also sins. And some of these are sins people continually commit. Isn't it up to God to judge? In fact, in the comment above this one, you talk about withholding the truth from your future spouse's family. Wouldn't that be a sin of some sort?

    I am just an outsider, trying to understand the way you think.

    1. Shannon:
      I think you fell into the trap of equating an action with a person. I don't believe that they are the same.

      As I tried to convey in the post, I'm more than happy to photograph anyone, open my home to them, serve them and be a part of their lives... as long as I am not enabling or supporting them in sin. Photographing a liar doesn't give credence or support to his lies, unless he's also asking me to forge a fake ID, in which case I would object. Photographing an adulterer isn't endorsing adultery, unless he asks me to create the photo for a hook-up dating site, in which case I would again object.

      People are separate from their actions. Hence why I would be happy to photograph best friends who happen to be roommates and also have same-sex attraction, but would not participate in a gay commitment ceremony. On the one hand, I'm photographing people, regardless of who they are. On the other, I would be endorsing an action I feel is wrong.

  10. I'd like to note that the things you mention aren't being overlooked at all. They're some of the reasons put forward by the Church and other Prop 8 proponents, and there are very well-researched articles describing your exact concerns. For example: (from 2008).

    Where they break down, however, is a belief that refusing to photograph a gay couple is anything other than discrimination. In fact, wouldn't you say you're discriminating against evil? You're refusing to "endorse" evil by taking money from its practicers to perform a service.

    I understand the sentiment, but I feel that it's a slippery slope. If it's okay to refuse services to couples practicing homosexuality, shouldn't we also refuse to service an engaged couple that is sexually active? How about serving food to a man and his mistress at a restaurant? What about refusing to hire a former thief? What if that thief has since reformed? (I ask this because you make no mention of repentance and forgiveness in this post.) You mention judging others by their past actions. Should I sell my house to a divorced man? Should I buy a car from, and pay money to, someone that once took a hit of weed?

    You can't live life like this. The Savior does not ask us to judge others like this. It is not our place, and it's not our responsibility.

    Of course I am for religious freedom, and preserving the sacredness of our Temples and ward buildings. But I will not attempt to discriminate based on "righteousness" (or supposed lack thereof) in my personal or professional life. I am not required or responsible to conduct Temple Recommend interviews with those that I associate with and do business. Even my Bishop, a common judge in Israel, explicitly helps those who are not fully obedient. Jesus didn't turn away the sinner, and neither will I.

    1. Person:

      I think I may not have been clear if this was your understanding of my intentions in this post. I don't believe that I should judge people because of their actions, and bar them from services because of a negative event in the past. That reference to past actions was specifically created around the idea of a resume - which details past actions and is a major basis for hiring decisions in the American landscape.

      My point was that I should object to instances when my actions would be enabling or condoning sin. If someone comes to me and asks me, in a professional context, to use my skills to support or endorse active sin, then I'll object. I won't buy drugs from the guy who needs money, or photograph him while he's smoking, but I'll help him find a job. I won't help a thief steal money, but I'll offer him a place to sleep. I won't commit accounting fraud to protect embezzlement, or provide consulting services to tobacco companies or adult industries. I won't work on Sunday just because it fits a client's schedule, and I'll decline work when the obligation would take too much time away from my family. Conscience objections are a vital part of living the gospel in the world - hence why Christ said to be in, but not of the world, and why He gave that same example.

  11. C'mon, now. You're kidding yourself. Women and men ideally want to marry someone who is attracted to them. You're gay, as you've stated, not bisexual. You don't have a disease, you're not an alcoholic. You're gay. You are not going to be physically attracted to a woman. Why on Earth would you blame people for wanting to avoid and eliminate someone from their dating pool who is physically incapable of being attracted to them?

    Marriages certainly don't have to be based on attraction. And they don't have to be sexual. And obv sex doesn't have to be based on attraction. I think it's fine if you find a woman who is marrying solely for the contractual benefits that marriage provides. Or who doesn't mind that you aren't physically attracted to her. But if you lie to her and convince yourself that you are "attracted" to her, it's going to hurt you both in the long run. Certainly you could be attracted to her wit, her kindness, her soul, and superficially appreciate her face or body...but that's not really what physical/sexual attraction is about, and you know that otherwise you wouldn't emphasize that you are attracted to men. It looks like you keep redefining attraction within dating and marriage so that it minimizes sexual and physical attraction, but these are important elements to common parlance "attraction."

    I realize that the LDS view homosexual actions as a sin, but if the church were to amend their doctrine would You continue to interpret the text as being anti-homosexual actions or would you also amend your views?


    1. Sara:

      My actions and beliefs come from my own personal relationship with God. From those conversations, I've come to know what I had already once learned at Church - that while homosexual attraction itself is not inherently sin, any homosexual activity is. That's not going to change.

      If I were part of a different church - one more easily swayed by public opinion instead of led through revelation - a change in doctrine like that would make me honestly question my choice of churches.

      ...and I don't believe that sexuality is static. It's a continuum that shifts based on nature, nurture, hormones, personal choices, and a number of other aspects. Just because I've never been attracted to women before doesn't mean I can't be attracted to one woman someday.


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