Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Mama: A Letter from a Gay Son

I have recently discovered a gem. Or rather, a series of gems. These jewels? Armistead Maupin's series of books that began with Tales of the City. The city is San Francisco, and the first novel in the series begins in 1976 - the year I graduated from high school in a small town in southern Illinois.

I had purchased Tales in paperback after hearing Maupin give a reading in Seattle in the summer of 2011, but it sat on my bookshelf, unread past the first couple of chapters. I'm not sure now what prompted me to purchase the book on Kindle a few weeks ago and to begin reading - and keep on reading. But, wow, I'm glad I did. I read. And read. And read. I loved it. It made me feel light, happy, carefree, engaged. And I continued on to read the next volume in the series, More Tales of the City.

One of the main characters in Tales is a gay man named Michael. Michael was from Orlando, Florida, and like thousands of other gay men in the 70's, Michael moved to San Francisco so that he could live in an environment where he wasn't judged and condemned for being gay. 

Without giving away any of the plot, in the second book of the Tales series (which I just finished), Michael contracts an illness (not AIDS) which is life-threatening. Conceding to his imploring friends, he decides to dictate a letter to his parents in Orlando from his hospital bed. 

Although I realize I am probably infringing copyright, I hope Armistead Maupin will pardon me for quoting parts of the coming out letter Michael wrote to his mother in Orlando, who had become part of Anita Bryant's crusade. The words are so poignant ... they resonated so deeply with me, as I'm sure they will with others. I would like to think that they belong to the entire gay community, worldwide and timeless. Here's to the 70's ... and the 2010's ... :

" ... I'm sorry, Mama ... for how you must feel at this moment. I know what that feeling is, for I felt it for most of my life. Revulsion, shame, disbelief - rejection through fear of something I knew, even as a child, was as basic to my nature as the color of my eyes. 

"No, Mama, I wasn't 'recruited.' No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, 'You're all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You're not crazy or sick or evil ...'

"I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don't consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being ...

"I know I can't tell you what it is to be gay. But I can tell you what it's not.

"It's not hiding behind words, Mama. Like 'family' and 'decency' and 'Christianity.' It's not fearing your body, or the pleasures that God made for it. It's not judging your neighbor, except when he's crass or unkind.

"Being gay has taught me tolerance, compassion and humility. It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength. It has brought me into the family of man, Mama, and I like it here. I like it ...

"Your loving son,


It could have been signed, "Joseph." 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mormon Essays: Magical Powers and the Cost of Being Chosen

It was another “secret” destination – something I hadn’t planned on or expected during my recent trip out of town for Pride weekend.* I don’t know what exactly precipitated it. I was sitting in a reading by Armistead Maupin, and something he said triggered the realization, which was stunning. I could not believe I had never considered it before.

(* This post was originally published on my Invictus Pilgrim blog in June 2011.)

Why I Joined the LDS Church

This realization explained much of why I had done what I had done – why I had married, why I had repressed my homosexuality, why I had remained active in the LDS Church.

I was a golden convert. When I heard the message of the restored gospel, I readily embraced it. Doing so gave me a sense of purpose at a point in my life when I desperately needed one.

But it went beyond that. I also joined the Church because of the Mormon ideal family. I wanted that.  I came from a dysfunctional family in which there had been a lot of divorce, and I wanted the family that I had never had a child. This desire became problematic, which I never fully realized or understood until shortly before coming out, when I realized that I had tried to re-create in my own family, then “fix,” the family I never had as a child (a complex topic for another post).

I also thought joining the Church would get me out of homo hell. I believed what the Church taught about homosexuality. I believed it was a weakness, a predisposition that could be controlled, then eventually overcome, as long as I was faithful.

Then there was the whole matter of being elect. I was introduced to the Church by someone who thought I was special, golden, elect. This person told me, among other things, that I must have been tremendously valiant in the pre-existence, someone who therefore had a great mission to fulfill in this life. 

The day of my baptism

This person in turn introduced me to a “perfect” family who proceeded to “fellowship” me. This family also thought I was someone special. They welcomed me into their family circle and showered me with love and affection. I also met other church members who were incredibly warm and welcoming. I had never before in my life experienced anything like this.

I used to say that I was loved into the Church. I said this in a positive way, as a compliment to the Church, as a means of demonstrating its truthfulness. After all, “ye shall know them by their fruits.”  What I now realize was going on, however, is that I was basking in the attention given a new convert. And every new convert – let’s face it – boosts existing members’ belief that the Church is indeed true:  after all, if other people are joining the Church, it must be true, right?

The Dark Secret That Was My Thorn in the Flesh

I was deathly afraid of losing this newfound love and affection. In particular, I was afraid those who had introduced me to the Church and those who had fellowshipped and welcomed me would discover my deepest, darkest secret – that I was a homo, a queer, a fag. 

I also believed, because I wanted to believe it – passionately – that I was special. I believed that I was valiant in the pre-existence. I believed that I had a great mission to accomplish in this life. I believed it when she who had introduced me to the Church – a middle-aged woman of great faith who was charismatic and forceful – told me that I had a calling as a father. 

I believed it because I wanted desperately to believe it. I believed it because such beliefs would allow me to treat the same-sex attraction with which I had struggled for years as merely an attempt by Satan to thwart the great mission that was mine to accomplish in this life. Such beliefs allowed me, even propelled me, to believe that homosexuality was no more than a “thorn in my side” – a weakness akin to a predisposition to alcoholism - that would propel me to greater strength. I also believed that I was strong enough – or could be strong enough through prayer and righteous living – to overcome the attractions I felt.

As to my mission in life, I am embarrassed to admit this, but I truly believed that I had the potential to rise to great heights in the Church. I looked into my future and saw offices such as bishop, stake president, maybe mission president and perhaps even more. These expectations were fueled by those who had introduced me to the Church and by members who made comments like, “I’m sure I’ll read about you in the Church News someday.” They were also fueled by my patriarchal blessing, which spoke glowingly, e.g., of the “great work” that Heavenly Father saw in me.

What were the effects of these expectations? They significantly raised the cost of ever leaving the Church. I had to believe that the Church was true, for it provided the reason for believing that I was special, that I was better than other people, that I had almost magical powers, that there was a whole world, Harry Potter-like, beyond the ordinary one in which others (mere Muggles) functioned.

Such expectations, which became aspirations, also significantly increased the cost of acknowledging that I am gay, which would result in the collapse of the entire structure of my life post-baptism.  There was a cost of being special, and that cost was to enter upon a “career path” that required keeping up appearances and complying with a code of conduct. One false move, one careless admission, could mean time in the penalty box or, even worse, that I was out of the game.

The Cost of Being Chosen

However, there was also a toll that was being incurred, day by day, month by month, year by year, as I struggled to maintain this outward persona. It was a dreadful toll, being exacted not only from me, but also from my wife and children. Eventually, I reached a point where payment of this toll was demanded, and the cost exceeded that of any benefits accruing from the path I had so diligently tried to walk.

(One commenter on the original post wrote the following with respect to the above paragraph: "Yes, yes, yes! I have lived this. Then one day you arrive at a point where you realize that the cost of living a lie is much greater than the cost of giving up some of what you believed. Then you take a true leap of faith and find out you can fly.")

All of these thoughts and more passed through my mind in a matter of moments as I sat listening to Armistead Maupin. Suddenly, with great clarity, I understood much about myself, about things I had known but had buried deep within me. 

Then, just as suddenly, I understood that these realizations were a gift from a part of me that wanted me to forgive myself for not coming out earlier in life; for I saw even more clearly why this had not been possible: the person I then was would never have permitted it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Marriage Equality: Rationality vs. Irrationality

Legislatures sometimes do some really irrational things. And sometimes, they or other groups in society prompt the populace as a whole to do some irrational things. And that's one of the reasons we have federal courts in this country: to review such actions to determine whether they are rational or irrational in light of the law of this land.

Specifically, a law that discriminates against a certain class of society must, at the very least, be rationally connected to a legitimate government purpose. If the law fails that test, then it is unconstitutional and must be struck down.

Case in point: Kitchen v. Herbert, the case that resulted in several Utah laws being struck down as unconstitutional, including Amendment 3 to Utah's state constitution (which I'll refer to collectively as the "Traditional Marriage Laws"). 

Another case in point that followed on the heels of Kitchen was Bishop et al v. Oklahoma et al, in which Federal District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled that Oklahoma's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was also unconstitutional. 

The States of Utah and Oklahoma (the latter's interests represented by Tulsa County Clerk) were each obliged to defend these laws by, among other things, proving to the court that there is a rational connection between refusing to permit or recognize same-sex marriages and legitimate government purposes.

We're going to hear a lot about rational connections and legitimate government purposes in the months ahead as Kitchen v. Herbert and Bishop climb the appellate food chain (the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal will hear each case), perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court. So, I think it's worth taking a look at some of the "legitimate government purposes" that Utah claims justifies its Traditional Marriage Laws, claims that were echoed in the Bishop case.


Let's speak some truth here: Though the State of Utah and Anti-Marriage Equality advocates like to talk about preserving traditional marriage and the welfare of children - lots and lots of talk about the welfare of children - the bottom line is that these arguments (sometimes thinly veiled) are an attempt to hide the real reason they are against marriage equality, i.e., they believe homosexuality is immoral.

In his decision, Judge Kern in Bishop addressed the line of argument that the State has a rational interest in restricting marriage to heterosexual couples because homosexual behavior is immoral. 

The Court recognizes,” he wrote, “that moral disapproval often stems from deeply held religious convictions … However, moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification for a law.” Quoting from the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in Lawrence (a decision which ruled that states cannot criminalize consensual gay sex), Judge Kern points out that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” 

In Kitchen, Judge Shelby addresses this point by quoting from Justice Scalia in Lawrence when he wrote, “‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same- sex couples.” And from another Supreme Court case, Shelby takes another quote when he writes, "'[While] [p]rivate biases may be outside the reach of the law, . . . the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect' at the expense of a disfavored group’s constitutional rights." [Palmore v. Sidoti]

Preserving the Traditional Definition of Marriage

Another favorite of Anti-Marriage Equality advocates is the proposition that preserving the traditional definition of marriage is itself a legitimate state interest. 

Judge Shelby deals with this argument in Kitchen by quoting from Supreme Court precedent to note that "tradition alone cannot form a rational basis for a law": "[N]either the antiquity of a practice nor the fact of steadfast legislative and judicial adherence to it through the centuries insulates it from constitutional attack" [Williams v. Illinois], and “[a]ncient lineage of a legal concept does not give it immunity from attack for lacking a rational basis.” [Heller v. Doe].

Responsible Procreation

In Kitchen, the State of Utah advanced the argument that “[t]raditional marriage with its accompanying governmental benefits provides an incentive for opposite-sex couples to commit together to form [] a stable family in which their planned, and especially unplanned, biological children may be raised.”

Judge Shelby dealt with that argument as follows: 
"The State has presented no evidence that the number of opposite-sex couples choosing to marry each other is likely to be affected in any way by the ability of same-sex couples to marry. Indeed, it defies reason to conclude that allowing same-sex couples to marry will diminish the example that married opposite-sex couples set for their unmarried counterparts. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples model the formation of committed, exclusive relationships, and both establish families based on mutual love and support. If there is any connection between same-sex marriage and responsible procreation, the relationship is likely to be the opposite of what the State suggests. Because Amendment 3 does not currently permit same-sex couples to engage in sexual activity within a marriage, the State reinforces a norm that sexual activity may take place outside the marriage relationship."
Judge Kern in Bishop expressed similar sentiments:
[T]here is no rational link between excluding same-sex couples from marriage and the goals of encouraging “responsible procreation” among the “naturally procreative” and/or steering the “naturally procreative” toward marriage. If a same-sex couple is capable of having a child with or without a marriage relationship, and the articulated state goal is to reduce children born outside of a marital relationship, the challenged exclusion hinders rather than promotes that goal."
Optimal Child Rearing

Utah and Oklahoma both advanced arguments the State has an interest in "optimal child rearing" and that a prohibition of same-sex marriages advances this interest. Neither Judge Shelby nor Judge Kern were convinced.

Judge Shelby:
"There is no reason to believe that Amendment 3 has any effect on the choices of couples to have or raise children, whether they are opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples … If anything, the State’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from the State’s goal of promoting optimal environments for children. The State does not contest the Plaintiffs’ assertion that roughly 3,000 children are currently being raised by same-sex couples in Utah. These children are also worthy of the State’s protection, yet Amendment 3 harms them for the same reasons that the Supreme Court [in Windsor] found that DOMA harmed the children of same-sex couples. Amendment 3 'humiliates [] thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.' ... Utah’s prohibition of same-sex marriage [also] further injures the children of both opposite-sex and same-sex couples who themselves are gay or lesbian, and who will grow up with the knowledge that the State does not believe they are as capable of creating a family as their heterosexual friends."
Judge Kern, in Bishop
"The Court assumes, for purposes of this motion for summary judgment only, that (1) the “ideal” environment for children must include opposite-sex, married, biological parents, and (2) that “promoting”this ideal is a legitimate state interest. Again, however, the question remains whether exclusion of same-sex couples promotes this interest, or is simply a guise for singling out same-sex couples for different treatment due to “moral disapproval” of a same-sex household with children. Smith [Oklahoma] has not articulated, and the Court cannot discern, a single way that excluding same-sex couples from marriage will “promote” this “ideal” child-rearing environment."
Proceeding With Caution: Negative Impact

In Kitchen, Utah contended that it has "a legitimate interest in proceeding with caution when considering expanding marriage to encompass same-sex couples." But Judge Shelby ruled that the State was not able to cite any evidence to justify its fears. 

Similarly, in Bishop, the State argued that avoiding a redefinition of marriage that would “necessarily change the institution and could have serious unintended consequences.” Judge Kern dealt with this argument as follows:
"The 'negative impact' argument is impermissibly tied to moral disapproval of same-sex couples as a class of Oklahoma citizens. All of these perceived 'threats' are to one view of the marriage institution – a view that is bound up in procreation, one morally “ideal” parenting model, and sexual fidelity. However, civil marriage in Oklahoma is not an institution with “moral” requirements for any other group of citizens.
"[The Tulsa County Clerk] does not ask a couple if they intend to be faithful to one another, if they intend to procreate, or if they would someday consider divorce, thereby potentially leaving their child to be raised in a single-parent home. With respect to marriage licenses, the State has already opened the courthouse doors to opposite-sex couples without any moral, procreative, parenting, or fidelity requirements. Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived “threat” they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority’s disapproval of the defined class. It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships."
That last sentence is a perfect way to end this post: The gist and effect of all of the arguments advanced by so-called "traditional marriage" advocates can be summed up as follows:
"Exclusion of [gays and lesbians] from receiving a marriage license ... is insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Celestial Glory Shall Be Mine: A Place for Gay Mormons

Perhaps no other consideration provokes more angst in the mind of a gay Mormon who loves the (LDS) Church and believes in the Gospel than that of where he fits into the Mormon concept of eternity.* In other words, does allowing himself to be true to his homosexual nature lock him out of Heavenly Father’s presence in the afterlife.

Exaltation:  Moving the Goalposts

One of the very first songs a Mormon child learns to sing is “I Am a Child of God,” a very sweet little song that contains within its simple melody and honeyed phrases the essence of LDS theology. At a tender age, children learn that they are children of God, that they lived somewhere else in God’s presence before they came here to earth, that they have been sent from that place to this earth, and that their goal is to return to Heavenly Father some day.

The song teaches a number of other principles, some of which I hope to return to; but for this post, I want to focus on the fourth verse, which contains the summum bonum of LDS theology:

I am a Child of God. 
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.

For faithful members of the Church, merely being “saved” is not enough; the goal of life is nothing short of “exaltation.” Former apostle Bruce R. McConkie explained the significance of this doctrine in his classic, Mormon Doctrine
“Exaltation grows out of the eternal union of a man and his wife. Of those whose marriage endures in eternity, the Lord says, ‘Then shall they be gods’ (D&C 132:20); that is, each of them, the man and the woman, will be a god. As such they will rule over their dominions forever … 
“Marriages performed in the temples for time and eternity [unite] … the participating parties [as] husband and wife in this mortal life, and if after their marriage they keep all the terms and conditions of this order of the priesthood, they continue on as husband and wife in the celestial kingdom of God. If the family unit continues, then by virtue of that fact the members of the family have gained eternal life (exaltation) …  
“Mortal persons who overcome all things and gain an ultimate exaltation will live eternally in the family unit and have spirit children, thus becoming Eternal Fathers and Eternal Mothers … becoming gods in their own right” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 117, 129, 613).
It is perhaps difficult for non-Mormons to understand the centrality to LDS theology of these beliefs and teachings. For most Christians, “salvation” is a post-mortal reward that results – in essence – from living a good moral life, from following the teachings of Jesus Christ and from believing that He can atone for mortal shortcomings. 

LDS theology, however, has moved the goalposts way past the concept of mere “salvation.” Though faithful Mormons believe that in God’s house “are many mansions” [which, in Mormon-speak, means kingdoms or degrees of glory] which may be perfectly fine for other people, they believe that – for them - salvation is basically an “all or nothing” concept:  either one obtains exaltation (with all that this term implies – see Bruce R., above) or just forget it. No lower “degree of glory” is acceptable. 

This concept is taught from a very young age and is reflected in the above-quoted passage from the 4th verse of “I Am a Child of God”:  “Celestial glory shall be mine - IF I can but endure” [emphasis added]. This verse also reflects another, companion, precept that is of paramount importance in Mormon theology:  obedience. Obtaining celestial glory is contingent upon “enduring to the end,” obeying all of God’s commandments (especially remaining “temple worthy”) and doing all that is required to reach that goal.

The Centrality of the Temple

Paradoxically, and as an aside, a modern-day Christian might more easily relate to the teachings of the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, rather than current teachings. Joseph declared that “the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it" (emphasis added; TPJS, p. 121).  He also declared that the first principle of the Gospel to be “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

In today’s Church, however, it is arguable that the cluster of doctrine surrounding eternal / celestial / temple marriage constitutes the “fundamental principles of our religion … and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”; furthermore, perhaps not surprisingly, the “first law of heaven” has in practical terms arguably supplanted the first principle of the gospel.  “Obedience is the first law of heaven,” wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest.” And this first law of heaven has been correlated and woven through much of what one currently finds in instruction manuals, conference talks and church magazine articles.

But I digress.

The point is that this “all or nothing” concept is at the root of much of what produces angst, self-hatred, deceit and heartache in Mormon men and women who have the extreme misfortune of having been born anything but heterosexual.

If a young gay man does not marry a woman in the temple and then remain faithful to his temple covenants (i.e., enduring to the end), he automatically knocks himself out of the running for exaltation. He knows this, of course, and as a faithful Mormon, it causes him no end of worrying which can quickly escalate into depression. Apart from everything else he feels because he knows he is gay, he feels a deep and dark dense of failure because he knows he’s missed – forever – the brass ring.

Because eternal rewards are bound up in the concept of family kingdoms (exaltation of families, not individuals), actions of a family member in mortality are seen as affecting not only that family member’s eternal salvation, but also the salvation of his entire family of origin. This leads to parents of gay children not only mourning the “loss” of these children, whom they believe have lost their chance to sit in the eternal family circle, leading to the proverbial empty chair (“No Empty Chairs” being a slogan commonly found on walls in Mormon homes); it also often leads to resentment toward this child for putting the exaltation of the entire family in jeopardy.

Beyond all these theological concerns, however, are the (some would say equally important) cultural concerns. A temple marriage for their children is the fondest hope of many a Mormon parent, particularly in areas where there are large concentrations of Church members. A temple marriage is a sign to the community in such areas that a child is ok, is doing the right thing, is respectable, is on “the path.” Failure to marry in the temple, on the other hand, often becomes the subject of speculation and subjects the child’s parents to embarrassment if not outright shame in the their community (which, of course would often pale in significance when compared with the shame of having a gay son).

A Place for Heavenly Father’s Gay Children

So, what is a young gay Mormon to do?  “Teach me all that I must do,” he used to sing in Primary, “to live with Him [Heavenly Father] someday.” Is there a place for him in Heavenly Father’s home? Why is there so much emphasis in the Church upon exaltation (which, apart from what has been described above, contributes to a culture of fake perfectionism in the Church)? Why does this have to be the end-all? 

The 131st and 132nd sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) are the scriptural sources for the LDS doctrine of three degrees of glory within the celestial kingdom. D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:16-17 read as follows:
“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase … Therefore, when they [i.e., those who are not sealed in the temple] are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.”
Though faithful Mormons have a tendency to focus on the plight of (i) those who have merited (through personal righteousness) the blessing of living in the presence of God for all eternity but (ii) have failed to get married in the temple (who wants to be an “angel” when one could be “worthy of a far more … eternal weight of glory”?), the point remains that these are the only passages in Mormon scripture that describe to any degree the two “lower” degrees of glory within the Celestial Kingdom.

Apart from anything else that could (and has) been said about this section, why has nothing ever been said about the other two degrees of glory (except that the inhabitants thereof cannot have increase, i.e., spirit children)? Could we – including the Brethren – not stop and humbly acknowledge the vastness of our ignorance with respect to such matters?

Is there not ample room within Mormon theology to provide a place in the afterlife for Heavenly Father’s gay and lesbian children? 

Did not Jesus himself say that in His father’s house are many mansions? Why don’t we as members of the Mormon community ever talk about those many other mansions?

Couldn’t families (and the whole church membership) benefit from backing away from the all-or-nothing emphasis on exaltation? 

And finally, could not our young gay Mormon, together with those he loves, share celestial glory – the kind he used to sing about as a child? 

I believe he can.

* This post was originally published in the summer of 2011 on my Invictus Pilgrim blog. I explain here why I have decided to republish selected Invictus Pilgrim posts and make them available on this blog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marriage Equality: It's Not About Children

Opponents of marriage equality like to say that prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage is about protecting children.

It’s not. 

It’s fundamentally about two people who love each other (just like heterosexual couples) and who, as citizens of the United States, desire the same social and legal recognition (and accompanying benefits) of their relationship as that traditionally enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

This, I think, was the key element of Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling last month in Kitchen v. Herbert. The State tried to make it about children, but Judge Shelby rejected that approach, as is reflected in the following snippets from his ruling that follow a logical progression toward his conclusion:

  • “A person’s choices about marriage implicate the heart of the right to liberty that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment … 
  • “The State’s prohibition of the Plaintiffs’ right to choose a same-sex marriage partner renders their fundamental right to marry … meaningless ...
  • “[H]owever persuasive the ability to procreate might be in the context of a particular religious perspective, it is not a defining characteristic of conjugal relationships from a legal and constitutional point of view … 
  • “Both same-sex and opposite-sex marriage are therefore simply manifestations of one right—the right to marry—applied to people with different sexual identities …
  • “Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition …
  • “The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse.
  • “[T]he Constitution protects the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry [which has a long history of legal precedent] and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government. These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being. The Constitution therefore protects the choice of one’s partner for all citizens, regardless of their sexual identity.”

Judge Shelby’s words read very well in the court of public opinion (at least I think so). But they are also, I believe, quite profound from a legal perspective. Why? Because the Supreme Court has long held that a right to marry exists under the U.S. Constitution. But no court – so far as I am aware – prior to Judge Shelby’s ruling had found specifically that there is a legal right to marry someone of one’s own gender, citing the common-sense principle that a constitutional right to marry is meaningless if the government interferes with the very personal choice of whom to marry.

Rational Basis

Most of the legal attacks against marriage equality are linked to what is called the “rational basis test.” If a law discriminates against a class of people, government must have a rational basis for doing so; if it does, then the discrimination is legal; if it doesn’t, the discrimination is unconstitutional. One of the jobs of the courts is to decide what types of discrimination are permissible and what kinds aren’t.

In its arguments in Kitchen v. Herbert, the State of Utah tried, unsuccessfully, to demonstrate that there is a rational basis, based on legitimate public policy goals, for discriminating against gays and lesbians by prohibiting the government from allowing or recognizing same-sex marriages. 

A discussion of these arguments will be left for another day. For present purposes, however, I’d like to quote a couple of passages from Judge Shelby’s ruling as well as the recent ruling of (federal) Judge Terence Kern in which he found that Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Judge Kern: “Civil marriage in Oklahoma does not have any procreative prerequisites. See supra Part VI(C); see also Gill [a federal court of appeals decision addressing same-sex marriage issues] , 699 F. Supp. 2d at 389 (“[T]he ability to procreate is not now, nor has it ever been, a precondition to marriage in any state in the country.”).” 
Judge Shelby: “[H]owever persuasive the ability to procreate might be in the context of a particular religious perspective, it is not a defining characteristic of conjugal relationships from a legal and constitutional point of view. The State’s position demeans the dignity not just of same-sex couples, but of the many opposite- sex couples who are unable to reproduce or who choose not to have children.”
The inability of gay and lesbian couples to procreate argument is only one of those advanced by the State and “traditional” marriage activists. In one or more subsequent posts, I will look at other arguments, including an emerging pet theory that children, whether born or not, have an inalienable right to opposite-sex parents (one that will be prominently featured at the upcoming “Stand for Marriage” rally).

But before I leave, I want to state that I am the father of 10 children. I love my children. My partner (soon-to-be-husband) loves my children. But my desire to marry the man I love fundamentally has nothing to do with my children. It is about Mark and me and our commitment to and love for each other. Period.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Fair-Minded Utahns Should Know About "Traditional" Marriage Activists

"[S]upport for gay marriage means supporting the view of children as COMMODITIES FOR PURCHASE, otherwise known as SLAVES."

~ Robert Oscar Lopez
Featured Speaker at the Upcoming “Stand For Marriage” Rally

Recent polls show that an increasing number of Utahns are in favor of marriage equality in our state. An overwhelming percentage of Utahns are now in favor of (at least) civil unions. But, a strident minority of Utahs who wield significant political influence – if not power – in this state have organized a “Stand for Marriage” rally on January 28th, the presumed purpose of which is to influence public opinion.

But fair-minded Utahns should know what kind of people have been asked to speak at this event and some of the things they have said about gay and lesbian people.

These Are Family Values?

One of the featured speakers at the rally is to be Robert Oscar Lopez. I had never heard of the man when I read his name in the paper. But a quick Google search revealed some appalling information about what this man has said about gay people and about their relationships.

I started off the post with one of his quotes. Here are a few more gleaned from GLAAD’s website and elsewhere on the web:
“Gay dads are just two pairs of men running off to live in a world of men, avoiding the hassles and PMS and demands of the women who bear them children.” 
“The scars inflicted on the survivors of slavery are tied to the fact that our ancestors [he claims that, being Puerto Rican, some of his ancestors may have been slaves] were bought, sold, and robbed of a link to our biological roots. This is precisely what gay parenting does to kids through baby farming, adoption on demand, insemination, and surrogacy.” 
“The movement to liberate same-sex love began because people loved each other. Somehow, through convoluted digressions, it has become a tyrannical octopus seeking to control life and death itself. The Rubicon was crossed when the gay movement sided with human trafficking; graft-ridden dirty deals with warlords for orphanages; bio-engineering, baby-farming, and emotional deprivation of innocent children by forcing them to replace a biological parent with a fictional same-sex partner.”
One of the most disgusting of Lopez’ comments concerns Edith Windsor, a woman who was in a committed relationship with another woman for over 40 years whose challenge to DOMA led to last summer’s landmark decision. (Warning, some of the language is extremely crude.)
“[Edith Windsor] went to the Supreme Court and demanded that American taxpayers reward her for having lesbian sex by issuing her a back check for $300,000+. This is what civil marriage is based on. The country pays you to have sex. When it's a man and a woman having sex, it makes sense -- we need men to have sex with women so that we procreate. Why do we need Edith Windsor to have sex with another lady? What is the public interest in their sex life? They have the freedom to engage in sex because after Lawrence v. Texas, anti-sodomy laws have been deemed unconstitutional. So it's not possible for the state to prevent Edith Windsor from jumping into the sack with another sexy senior female and using dildos, dental dams, frottage, or whatever stimulating activities might send them into erotic thrall. They are free to do that. Once they are legally married, however, and they want the state to pay them for this mutually gratifying sexual activity, they are now no longer free to stop having sex.”
Lopez claims to have been raised by two lesbian mothers, but his own published accounts are extremely vague. It also appears that Lopez is one of the stars of an effort by the National Organization for Marriage (see below) to find children of gay couples who can discredit their parents.

How can Utahns who claim to speak for traditional family values associate themselves with such a man?

Brian Brown of NOM: The Other Featured Speaker

The National Organization for Marriage, which was co-founded by Maggie Gallagher and is currently led by Brian Brown, has been fighting marriage equality for years – and losing, at least on the domestic front. They have recently started exporting their hate campaign overseas, most notably in France and Russia.

A simple Google search will yield much information about NOM and Brian Brown.  I would, however, like to include a link to this video produced by the Human Rights Campaign.

Local Speakers

Mary Summerhays, who has organized the Stand for Marriage Rally, offered the following quote to the Deseret News after a recent “rally” at the Golden Corral in Orem, Utah:
"When we redefine marriage law we have said to those children, 'Your rights don't matter anymore. [Federal District Court] Judge [Robert] Shelby has proposed this new experiment that says, 'No, we're not going to use the power of marriage to protect a child's relationship with their mother and father. Instead, we're going to use that power of marriage to alienate that child's relationship with their mother and father.'"
One of the other local speakers will be Utah State Senator Stuart Reid, who published an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune just before Christmas. In his editorial, Reid implied very strongly that Shelby’s ruling could lead to civil revolt and violence and concluded his remarks with a very thinly veiled reference to what is really behind his views – animus against gays and lesbians:
“The result of these and other rulings around the nation are in effect massacring the institution of traditional marriage and morality, and no less important, demonstrating disdain against the will of the majority … 
“It is unknown how the majority is going to react in the coming months to the judicial adventurism it is being subjected to, but if its will continues to be contravened and if history is any indicator, all should be sobered by what the future holds for the Republic … 
“Forcing the majority to give up its constitutional rights for judicial activism protecting sexual activities heretofore held to be immoral is not only unfair, but will expose the nation to unrestrained enmity. The judiciary should be much more circumspect over what it is unleashing.”
Circling the Wagons

There are many, many people in this State who are gay or lesbian, and there are far more who are family members of such people. Fathers. Mothers. Brothers. Sisters. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Sons. Daughters. Most LGBT people in Utah come from Mormon families – families who are increasingly circling the wagons around their gay and lesbian children.

The people who are speaking at the Celebration of Marriage Rally – though wrapping themselves in the flag and religion - do not represent Utah values. They are launching a direct attack on the extended families of Utah - many of whom are faithful Mormons - that love their gay and lesbian children and are also offending the sensibilities of fair-minded Utahns who are put off by their language, tactics and views of extremists.

I choose to believe that the more Utahns know about what these activists are saying and doing, the more public opinion will continue to shift away from fear and towards love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Fool For a Client: Utah's New Lawyers

I found it very interesting to read about the three attorneys that the State of Utah has hired to defend its ban on licensing or recognition of same-sex marriage.

The lead attorney, Gene C. Schaerr, is, in the words of Sean Reyes, a Utah native who “understands our unique history and community."

As soon as I read that, I knew what Reyes meant: Gene Schaerr is a Mormon who “gets it.”

Yes, he “gets it.” A quick Google search turned up, among other things, a 2012 article in Meridian Magazine (a well-known ezine for Mormons) in which he wrote the following:
“Church members who live in Maryland—or who have friends or relatives living in Maryland—have a wonderful and immediate opportunity to act on our leaders’ recent reminders of the importance of defending traditional man-woman marriage … through what is called “Ballot Question 6” [which would] overturn the same-gender marriage law that narrowly passed the Maryland legislature earlier this year. 
“I can’t promise that future generations of Marylanders will personally thank you for your support: Once this crisis has passed, they likely won’t fully understand the threat that the new Maryland law poses to our culture of marriage or to the welfare of children. But I’m certain there is One who will be very pleased with those who step up and defend traditional marriage during this critical time.”
Schaerr, who has resigned from his law firm, has also worked out some sort of deal with the Salt Lake City-based archconservative “think tank,” the Sutherland Institute. Hmmm.

Schaerr will be assisted by John Bursch, former solicitor general of Michigan who has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court, and Monte Neil Stewart, each of whom have agreed to cap their fees at $50,000 each, while Schaerr has agreed to cap his fees at $200,000.

Stewart assisted the AG’s office with their successful appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay of Judge Shelby’s December ruling. Stewart received both his undergraduate and law degrees from BYU and appears to have devoted a significant amount of time and effort to fighting marriage equality, not only in Utah but elsewhere in the country.

It turns out that Stewart was a co-chair in 2004 of Utahns for a Better Tomorrow, one of the four sponsors of Utah Amendment 3 which limited marriage to male-female couples and prevented the recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships. He has also been heavily involved in the founding and  running of the Provo-based Marriage Law Foundation.

I was unable to determine whether Bursch is a Mormon, but it is well-established that Schaerr and Stewart are not only active Mormons but ultraconservative Mormons who, based on their writings, clearly believe they are engaged in a Heaven-blessed crusade to “defend” “traditional” marriage.

Fair enough.

But I have to wonder what kind of job they can do for the State of Utah - which, after all, is not the LDS Church. These men are effectively representing themselves and beliefs that they have spent decades propounding. They are so passionately involved in their “mission,” and quite clearly believe they are on God’s side … Can they be dispassionate enough to engage the proponents of marriage equality? Will they believe so earnestly in the righteousness of their cause that they will be blind to other perspectives that might actually better serve their client?

I certainly hope so. It can’t hurt.

“A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” 
– Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

Friday, January 17, 2014


"Have good trust in yourself, not in the One that you think you should be, 
but in the One that you are."

~ Taizan Maezumi, Zen Master

For most of my life, I have been enmeshed in what I call "should-ism." Who and what I am was not good enough. If that sounds whiney, I hasten to add that the person who most persistently told me I'm not good enough was myself. Of course, it was a learned behavior; but I learned it very well. And I know I'm not alone in this regard.

I got annoyed with myself the other day because I became annoyed at a situation, upon which annoyance my ego feasted for several hours. My inner critic went into hyper-drive and told me, "You shouldn't be that way. You should be this way."

And that's when I decided I'd had it. I decided to sit down and write in my journal about what had happened, and I learned a few things.

First, I realized how strongly "should-ism" permeates my life. I should be this. I should be that. I shouldn't be this; I shouldn't do that. 

Second, "should-ism" is totally other, i.e., it directs my attention outside myself (i) because what's inside myself is not good enough, and (ii) therefore I have to look to other beliefs and persons in order to be better.

Third, I realized I'm afraid to let "should-ism" go. I realized I am afraid of the void that my ego tells me would be created if I sent Shouldism packing. 

Shouldism is like a stern, disapproving school marm who is constantly correcting, telling me who I am, telling me when I do wrong, never praising me, always telling me I could do better, telling me I am nothing without her, that I am her, that I can't live without her saving me from myself. 

I realized I have been afraid to tell her that she needs to go. I am afraid to confront her for what she has done to me. This has been my normal, and - I mused - she is the only person who loves me, and I can only feel self-love through her.

What, my ego tells me, will happen if I tell her to go, or if I simply leave her classroom? All these "shoulds" have been my identity, have given me my sense of self-worth as I have fulfilled my shoulds (and my should nots). There is the fear that I will be nothing without Shouldism.

As I have typed this and looked at the words I wrote in my journal the other day, I have had other realizations (which is one of the reasons I blog) that are too personal to share here. Suffice it to say that it became clear to me that the school marm has taken on various personifications throughout my life ...

So what, I asked myself, am I going to do about this? First, recognize Shouldism's presence and be conscious of her influence. Second, work at having trust in myself, not in the person my ego thinks I should be. Third, confront - and, hopefully, eventually overcome - the fear of being alone with myself as I banish Shouldism from my life, resting in the belief that I am good enough.

I realize this probably will sound like absolute gibberish to some people (perhaps most) who may read this post. But that's okay. This is for me.

"Trust in myself with all mine heart and lean not upon the ego's
 or others' understanding. In all my ways believe in myself
and my path shall open before me."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mormon Essays: Virtue in Pain

We were, by all appearances, the “perfect” Mormon family.* My ex-wife and I appeared to have a good marriage. Our children were (and are, and always shall be) awesome. We were all active and faithful. The Gospel was at the center of our lives. We were, by all appearances, living the Plan of Happiness.

But things weren’t quite what they appeared to be. 

Both converts to the Church, my ex-wife had I had both felt (i.e., we had a “testimony”) that we were supposed to get married (even though I knew I was strongly attracted to men), that this was God’s will for us and, therefore, what would bring us happiness.  

Like many Mormons, we believed that the rather huge obstacles we would face in the short- and long-term were merely confirmations of God’s will (rather than indicators that we had perhaps made a mistake). This belief, i.e., we can tell how “true” or “right” something is by how difficult it makes our life - that there is virtue in pain - infuses the Mormon worldview. (Not sure how this jives with "... men are that they might have joy.")

This life is intended to be a struggle. 

We are diamonds in the rough, which must be polished by the buffetings of life in order to bring out our true beauty. (But weren't we always diamonds, just not as buff?)  

We have to be tried and tested in all things, and the greater the trials, the greater the glory at the end of the race. 

Challenges are an indication that we are on the right path. After all, Satan doesn’t bother people who aren’t doing Heavenly Father’s will. Right?

How many Mormon households have a picture on the wall of their home that features an image of Jesus and the words, “I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it” (which is actually not scripture but is in fact attributed to Mae West)?

The fact is that my ex-wife and I had very little in common when we got married. We were raised in locations 3000 miles from each other. We were in fact from different countries. We had totally different interests and had had very different life experiences. Common sense would tell us that we didn’t belong together.

What had brought us together in the first place, however, and what had convinced us that we were meant to meet and marry, were some unusual circumstances and experiences that occurred shortly after we met that convinced us that it was Heavenly Father’s will that we marry – despite our differences and despite the warning signs that arose before and after our wedding.  

As we encountered them, we both truly believed that the challenges and obstacles we faced were (i) indicators that we were on the right path, and (ii) refining experiences that would, in the end, help us to overcome “baggage” from our respective pasts and ultimately make us better and happier people. The fact that I (as well as she) was intensely unhappy most of the time was simply confirmation that I was doing something right, that I had done the right thing by getting married.  Right?

We would face many, many challenges in the years ahead. Graduate school. Having children. Dealing with financial stresses and strains that were present from the very beginning of our marriage and would never cease to plague us. Dealing with cultural differences. Unpacking and working through “baggage” that each of us brought into the marriage – baggage that in my case included dealing with the after-effects of child abuse.  Cross-country moves.  Career changes.  Other challenges.

These challenges took their toll on our marriage. There were times when we both felt like we couldn’t go on. Yet, the memory of those extraordinary experiences that had led to our marriage in the first place continued to sustain us; the belief that God had brought us together was the central myth of our marriage. We believed that true happiness would come from continuing to work through the challenges we faced (including, in my case, dealing with my inner homosexuality) and forging ahead on the path that lay before us. Besides, we couldn’t deny those early experiences because that would mean that our marriage had been based upon a fraud – a thought too horrible to contemplate.

Looking back, it was precisely these challenges that (deceptively) united us. I later realized (as I think did my ex-wife), that these challenges merely deflected attention from the “chronic” problems of our marriage. Thus, when these challenges passed, when these hurdles had been cleared, the unifying effect of these experiences evaporated and we were faced with some stark realities that we had successfully swept under the rug for years.

These realities led to conflict that had long been suppressed. Though we had experienced difficulties in the past, it became clear that our marriage was in very serious trouble. We continued limping along, having good days and bad days, more bad than good, sustained by the belief that, since God had arranged our marriage in the first place, we would eventually get through these challenges; we just had to find the way out of the maze and everything would be fine. 

We were wrong.  

As I’ve written elsewhere, my acceptance of my homosexuality was the final nail in the coffin of our marriage. It was only after coming out that I realized the degree to which my repressed homosexuality had probably affected our marriage from day one. I realized that we had been wrong to ignore the warning signs, wrong to view life simply as a challenge to be endured, a cross to be borne, a vale to merely pass through. 

We had sacrificed ourselves to an ideal, and at the end of the day, what we discovered is …

We had sacrificed ourselves.

*This post was originally published on my Invictus Pilgrim blog (now closed) in August 2011. It is the first in a number of posts that I plan to re-publish here. These posts probed my changing relationship to the Mormon Church and my evolving beliefs concerning the truthfulness of Mormonism and its impact upon my life.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Young Gay Mormons and Eternal Marriage

As a follow-on to yesterday’s post, when I originally published that post on my Invictus Pilgrim blog in late December 2010, a number of great comments were made. Here are some written (but slightly edited here) by two gay Mormon men who had both been married to women.

A Fairy Tale Wedding and a Sexual Outlet 

These comments came from Miguel:

“When I came home from my mission and felt the pressure to date and make the next logical step (marriage) I had no clue how to even get started. I made attempts to date girls back home and when I moved to UT, but it never felt right. When I spoke to the bishop at the student ward at the U his pat answer was that I needed to get married and my SSA [same-sex attraction, the preferred term used by Mormon leaders to refer to homosexuality] would be cured, as he said I'd have a sexual outlet that would take care of the need--boy I wonder how many answers like this he gave and how many more followed his advice ... [LDS Church leaders have since basically denied that such advice was given.] 

“Forgive me for being candid here, but as far as the sexual aspect, as a young 25 year old I was capable of having sex with a woman, no issues there but it is part of the normal male drive. The older I got the harder (no pun intended!) it became to be able to perform which was a huge wedge in our intimate life …

“I wanted a fairy tale wedding too, not to mention family & social pressure and all else. I didn't have internet nor a Moho Directory and the only gay references I'd ever heard of were Miracle of Forgiveness, For Young Men Only and To the One ---none of which offered even a slight inkling of love of God or anyone for me, so the only option was to bite the bullet and get married. 

“My ex[wife] and I were good friends and although I never felt that euphoria of loving/wanting/longing for someone I figured that those things would come eventually in our relationship. We had a good friendship and managed possibly a good 5 years or so of a good marriage, but there was always that lingering thought that I was never comfortable for the next 10 years or so. I failed to tell her about my issues before we married which is my #1 and only regret …

“I seriously don't recommend anyone entering into a mixed-orientation marriage because the sex may be great in the beginning but then there's very little left when there's no emotional bond down the road … “

You Can Find a Place Where You Will Be Loved

These comments came from MoHoHawaii:

“We think when we are young that we are the only one. It's not until later that we find out that countless others have preceded us.

“When we are young we overestimate our chances of overcoming the odds when we embark on a path that is known to have low odds of success.

“Still, it's worth having the conversation between the generations. 

“My message to young men and women only, speaking as a person with a number of decades behind me, would be 1) claim your right to exist in this world and 2) do not enter into a mixed-orientation marriage. About the first point, Carol Lynn Pearson puts it like this: "Don't believe in anything else until you believe in yourself."

“I can't comment on this topic without mentioning the risk of suicide that so many young gay Mormons face. The first priority if you are feeling self-destructive in any way is to reach out and get help. I wish that ecclesiastical support were available, but the fact of the matter is that talking to church leaders often makes the situation worse for gay youth. In any case, the first priority would be to do whatever it takes to save your life. There are people you can reach out to. Find them.

“A second priority would be to heal your self-image. This is what Carol Lynn is talking about when she says to believe in yourself first before believing in any creed or god. A big part of self-acceptance involves reaching out to those who will love and celebrate you instead of those who will judge you. There are people around who will love you as you are, but they may not be in your current social circle. You may need to look outside of your current circle in some cases.

“A third priority would be to avoid the pitfall of early, inappropriate marriage. (I stumbled into this pitfall, and to say that the result was a disaster is an understatement.) Marriage to a person of incompatible sexual orientation is no solution at all. It magnifies the problems many, many times. Knowing what I know I cannot recommend this course. As Sister Pearson says on this topic, "The risk is just too great."

“Finally, I'd say to live your life with passion. You can find joy in friendship and in a life-giving bond with a special person with whom you share your life and your love. You can find it in meaningful work and in contribution to your community. You can find it in education and in all manner of worthy causes. Options are open to you to raise children and to participate in society in ways that were unavailable to previous generations. LDS society is just a small sliver of what's available, and it's not particularly representative.

“Your life is worth something. It is precious. You can find a place where you will be loved for who you are and not tolerated in spite of who you are. You are not a person to be tolerated. How low we aim when we speak of tolerance! You as a young gay person are to be celebrated for all that you are and can become."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Invictus Pilgrim: To Young Men Only - The Gay Version

This is the first of a number of posts I plan to publish from my old blog, which was called Invictus Pilgrim (now closed). The following post was originally published on 29 December 2010 and was written in response to communications I received following a series of posts on mixed-orientation marriages. In republishing the post, I am including a number of the comments made to the original post.

For many of us older gay Mormon guys, the attitude of the LDS Church toward homosexuality was succinctly stated in a talk entitled “To Young Men Only,” given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in priesthood session of conference in October 1976. 

This address was subsequently printed in pamphlet form and became the standard reference for many years for bishops in dealing with “worthiness” issues among young men and contained the “party line” with respect to the issues of homosexuality and (among other things) masturbation, both of which were condemned in no uncertain terms. 

(Interestingly, this talk is omitted from both the General Conference section of the Church’s website, as well as from the online edition of the Ensign for November 1976, but can be found here on the Church’s website.) 

Any Mormon man who came of age in the late 70’s through the mid-90’s is probably familiar with the pamphlet containing this talk, or at least with the principles set forth in the pamphlet. These principles, along with other Church practices that were intended to “deal” with homosexuality (e.g., reparative therapy and encouraging gay men to marry with the assurance that same-sex attractions would be thereby “cured”) were the frame of reference for many of us when we made the decision to get married and start down the “path.” As was expressed in recent posts, there are many Mormon men who went down that path, only to realize later that it was impossible for them to continue.

As I read private messages I received from young gay Mormon men, as well as comments that were left on my blog, in response to recent posts about mixed-orientation marriages, I came to realize how relevant the experiences of those of us who had entered such marriages were to these younger men. 
“I too am young and single. I agree that these blogs are great resources to those of us who are trying to figure out what being a gay Mormon means for our future. I rarely go on dates for similar reasons (other than lack of interest), but I don't want to develop a serious relationship with a girl because I would feel dishonest about my intentions. I would be pretending to be in love with her while she would just be an experiment to see if I could eventually fall in love. I can see myself married in the future, not because I look forward to or imagine any real relationship with a future wife, but because I miss being in a family and see getting married as the only way to be back in one.  I may eventually marry if I find a girl that I can be completely open with, but for now I am choosing to stay single.”
Another man e-mailed me and wrote: 
“I've only dated one girl in my life … I was hoping desperately that one day I'd wake up and *click* I'd be in love. But that never happened. I loved her, but wasn't "in love" with her. I guess the point in emailing you is to let you know how relevant the MOM discussion has been for me. In that relationship, I was determined to just make it work, because I'd never dated before, and didn't know what a relationship was like. I was disappointed because all I was ever told about how great relationships are, seemed to be false. I felt unauthentic, guilty, ashamed, broken. I wanted to be in love, but I wasn't. My willpower to resist and maintain my identity was slowly sapped away. When we finally broke up, I was broke up, because my identity as a straight guy was shattered. She was the foundation of that facade. (Of course, that wasn't her intention, she just was.) 
“Every once in awhile, that little voice sneaks into my brain and tells me that I should give dating girls another try. I could make the relationship work, and eventually marry. It tells me I could be happy, and maybe I would for a short period of time. But I think what makes me gay is, not only am I attracted to men, but my long-term happiness can only be sustained by one. In short, I want to be happy, and I think God wants me to happy, too. So will I ever get married to a woman? I don't think so.”
I felt that these two young men demonstrated a great deal of maturity and integrity in dealing with the conflict between their sexual orientation and the teachings and expectations of the Church with respect to heterosexual marriage. But the doctrine of eternal marriage (and everything it implies), central as it is to everything the Church is and stands for, represents a significant (and for some, insurmountable) barrier or challenge to young gay Mormon men who are attempting to deal with their sexuality and, by extension, their identity – eternal and otherwise. 

This concern is reflected in another private message I received from yet another young gay Mormon man who, after stating that he is gay and that he had been reading the posts about mixed-orientation marriages, wrote, “I am just thinking that I should get married and have kids. I really want to go to the celestial kingdom, but I am so worried about being married or having kids. I don't know [however] if I am strong enough to do it.” He then asked for my advice. 

Believing that what I wrote may be of some relevance and use to other young gay Mormon men, and with the consent of the man to whom I was writing, I am including here most of my (slightly edited and updated) response to this young gay man, which I now entitle:

To Young Men Only – The Gay Version

It sounds like you are obviously an active member of the Church and that you have a testimony of the reality of God and of the ability of the Holy Ghost to inspire and enlighten you. Because of this, my first bit of counsel for you would be - if you haven't already done so - to specifically pray to know whether Heavenly Father accepts you as you are - gay. 

However, in doing so, I would remind you of Moroni’s admonition: seek wisdom, be sincere, and ask with real intent (and I would suggest that asking with real intent requires that you push away from you everything that you have been taught about the nature of homosexuality and approach God as much as possible with an open mind and heart).  

Then there is James’ admonition in James 1:5 (which, of course, prompted Joseph Smith to go into the grove of trees): “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” [New International Version].

I can and will give you my own personal conviction that God accepts you just the way you are, but it is obviously no substitute for your own witness (in whatever form that may come, e.g., whether as a flash of insight, an impression in your heart and mind, a feeling, or a settled conviction). My own witness of this, which I have described elsewhere on my blog, came to me on my mission in the most sublime spiritual experience of my life. 

My witness is that you were born the way you are and that God accepts and loves you the way you are. President Packer notwithstanding, you did not "choose" to be gay. You just are.

If God accepts you as you are, which I believe He does, then you next need to think and pray about the consequences and ramifications of this knowledge. Would God damn you for something that He has told you is "ok"? Would He expect you to do something totally contrary to your nature, failing which you would be damned? My answer to these questions, after much experience, pondering and prayer, is "no."

The truth is that God's ways are not our ways. In Isaiah 55:8-9, we read:  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

We - President Monson included - understand and have had revealed to us only a tiny fraction of what God knows and understands. Joseph Smith himself said that if he told the Saints everything he knew, the apostles would leave his side and the saints would "fly apart as glass."  (And remember – he went in to the Sacred Grove expecting one answer and came out with a mind-blowingly different answer, one that he could never have anticipated.)

My own deep personal conviction is that there is much we do not know and understand about homosexuality. But there is something each one of "us" can know and understand: God loves us just the way we are (i.e., gay) and He does not expect us to live a lie. Should we who are gay, alone among God's creations, deny ourselves and have denied to us the opportunity to fulfill the measure of our creation? Again, my answer to this question is no.

This is obviously a very personal issue. But I believe that if you open your heart and try to push away what you have been taught about homosexuality and ask God with sincerity and full purpose of heart, He will reveal to you the truth of who you are [i.e., in your heart and/or your mind in a way that is appropriate to you] … I wish you the very best, which I'm sure you deserve.

In a subsequent post, I will publish some of the numerous comments that were made to this post when originally published.