The Lone Flower: Voting “Yes” for Marriage Equality while Mormon
Guest Post By Amelia Christensen.
Amelia likes podcasts, ripping up gardens, and whale watching. She has two beautiful, curious, and emotional boys with her husband, and aspires to work in the mental health sector. Her heroines are Daria, Emma Smith, and Audrey Hepburn.
When I was a little girl, my mind always thought in shades of grey. As bold statements were made with fury and fire about “good” and “bad”, a voice would whisper, “but what about this?”
In my almost 30 years this hasn’t changed, and whilst the greys are a well providing empathy for others, which I drink deeply from, it has also been a source of pain and confusion.
I’ve never felt quite right. I’ve never even felt like a round peg in a square hole, but rather a hexagon, or a triangle. This has only amplified in adulthood, a time when I have frequently had to seek medical help for mild to fairly severe depression, and a time where I have had to come to terms with the abnormalities of my childhood.
Recently, my family did a two year stint in regional Australia for educational purposes. The local Mormon congregation we attended was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Of course, I had seen contention and intolerance before, this happens everywhere, but never such intense, intergenerational hate. For two years, my family felt mostly invisible. We, along with other “outsiders”, were accepting the callings the “inside” members were rejecting. While we served them, they fought. The spirit was often absent.
This was a time of introspection. I was lonely, and became confused about the church. Was this the church Christ envisioned for his people? Most Saturday nights, I came close to a full blown anxiety attack, and most Sunday afternoons, I came home to a freshly-mown lawn, care of our non-Mormon neighbour. Why were we only experiencing kindness from a few Mormons, but every non-Mormon we came across quickly accepted, and befriended us? It was so natural for them to do good unto others, without the prodding of religion.
Christmas came around slowly, but with gratitude we travelled far from that place, and surrounded ourselves with family and friends. One of these was our gentle male friend Andrew*, who also happens to be gay. I think back now with appreciation for the patience he must have bestowed on me as I asked questions in my ignorance. It never occurred to me that LGBT people wanted more than sex. Among other things, my friend explained to me that he was asexual, and valued meaningful connection and affection in a relationship.
My eyes began to open. For a long time, I assumed I knew everything about the LGBT community, simply because of that old line everyone uses to excuse bigotry: “Oh, but I have gay friends, and they know I love them.” I had put them in a box and treated them as different from myself.
I started listening to stories from the LGBT community. I started pondering why I held certain beliefs, including why I was against marriage equality.
I prayed, cried, and spoke to my husband for hours on end. None of my previously held opinions felt right anymore, but I feared that I was doing wrong by God.
I still pray, cry, and speak to my husband for hours on end.
Australia is gearing up to vote for marriage equality through a plebiscite. The results are not binding, however if favour is with “yes”, a bill is expected to be introduced, and members of parliament will be given a free vote.
The plebiscite is costing up to $525 million dollars, and a previous attempt to hold the plebiscite was knocked back by the senate.
It was considered harmful then, and it continues to be considered harmful now.
The Australian Psychological Society has said:
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) fully supports marriage equality, but believes the process for achieving equality should not be by means of a popular vote.
APS President, Mr Anthony Cichello, says there is evidence that a plebiscite is likely to present significant risks to the psychological health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as they contend with the stress of a public campaign.
Evidence from a suite of studies shows that in the process of putting marriage equality to a public vote, gender and sexual minorities suffer significantly higher levels of negative emotions than positive emotions, experience significant distress over the negative rhetoric, display increases in psychiatric illness and feel negative, depressed, lonely, disenfranchised and powerless.
Children and other family members of LGBTI couples are also affected by public displays of discrimination against same-sex marriage and homophobia more generally.
The APS also says marriage equality is a human rights and equal opportunity issue and therefore should be a matter for Australian law and our parliamentary system – not a popular vote.
Specific definition of marriage being between a man and a woman was only introduced in Australia in 2004, amending the Marriage Act of 1961, which didn’t formally define marriage but made marriage law uniform across the country. This included a minimum marriage age of 18. Historically, marriages were able to be performed on girls as young as 12, and women did not have property rights.
Marriage has also been performed in various societies, predating Christian ceremonies. These marriage contracts were not always drawn under deity. It is fair to say that Christianity hasn’t had the monopoly on marriage.
I will be very clear in saying that I love my temple marriage, and still keep my covenants. I think The Family: A Proclamation is an important document, and represents an ideal.
But we don’t live in a world that is ideal, and we are sharing this world with others. I don’t know why God’s children experience differing sexualities and gender identities, and the church has come far in acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers. (See MormonandGay.lds.org)
As a church, we do not stand by previous ideas that conversion therapy works, and though gay marriage is not promoted by leadership, and this isn’t likely to change, Elder Christofferson stated that members would not be disciplined should they wish to support same sex marriage. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XybDk3CEoHg from 4:10)
All I do know is that my LGBT brothers and sisters are hurting. They are constantly misrepresented and treated with fear and contempt.
The equality campaign has unequivocally stated that they are not interested in forcing churches to perform same sex marriage ceremonies, which has been one major concern among traditionalists.
I have seen fellow Mormon members describe the LGBT community, many of whom are active within our congregations and are people I hold dear, as a militant group, pushing marriage as an agenda for further “depravity.” (This is particularly disturbing, as we have just seen literal Nazi and white supremacist violent action occur in the United States.)
I have seen members say they “don’t understand” why Mormons would vote “yes”, as surely these members know church policy and The Family: A Proclamation.
I have seen members share biased articles demonising the LGBT community. On this note, of course, there will be extreme opinions and strange or hateful statements made from members of the LGBT community, but let’s ask ourselves: have Mormons ever been misrepresented or judged on the words and actions of the few?
I have seen members laugh at the idea of a vote for gay marriage as if they think it is silly and trivial, while they bask in the happiness of their unchallenged love and marriage.
I have seen members question the merit of gay parents while their own families are broken, and while Australia’s children are born into neglectful homes, born addicted to drugs, and born only to be put in the care of the state.
I have seen members imply that I’m not on the Lords side.
If I’m not on His side, whose side do you suppose they think I’m on?
I’m reminded of an old Mormon ad where a daisy is surrounded by roses, captioned with “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful.” In the past, I always viewed this as standing out from “the crowd” and being different from the world, but what if one feels like a daisy in the church?
I’ve come to realise that there are good people everywhere, and while I value my belief system, I also value their right to live free and peacefully. I generally find they want the same thing for me.
So, maybe I am a daisy.
I’m a daisy who is all about harm-reduction.
I’m a daisy who is all about mental health.
I’m a daisy who is voting YES in the Australian Marriage Equality Plebiscite.
And that’s okay.
*Name has been changed