Monday, June 4, 2012

Up To 350 LDS Members March In Salt Lake Gay Pride Parade; Mormons Plan To March In Other Cities' Gay Parades As Well

Approximately 350 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marched in the the annual Salt Lake City Gay Pride Parade which took place on Sunday June 3rd, 2012. Most came in response to a campaign organized by a Facebook group entitled "Mormons Building Bridges". And according to MormonPride, this is merely the start of a nationwide campaign in which Mormons will march in gay parades in Seattle, Washington D.C., New York, Portland, Boise, San Francisco, Memphis, Cleveland, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and San Diego. Mormons Building Bridges will be augmented by Mormons for Marriage Equality, and Affirmation at the other locations.

Utah media sources for the Salt Lake march include KSL Channel 5, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KTVX Channel 4.

KSL news video embedded below:

Many of the LDS members, who were identified as being straight, were dressed in typical Sunday church clothing, and some passed up attending the normal Sunday services at their home wards to march in the parade. Organizers, who had only expected about 100 or so Mormons to show up in this group, quickly placed the bulk of them in the front row for maximum visibility, marching directly behind a white banner with the message "Mormons Building Bridges". The men in suits and ties and the little girls in white dresses were a sharp contrast to the pounding music and loincloth-clad dancers behind them. Parade Grand Marshal Dustin Lance Black was pleased, tweeting: "In tears. Over 300 straight, active Mormons showed up to march with me at the Utah Pride parade in support of LGBT people." The LDS Church officially took no interest in the parade.

Here's another video of the event:

Prior to the parade, liberal Mormon blogger Joanna Brooks interviewed Erika Munson, the chief organizer of Mormons Building Bridges. Munson, who has been active in the Church all her life, was influenced in her youth by the leadup to the 1978 revelation that ended the LDS ban on black Priesthood ordination, and she found it a painful experience. When her gay son became eligible for a mission call and struggled with how to deal with it, she decided there was a dichotomy between Christ's commandment to love one another and the treatment of gays by the Church. LDS participation in the California Proposition 8 campaign radicalized her further. So she suddenly decided that the Utah Pride Parade would be an ideal venue for active Mormons who shared her concerns to stand out publicly, but in a "Mormon" way. So she decided to organize a campaign to get Mormons who look and act like typical Mormons to march in the parade.

Nevertheless, not all LDS members approve of the way Mormons Building Bridges expressed their concern. Some considered it little more than a publicity stunt. Others were concerned by the appearance of a group of Mormons marching in a parade that also featured drag queens and loincloth-clad twinks. But Kathryn Skaggs put forth the most principled opposition. On A Well Behaved Mormon Woman, Skaggs writes, in part:

As much as I am all for working toward building bridges, within the Church, to help our gay brothers and sisters feel love among us, I'm not sure I quite get how taking the one day that the Lord has commanded us to worship Him, the Sabbath, to march in a parade, accomplishes, or enhances, that desire.

If this march (and others planned) is to be a show of LDS member support for gays, intended to draw outside attention, then I would question exactly what message this is sending and why? Did any of these LDS members, marching in the parade, have signs inviting gay members to return to Church, saying "Come Worship With Us Again" -- or rather, are these marches simply intended to broadcast a message that Mormons support gay Mormons, no matter how they choose to live their lives, and that we will embrace you within our congregations -- even if you choose to openly and actively live a homosexual lifestyle? If it is the latter, then certainly most "active" members of the Church would not be in support of such public, minority declarations.

Once again I have concerns that small fringe groups, of LDS members, are using any available media source to promote and advocate for change that is oppositional to what current prophets teach. During this time of increased interest in everything Mormon, it is beyond easy to bring media attention to anything remotely controversial about being Mormon. Normalizing same-sex attraction, with its advocates, both inside and outside of the Church, has become a joint effort with, no doubt, hopeful political results.

Skaggs is right; the demo seemed to send the message that we'll accept gays as they are. This is not so, while they may attend our services "as they are", they must commit to celibacy to become formal members. And this will not change without a revelation to the President of the Church, with a corresponding spiritual witness given to the Quorum of the Twelve.

The march of the Mormons has also drawn sharp backlash from outside the LDS community, as expressed on Free Republic. One poster characterized it as "mental illness on parade". Another poster wrote "God damn the LDS for permitting this despicable "outreach" and even likely WELCOMING it". And the backlash could even affect Mitt Romney, whose connections with social conservatives and evangelicals are still tenuous.

The job of those of us who still believe in traditional LDS doctrine is to let the world know that the 350 Mormons who marched in the Salt Lake parade speak only for themselves and are not representative of the greater LDS community. Had the Mormons marched individually rather than as an organized group, it might have been more palatable. But marching as an organized group implies endorsement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would another tornado get people's attention?