Monday evening my wife and I attended an informational gathering sponsored by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), which is a political action group committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and is bringing marriage equality to the ballot in Oregon, hopefully next year. We listened to the Executive Director detail their research and efforts in producing and airing an ad campaign, "Love, Commitment, Marriage." After viewing two of the commercials and hearing about the results of a recent TV media blast in Oregon, she opened up for questions from the audience about how things are going. After two years of effort, progress in this liberal State of Oregon stands at around 100,000 "yes" votes, which is about half of what is needed to launch a ballot initiative. It was an interesting discussion of strategy and tactics for turning public opinion and winning the opportunity for all people to enjoy the benefits of marriage. At the end of this Q&A session, the last question posed was basically an attack on the Mormon Church and its efforts during Prop 8, and how would BRO work against similar campaigns of opposition.
As the Director struggled to respond with a politically correct answer, I felt a surge of desire to stand and offer an insider viewpoint. So I raised my hand forcefully and was acknowledged for "one more question." I said I didn't have a question, but rather a response to the previous question. I said, "I am queer in this group. I am an active GAY Mormon." I went on to express my embarrassment and shame over the actions of my church in the California Prop 8 battle, and how this has been a tremendous turning point for many members of the Church to question what Church leaders did in manipulating members to support a political campaign. I explained that I didn't think the Church anticipated the damaging public image, the 'black eye,' that came as a consequence of their involvement, or the loss of support from within the church. I said I doubted that such overt tactics would be used again. I concluded with my hope that change was occuring within the church, and that Church Leaders were making efforts to listen and respond to LGBT members of the church. My comments basically ended the meeting and afterwards, a dozen or so individuals came up to me and wanted to shake my hand or hug me for my words. I was frankly amazed at the outpouring of love, and that I could have something to say that made a difference.
My wife and I have had a couple exploratory interactions with BRO, to see how we might fit into their efforts, but we were kind of on the fence as to how to we might contribute in a meaningful way. After this experience, I think I may have found a voice, a niche to reach out and help us 'hold hands' with faith communities, which BRO desperately needs to participate in the marriage conversation. I don't like the 'Us versus Them' mentality that often pits groups with passionate thinking against one another. Both sides lose in these confrontations, but we especially, since it is our hearts that must change towards inclusiveness and understanding, regardless of who "wins" in the short-term. The gay community cannot afford to practice bigotry towards people of faith. Whether the 'opponent' is Mormon, Catholic, or Evangelical, I deeply believe there are significant segments of these populations that will listen and consider a message of fairness, of treating LGBT people with compassion, according to the Golden Rule. If someone genuinely believes in the primacy of family relationships and is critical of promiscuity, as our culture certainly does, why would they interfere with someone else's desire to stand up in front of family and friends and and make a commitment to love and cherish, in good times and bad?