There’s a certain intonation, in my experience, that is unique to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially when they’re bearing their testimonies. Even though I didn’t grow up in that faith, being close to it for so long has allowed me to lovingly recognize that gentle sincerity peppered with Utah-ized words in a heartbeat.
So, hearing Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie’s video announcement last month threw me for a loop. It had the same inflections and lilts (and he talked about going out to grab the “mell from the mellbox”), the same genuine connection to his truth, but a vastly different message.
It made me wonder what would be harder: to come out as LGBTQ as a Latter-day Saint or as a member of the Republican party. I guess in Utah County, there isn’t much of a distinction anyway, but what an act of bravery to belong to two groups that don’t think your way of being is right or good, and to be honest about who you are in spite of that.
I respect, admire and celebrate his powerful rite of passage. I hope he’s been showered in glittery rainbows of love by the LGBTQ community, and from what I’ve seen so far, he has.
It reminds me of watching BYU student Matt Easton, who came out during a graduation day speech, as he stood on the stage at the Utah Pride Center’s annual Pride Spectacular event last month. He was received with a nearly endless standing ovation. And then he talked about realizing there was this huge, vibrant and loving family he never knew he had.
So, this has all been lovely to witness (even Gayle Ruzicka calling Ivie an adulterer when there’s been no evidence that he’s been unfaithful to his wife, because she remains the free circus I almost always want to see). That is, until people started asking if he could keep his job as commissioner. Can he still be Republican and win in Utah County?
I sort of think, who cares if he can win reelection? He just won life! And yet, that question has been asked and answered more times than I can count.
Here’s the thing: I did a quick online search for the job description of a county commissioner and couldn’t find anywhere that it involved heterosexual attraction. There was no mention of how you have sex or with whom. Like, I’m feeling pretty sure it doesn’t matter at all.
Yet, in interview after interview — both with Ivie and other members of Utah’s Republican Party — his sexuality is posed as a possible deal breaker (kudos to all those who confirmed it’s not).
It begs a super quick reminder, Utah, that we passed this awesome piece of legislation in 2015 coined “the Utah compromise” that bridged the queers and the conservatives to ban consideration of a person’s sexual orientation in regard to their ability to perform a job.
So, let’s celebrate his honesty, vulnerability and courage, give him and his family the support (and privacy) they probably need and want, and steer clear of the idea that we should consider anything other than his integrity and ability to commission stuff come next election cycle.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: 10:45 a.m.: An earlier version of this story misspelled Gayle Ruzicka's name.