Marina Gomberg: LDS Church’s backing of Respect for Marriage Act is political and personal

Friends in the Latter-day Saint faith say it is a relief that we can all safely advocate for love.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

I was sleepy when I saw the news, and had to rub my eyes to make sure I was neither dreaming nor reading it wrong.

Out of left field, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had announced its support for the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan piece of federal legislation that would ensure protections for marriages, including between those in same-sex and interracial couples.

*record scratch*

Whaaa? I feel like I just got tackled by a fluffy pack of hugging Care Bears.

It’s not that the church is the first or only religious organization to see the act as a powerful balance between individual rights and religious liberties. In fact, they join a diverse and growing (though not exhaustive) list of faith communities to have already voiced support.

And it’s not even that they are supporting us gentlequeers that makes this such a monumental moment (although that will probably always feel remarkable to me), because this comes in an important succession of instances when the church’s leadership has used its sway to provide protections for LGBTQ people and working tirelessly to advocate for parallel religious freedoms.

The reason this feels so significant for me is both personal and political.

My wife, Elenor, was raised in a devout Latter-day Saint family, one in which three of the five children are gay.

That dichotomy was remarkably painful for many, if not all, of them, I think. And for some time.

I saw the same torturous tug when I worked at the Utah Pride Center, where we held space for the families trying to navigate a fraught landscape in search of the place where they could honor their faith and their LGBTQ loved ones simultaneously.

When El and I had our commitment ceremony in 2009, four years before same-sex marriage would became legal in Utah, we wondered how inviting our LDS friends and family felt to them.

Super easy because we’re awesome and love is awesome? Maybe. Or maybe it felt like going out on a limb to attend (and they did, by the way, and they looked great and had fun, I think). But would they hope they weren’t in any photographs or tell no one they attended?

I asked them their thoughts on this week’s announcement in anticipation of writing this column, and my heart pounded to feel the remorse some expressed for the chasm we’ve had to bridge over time.

One described his discomfort as less a result of personal spiritual conflict, but his community’s pressure to publicly disavow and campaign against protections for LGBTQ people.

Each shared relief that we’ve made it to a time when we can all safely advocate for love.

Until very recently, being LGBTQ was criminalized in many ways, and the church, if I understand correctly, is a pretty law-of-the-land type of organization.

Yet, instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see if the some landmark Supreme Court cases — Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriages, and/or Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal coast-to-coast — are under attack after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Latter-day Saint leadership tapped the metaphorical mic and essentially said, “As long as we may continue to define religious marriage within our own faiths, let the legal vows floweth.”

And that’s the other part of this that has me shook(eth).

Latter-day Saint doctrine didn’t change a bit. This means that they’re actively promoting the legal protection of people outside of their faith and even for those whose choices they believe will have eternal consequence.

That is bold, my friends.

It was bold in 2015 when they did the same thing after finding common ground around Utah’s antidiscrimination law that protected gay and transgender Utahns from being fired or evicted because of who they are or who they love.

Seven years and immeasurable and unprecedented political polarization later, this unsolicited show of civility feels like sriracha-on-a-salty-lemon kind of bold.

And I’m here for it. Because I don’t need nor even want to live in a world where we have to agree with each other in order to believe the other is worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of the perfect gown.

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey, and their dog, Mr. Noodle. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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