Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, comes out as gay

Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay Thursday, sending a letter using Facebook Messenger to family and friends that mentioned that he plans to separate from his wife and no longer feels comfortable in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ed Smart confirmed he sent it and posted it publicly on Friday. He declined to answer questions late Thursday.

Court records indicate that on July 5, Lois Smart filed for divorce from Ed Smart, 64.

[Read more: Ed Smart talks about his decision to come out as gay]

When asked about the matter through a family spokesperson, Elizabeth Smart didn’t specifically address her father’s sexual orientation.

“My parents taught me as a young child that they would love me unconditionally no matter what happened," she said. “While I am deeply saddened by their separation, nothing could change my love and admiration for them both. Their decisions are very personal. As such, I will not pass judgment and rather am focusing on loving and supporting them and the other members of my family.”

According to the Deseret News, which first reported the story, Ed Smart posted on Facebook, “Lois has been a loyal wife, and extraordinary mother, who has had to endure an impossible part of this journey. I deeply regret the excruciating pain this has caused her. Hurting her was never my intent. While our marriage will end, my love for Lois and everyone in my family is eternal.”

And when it comes to his faith, Smart wrote:

“My faith is strong, and unwavering, however, after considerable study, prayer and pondering I have come to a change in my beliefs. It is because of this change, that I can finally acknowledge and accept my orientation. Had I not had a change in my beliefs, I would have likely remained closeted the rest of my life."

Smart added: “As an openly gay man, the church is not a place where I find solace any longer. It is not my responsibility to tell the church, its members or its leadership what to believe about the rightness or wrongness of being LGBTQ.”

KUTV spoke with Ed Smart, and he told the TV station that he has “struggled with this for most of his life.” And that he is still a member of the LDS Church and is in good standing.

The Smarts came into national prominence after Elizabeth Smart, then 14, was kidnapped from her home on June 5, 2002. She was held captive and repeatedly sexually assaulted. Smart was rescued nine months later while walking along a street in Sandy with kidnappers Brian David Mitchell and Mitchell’s wife, Wanda Barzee.

Since then, Elizabeth Smart and Ed Smart have been well-regarded child-safety advocates who work through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

Smart is the second notable Utahn to come out as gay this summer. Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie, a Republican, announced he was gay in a video posted to his Facebook page in May.

Like Smart, Ivie said he’d been fighting with himself about his sexuality for years and had finally come to accept himself. Ivie told The Tribune at the time that his announcement was motivated by the belief that “somewhere out there” is a younger version of himself who is confused and trying to decide if it is worth it to continue living.

“They need to know that it is,” Ivie said. “They need to know they’re valued, they’re loved.”

Ivie — a Facebook friend of Ed Smart — told The Tribune he spoke with Smart recently and had offered some perspective from his own experience of coming out.

“I am happy for him and wish him the best on this next part of his life,” Ivie said, “and pray he might receive the same kindness and support that was offered to me.”