This is going to be a shocking admission, but I’m a Democrat.
While I disagree with my party and my party’s candidates quite frequently, I still identify with and support Democrats.
Back when I worked for Congress, I started collecting campaign buttons from Democratic races. I’ve got all the presidential campaigns from Grover Cleveland (1884) to the present. I have buttons from Utah state elections, some from Maryland where we lived, and some from personal heroes like John Glenn, Mo Udall, and Patrick Moynihan. I have some rarities (like one with each of McGovern’s vice presidential choices and that Alton Parker is a tough one to find). I have a wonderful board on my wall to put all my campaign pins on, but it’s so full that I have to keep most in a box. I also collect political memorabilia like mugs and inaugural wine glasses (from which we drink our New Year’s Eve Martinelli’s non-alcoholic cider). I even have pins and bumper stickers from when I ran (twice!) for the Utah State Legislature (of course unsuccessfully, after all, I was running in Utah valley!).
One of my favorite pieces is a tie I bought at the Harry Truman museum that has illustrations of Democratic campaign buttons from all the presidential elections. Unfortunately, I don’t get too many opportunities to wear it. I will never wear it to church on Sunday, because I don’t believe that Church is the place to make political statements. Church is about unity, not division.
Nevertheless, this Sunday I will be joining members of the “Rainbow Mormon Initiative” and wearing a rainbow ribbon to Church. I realize that some may find this a political statement, so I want to explain why I am doing it: I want to save lives.
I have felt strongly that I need to take the sideline during the divisive discussion about gay marriage. As the program coordinator for Mormon studies at UVU and now as the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, I feel I represent institutions that must encourage dialogue but that shouldn’t close off dialogue. So I have kept my own views to myself except in private discussions with friends and family.
After the Church’s November 5th policy change, however, I wanted to signal to my students that I am “safe.” After all, my office is full of Mormon book titles and students know of my position organizing Mormon studies events here at the university. So I put a sticker up in my office that says “Mormons for equality.” It was, I hope, a subtle but meaningful gesture.
I was glad I had done it when a few months later a student visited me and told me that his parents had disowned him because he came out as gay. This was a young man who was trying desperately to make Mormonism work for him, who had kept all the rules and kept his covenants, but who could not deny his sexual identity. I was able to sympathize and comfort this young man and offer to direct him to resources that could help him.
Whether or not there is a direct link between the Church’s recent policy change and gay (especially teen and young adult) suicides, the numbers are too high. These lives matter. I do not know what the future holds for gay members of the Church. I am no prophet. I do understand how challenging the issues are for Mormon theology. I also know, despite the generational differences and their sometimes-clumsy messages, that our Church leaders are concerned about these souls. So I want to send a message to the gay members of my ward—especially the youth—that I will be their friend. This isn’t about politics; it’s about saving lives.
2 thoughts on “Rainbows at Church”
Thank you for bolding standing up for equality! I am a organizer for Mormons For Equality and we will be marching in the Utah Pride Parade this Sunday June 5th. We are also participating in the Rainbow Mormon Initiative! Come visit us and pick up a pin and some of our new larger Mormons For Equality stickers!
Thank you for doing this, Boyd, and please let me know how to help with your campaign!