Well, it didn’t take long for trouble to find me back here in Utah.
I did not sleep all night on the red-eye flight back from Hawaii, and my sister was getting married the day we got home. By the time I had to be there for pictures I was in that fuzzy sleep-deprived state that I remember from our boys’ infancy. Which is fine; the twins taught me I can go months in that state :-), and I was happy to be there.
All my brothers and sisters were there and it was nice to see them outside the usual holidays; we met up in the mezzanine of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. My sister, the bride, was to be married there and not in the temple as her first husband died long ago. That building holds very fond memories for my family. As a kid we used to go there for dinner every Christmas Eve, back when the LDS church ran it as a hotel (with a big bar and all :-)). I would come to find, however, I don’t much feel welcome there anymore.
She looked beautiful, and, as I always do at weddings, I got caught up in the emotion of it as our dad walked her down the isle. But then everything went downhill. The LDS Bishop, literally in his first sentence, started out by going off on marriage for gay couples . He said that the institution of marriage was under attack, and “the family” was being “mocked”, but look how lucky his audience is to know the value of a real marriage. He read from the President of the LDS church, quoting that marriage between a man and a woman is the only union that’s ordained by his God, and I’m fine with him thinking that, but he went on to say how only that union contributes to society and only that union raises healthy children. The guy was disparaging our children, and my marriage, and as a matter of course in his wedding ceremony for my sister. Furthermore, this sister has a newly out gay child, who I could see tense up as the man spoke.
I'm left wondering if this is part of other LDS Bishops' marriage ceremonies?
I actually considered I might be dreaming, being so tired and out of sorts (who'd do that while performing a wedding, right?) but a hand on my leg by another sister brought me back to knowing this was an actual event. She, a very faithful LDS woman too, leaned over and whispered she loved me and my family and that she believed my family matters too. She wanted me to know the Bishop wasn’t speaking for her. Just then I noticed my mom, a couple seats away. I heard her voice and looked over. She was visibly upset, and I could hear her voicing her objections to our dad. It sure did feel like a dream.
I tried to get back into the spirit of things as the Bishop finally got away from political attack to the actual ceremony. This was my sister's wedding and I knew where she stood and I'd not let this jerk get in the way. Funny thing is he actually gave some of the same advice I do. Then we all cheered as the couple was presented and the bride was kissed. But I knew that was not the end of it.
As the crowd dispersed, I decided my sister's wedding day was not the time to get into a political argument with her bishop. I just hoped she was too nervous to notice what he said. However, I know my dad as well as anyone, and I knew he was going to come to a different conclusion. I searched him out in the dispersing crowd, to head him off. I've had to get between him and anti-gay advocates before. I’m grateful to have such an advocate and friend in my father, but I asked him to not make an apparent issue of this at the wedding and he agreed he’d only take the Bishop aside quietly. That he did, and it was a good thing it was done in a quiet corner of the room, as the Bishop said worse and made it clear he wasn’t misheard or misunderstood.
As they were at it, an in-law came up and apologized for the Bishop, and I realized everyone probably felt the hostility in the man; it wasn't just my close family. Worse, as I went up to give the bride a congratulatory hug, she apologized as well and said she was thinking of us through the ceremony because of the guy’s words. That’s what burned off my dreamy haze and finally got to my temper. I’m so used to such “loving” assault on my family from the LDS church that I took it as just another arrow from just another sanctimonious stranger… but to think this worry had to be brought into my sister’s mind during her wedding, when she should have been thinking of her union and the importance of the ceremony. That’s just horrible; real pro-family and pro-marriage of the guy, right?
Of course, some family didn’t acknowledge any of that. I bet some agreed with that Bishop, maybe not with all the legal ramifications of their church’s position but with the spiritual superiority of their family over their brother’s, at least. They were off socializing together, probably thinking it unfortunate we had to hear the tough love “truth”, but that it was good for us? It doesn't really matter.
In the crowd I eventually ran into my mom and she gave me a hug and I could see she had been crying. I was glad to see it wasn’t just for me as I’d hope she knows I can and do take far far worse than that :-). She was with her gay grandchild and was upset about us both sitting through that. I told her not to worry about me, but I know, as a parent myself, that’s kind of useless. Regardless, gay relatives and supporters eventually coalesced at our table, and we enjoyed the company and the rest of the evening. But the wedge in our family was palpable.
I often defend my LDS family against non-LDS family, even before I came out and even as an agnostic. It’s how they make it through the day and how they feel significant and secure in the world and their hoped-for world to come. I remember what it’s like and if they enjoy thinking obeying some organization during their brief time here will lead them to being immortal gods and goddesses, why should anyone pull threads from that sweater? But when those beliefs become attached to others that hurt and demean my family and my kids, I have a hard time trying to get the side that supports and loves us to see the point of view of the other.
I still, however, try to keep peace. Should I? Half way through the night a very LDS brother-in-law approached me and told me he has always respected the way I’ve juggled family in this area, but it kind of made me feel like I've sacrificed what's right for peace. Should I have felt like my dad and went for confrontation, even at my sister's wedding?
I’m in an odd position in my family. So often my home is the issue, though not the only issue, that causes LDS family to harden up and, as often, I’m the one who tries to connect both sides. It feels as though, perhaps with too much self-importance, that if I’m not the ambassador and just treated those family members like I would any stranger who supported a group that attacks my family, then a future split in the larger family would be on my shoulders, my fault. I’m a bone of contention that thinks at least he can be the link that brings together the two beasts pulling on it :-).
Or maybe any bone of contention is just a source of, well, contention and all would be happier if it snapped, halted attempts to smooth over? Even though I can’t get angry with the other side—I know they’re under significant psychological pressures here—maybe, again, we should act as though we were angry, for the sake of both sides. I mean, I’m sure most LDS at that wedding would have been much happier to have only folks there who’d nod in agreement when told how superior their families and children are, and I don’t want to be an issue at my sister’s wedding.
I also hate how it can bring out a similar ugliness in me. I love my sister, and respect and support her union, but I admit the thought crossed my mind: how can her Bishop insult our 16-years together and 6-years of parenting, while performing a marriage after for a person who has divorced twice and is well past the age to raise children. I adamantly want her to have all the same legal rights and privileges and responsibilities I want to have for my family in marriage, but, if the Bishop wants to argue which marriage will produce more for society, then these “ideal family” arguments cut both ways. Fact is we should not be measuring our sibling’s or our neighbor’s marriage like that and especially on bias about inborn traits like sex, but that’s the weapon the LDS church wants to use here, making it hard not to pick it up as well. I regret feeling that temptation.
Anyway, how should people socialize with siblings who choose to belong to a group that teaches that their children are somehow defective? Should people even go to a building owned by a group that wants their family to be legally invisible or second class because of their sex, and has said so with pride, pretending to defend from us what we have and cherish too? What if the issue was race and not sexual anatomy? We know this same church was doing this for race once before; how was that best handled back then by those families?
I still don’t know, and, along with my sadness, I will have some relief in making the question less important once we move from family.
It’s just sad.