The way things are unfolding with Mormons in Pride parades this year has surfaced questions/concerns in my mind about the current “moment” — not just a “Mormon moment,” but also an “LGBT moment.”
Mormons Building Bridges was the group that organized the march in Salt Lake City on June 3rd. To march in the group, they requested/required no one have signage for “political causes.” That meant specifically no one in the group took a stand either way on marriage equality. Their signs were quotes from LDS General Authorities, the Bible, and LDS hymns about loving your neighbor.
On the surface, the message seems positive — “love” — but the “bridge” can be interpreted as toward the Church with its current policies. As one organizer has written on a Facebook page — and as is stated in substance on MBB’s public Facebook page:
The primary demographic of concern for MBB is the LGBT LDS community (particularly LGBT LDS youth) who are the most vulnerable among us. The secondary demographic is the LGBT community at large. Based on that understanding, the original plan for MBB’s identity post-SLC march was to turn the Facebook group into an open forum for exchange of ideas and encouragement on how to translate the sentiment of love into action on a local congregational level via FHEs [Family Home Evenings], dinner groups, firesides, 5th sunday lessons, etc. Actions like those will be most effective in addressing MBBs primary demographic. MBB is trying to bridge the gap between active LDS folks and those most vulnerable.
Permit me to translate this (as it relates to the current position of the Church):
The primary demographic of concern are gay Mormons, especially youth, who are already on the bridge, but might be walking toward the other side of the bridge — or might even jump off the bridge — without our help. The secondary demographic is the LGBT community who is on the far end of the bridge. The plan was to use the Pride parade as advertising. Gay Mormon youth who might be thinking of living a life in sin, feeling lonely, or plan to hurt themselves will see us in the parade, and know there is a place for them in the Church. We can continue the policy status quo with greater force: that is, to convert “love” into “action” such that active heterosexual Mormons can help those with this “identity crisis” in a number of forums.
Now, a number of folks for marriage equality did march in the Mormon contingent of the SLC parade, so my intention is not to pigeonhole everyone who marched. But since they agreed to not hold marriage equality signage, they basically agreed to be subsumed under the message of the official church (which is the “Divine Institution of [Hetero] Marriage,” “homosexual intimacy is a sin,” but “everyone is a child of God Who loves them”). There were questions in people’s mind about whether the message of “love” would be patronizing, but the message was well-received in SLC in part because of presence of Dustin Lance Black and folks like Troy Williams requesting the LGBT community there be nice.
I don’t suspect the message of “love” would be as well-received in marches outside the Mormon corridor.
Seattle, Portland, San Fran, San Diego, NYC, D.C., and perhaps a few other cities will have Mormons for Marriage Equality banners. These M4ME contingents will probably be smaller than SLC’s for obvious reasons. But hopefully they will garner enough media interest that the Church will have to address them externally and internally. (Btw, Deseret News was able to easily fold the MBB group in SLC into the Church’s previous statements. They’ll not be able to do the same with the M4ME groups.)
In terms of the “Mormon/LGBT” moment, it’s not hard for me to fathom that there are Mormons marching in Pride parades this year. It makes sense if you think about this in terms of current national power dynamics. There is a presidential incumbent who supports marriage equality and a presidential candidate who doesn’t and is a Mormon, so both groups feel empowered these days to relax their borders a bit. Likewise, I’m sure some members of Mormons for Marriage Equality feel compelled to not have Romney represent the whole church.
Still, I bet many Mormons would only think of marching if their contingent is a little bubble that represents the Church’s official position. Personally, I would rather see 10 Mormons refuse to march because 1 Mormon wants to hold a marriage equality sign, than 11 Mormons marching only after an agreement that no one hold a marriage equality sign. We don’t want the same shame heaped onto LDS LGBT youth you can be gay and think gay thoughts, but dont act on it to creep into these contingents: you can support marriage equality in your head, but dont represent the Church with that position.
Edit: There is now a Part 2 to this vent.