Happy New Year Affirmation Friends!
New Leadership, Meetings Announced
by Affirmation President Randall Thacker
We start this new year with a palpable excitement in the LGBT Mormon and Allies community. We have received countless messages from literally hundreds of LGBT Mormons, families, and friends from around the globe who are ready to be anxiously engaged in a good cause! We have assembled a talented, energetic, and diverse leadership team who are ready to put their shoulders to the wheel.
Also, we are pleased to announce our Affirmation Board of Directors, many of whom are new to the board this year. The board is composed of a group of distinguished individuals who care deeply for LGBT Mormons and their families and bring strengths of organizational experience, mature spirituality, and a record of building relationships across organizations and with people who are racially, culturally, sexually, and spiritually diverse. I personally want to thank all who have stepped forward to serve in this great work.
We will be meeting in Washington, DC January 25 and 26 to kick-off the new team and year. If you would be interested in joining us for this meeting please contact me. Friends and allies are invited to join us for dinner on January 26 in Potomac, Maryland.
We are building a community where we don’t have to choose between being Mormon or gay. We can be fully affirmed as both, find support in our unique journey, and be empowered to celebrate and use our gifts in the service of faith, hope and love. Where we take great joy in the knowledge that our Heavenly Parents know and love each one of us and want us to have joy. Where we can be supported in living fully authentic lives, guided by the Spirit of God and our increased self-awareness. A community that fully supports all who are in or seek committed same-sex relationships. We will be that safe space that affirms each individual’s sexuality, faith, or lack of faith.
We have so much work to do and look forward to engaging all who feel called to this great work! Join Affirmation today and let us know if you have an interest to help.
USGA Event in Provo
New York Chapter Potluck Dinner
National Affirmation Leadership in Potomac, MD
Affirmation Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, UT
National Affirmation Leadership to Converge in Potomac, Maryland
Leadership Meeting, Dinner, to Be Held January 26, 2013
The 2013 Leadership Team and Board of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons is invited to an all-day leadership meeting on Saturday, January 26, 2013 in Potomac, Maryland. The main purpose of the gathering is to envision the future of the LDS LGBT movement and Affirmation. The meetings will run from approximately 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. If you wish to attend this event, please contact Randall Thacker.
All Affirmation members, LGBT Mormons, and their supportive family are invited to a dinner, also to be held in the same venue, starting at 6:30 pm. We are asking $12 each to help pay for the cost of the food. If you wish to attend the dinner and have not RSVP’d via Facebook, please contact Colby Goddard.
Save the Date: Affirmation 2013 Annual Conference
September 13-15 in Salt Lake City
We are excited to announce that Affirmation’s 2013 Annual Conference will be held in Salt Lake City September 13-15 at the University of Utah’s Historic Officer’s Club, Guest House, and Conference Center. This year’s conference registration fee will be only $99 or less depending on how much of the conference you plan to attend. This is a major reduction in cost from previous conferences. Also, the guest house rooms rent for only $99 as well and some of these rooms accommodate up to 4 people. Photos of the venue and guest house rooms can be viewed here.
This year’s conference will be more fun, musical, spiritual and educational than you can imagine! The conference will also include activities and workshops specifically for parents, families, youth, friends, and church leaders. So plan in advance to invite your family members, friends, leaders, etc! Te Leadership and Board meetings will be held Friday morning and conference officially kicks off Friday afternoon and lasts through Sunday.
More details about the schedule and the opening of registration will be released within the coming weeks. Save the dates today and plan on joining us for a remarkable conference of hundreds of LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends! See you in September!
From left to right: Berta Marquez, Amy Larsen, Erika Munson, Kendall Wilcox, Affirmation President Randall Thacker, and Karen Brinkerhoff were some of many LGBTQ Latter-day Saints and allies who attended the Highland event.
Love, Friendship, and Music in Highland
LGBTQ Mormons, Allies Start New Christmas Tradition
By Kufre Ekpenyong
Friends and allies from many points along the spectrum of belief came together in Highland, Utah this Christmas season for a new tradition of gathering, support, and love. For several observers, it was curious to note the way in which music and song developed as the emerging icebreaker and uniting theme of the event.
The night featured a special guest performance by Chris Holmes, director of the Utah Lyric Opera. Later in the night, the room as a whole sang a round of “Love One Another” as guided by a piano accompaniment. As the night continued and the party began to lean into full swing, a small crowd of carolers gathered around the piano to sing Christmas carols in English, Spanish, German, and other languages.
Speaking thousands of years ago at his own gathering of friends, Socrates once described music as an exploration of “the principles of love in their application to harmony and rhythm.” As we continue this new annual Christmas tradition in the years to come, it is our hope that we will come to more deeply understand and appreciate the ties that bind us together in love within the community of Saints.
We are so grateful to Yvette and Wade Zobell for hosting this event. For more information about joining us for future socials in the Salt Lake City/Provo/Ogden area please contact Ron Schow or Kufre Ekpenyong of the organizing committee.
Mellifluous voices: Randall Thacker, Tristan Schultheiss, Richard Templeman and Spencer W. Clark.
Affirmation Christmas Party in Washington DC
Chants Intoned, Albino Pachyderms Exchanged
by Edward Jones III
I was at the office far too early in the morning. I heard a noise and looked through the haze of cigarette smoke. My editor Hugo was sitting on my desk. “Son,” he said, “I got another assignment for you. It’s a doozy.”
Fast forward three days and I was in our nation’s capital, on my way to a shindig the likes of which I had never witnessed before. I thought I had seen it all—the headhunters of Borneo, the tap-dancing grandmothers of Kyrgyzstan—but LGBT Mormons and their allies? That was a new one for this old-timer.
I knocked on the door of a nice pile of bricks in northwest DC, host by the name of David Burton. Nothing like the marauder’s cave of Tegucigalpa I had expected. It was brightly lit and festively decorated. It smelled of pine and holly berries. Trying to blend in with the cheerful and nattily dressed natives, I asked what the celebration was about. Apparently the birth of a deity; I didn’t quite catch it.
I followed my nose to the kitchen—my home away from home—where I saw any number of savory and sweet foodstuffs. The guests had brought them in a style I learned was called “potluck.” Obviously a food offering to the deity. I dug in with considerable satisfaction.
The natives were conversing with such enthusiasm, it took their leader a minute to get their attention. Randall Thacker was his name. Soft-spoken, face like an angel, but I could tell he was all steel underneath, like Baby Face Nelson. Probably packing heat, too.
What followed was a highly stylized but brutal ritual named after an albino pachyderm, in which numbers were passed out and helpless victims forced to choose from a pile of gifts. Even if a native avoided the trap of less desirable booty, the chosen bauble could be snatched away by another native with a higher number. The most-traded gift was a bizarre codex about the “Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger,” written by a man also named Randall. I ended up with a lovely picture volume of the history of Southern Virginia University.
Just when I thought it was safe to slip away undetected, one of the natives sat down at a keyboard instrument called a piano and others began to sing. These were clearly ancient tunes, intoned since time immemorial at the ritual reenactment of the deity’s birth. But the voices were mellifluous, nothing like the shrieking chants I had witnessed in Kolkata and Eritrea. Something inside me melted a little, and strange drops fell from my eyes.
As I stole away into the night, the host pressed some more Christmas treats into my hands. They were just the thing to gladden the heart of this world-weary newshound. I never learned exactly what these gay Mormons were about, but I could tell the world was a better place because of them and their deity.
Spencer W. Clark
Statement on Legislation to Legalize Civil Same-Sex Marriage in Illinois
Prepared by Mormons for Marriage Equality
Mormons from Illinois join with others across the country in calling for the state legislature to pass HB 5170 which would make Illinois the 10th state to enact civil marriage equality for LGBT couples and their families.
“This balanced legislation not only addresses inequality for our gay friends, family, and neighbors but it protects and strengthens religious freedom,” said Kevin Kloosterman. “As a devout Mormon, and former bishop in Illinois, I am proud to endorse this and I stand with over 260 religious leaders also endorsing this. This grand compromise shows that Equality and Religious Freedom are not mutually exclusive.”
Over the past year, Mormons from across the US and abroad have come together to support LGBT individuals and families and to advocate for civil marriage equality. Hundreds of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marched in pride parades in 18 cities in 2012 and worked to help ensure victory for marriage equality measures in four states last November.
LDS Church officials have on several occasions repeated that members should feel free to follow their conscience in forming opinions on this and other public policy issues, and in 2010, language that had encouraged opposition to civil marriage equality was removed from the Church’s official policy handbook. Reflecting this policy change, the Church was silent on all the state-level marriage initiatives in 2012, and Latter-day Saints could be found working and voting on both sides as they saw fit.
We thus find it regrettable that a regional LDS Church leader in Illinois has chosen to sign on to a letter that continues to propagate vague and false claims about the impact that same-sex marriage has on families, churches and society.
“We now have nearly eight years of experience with civil marriage equality in this country and our families and churches are as strong and free as ever,” said Spencer W. Clark, Executive Director of Mormons for Marriage Equality (M4ME) and an active Latter-day Saint. “It’s time to admit that the predictions of dire harm are baseless and that the primary impact of civil marriage equality is that hundreds of thousands of families are now stronger. As Mormons, we value family, and that’s why increasing numbers of Latter-day Saints are coming around to the realization that civil marriage equality is the true pro-family position.”
Opponents of same-sex marriage often claim to be working in the interests of families and children. Yet they ignore the 270,000 children in this country who are already being raised by same-sex parents, and who are harmed when their families are denied equal protections and benefits under the law. Marriage benefits couples and their children, whether of same or opposite sex. We cannot ignore and discriminate against those whose families may look slightly different from our own.
Spencer W. Clark continued, “As a husband and father, I know how much marriage benefits my family. If my wife and I did not have access to the legal and societal benefits of marriage, my family would suffer greatly. Christ taught us to love and treat others as we would want to be treated. Measures to treat families equally are an expression of Christ-like love.” Randall Thacker, President of Affirmation – Gay & Lesbian Mormons states, “The commitment of two individuals to care for and provide for each other throughout this life is very compatible with the fundamental teachings of Christ and Mormonism.”
We encourage Latter-day Saints and other Illinois residents to contact their legislators and ask them to support this important piece of legislation.
Snapshots of Team Work, left to right: 1. LGBT Mormons and allies pray at a Pride Interfaith Service in Salt Lake City in 2004. 2. Allies march with LGBT Mormons in San Francisco in 2012. 3. Affirmation leaders join a Catholic deacon’s plea for marriage equality in Annapolis in 2006.
People of Faith as Allies: A Global Phenomenon with a Long History
Many People of Faith, LGBT and Straight, Are Working for Equality
Hardly a week goes by without some story of anti-LGBT religious activity making the news. Headlines like “Interfaith Clergy Coalition Opposes Gay Marriage Bill” and “Cardinal to Same-Sex Couples: Your Marriages are Fiction, Should Be Celibate” seems to cement the idea that “gay” and “religious” are two polar opposites.
Of course, in the real world there are quite a few religious people, LGBT and straight, who defy this oversimplified understanding of how religion –or sexuality, for that matter– actually functions.
It is true that the Religious Right, as a political movement, very often contributes to the injustices, discrimination and climate of fear suffered by LGBT individuals around the world. But it is not true that all religious people are represented by the most vocal opponents of equality.
Gay religious people have been instrumental in the development of civil rights initiatives since inception. Bayard Rustin was a gay African American Quaker who helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped organize the historic 1963 March on Washington and was a mentor to Martin Luther King.
Study early Pride marches, and you are bound to bump into some names that represent either LGBT or LGBT-friendly religious figures. Troy Perry, of the Metropolitan Community Church, performed the first same-sex marriage in the United States in 1969. In 1970, he filed the first lawsuit in the U.S. seeking legal recognition for LGBT marriages. So the fight for marriage equality was started by a person of faith! The LGBT Religious Archives Network profiles 230 leaders in LGBTQ religious communities, archives 175 document collections, and stores over 200 artefacts from LGBT religious history.
Today, thousands of Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Pagan, and Mormon people, of all orientations, find their faith to be central in their desire to create a more inclusive world and equality for LGBT people.
Affirmation serves the LGBT Mormon community. The Al-Fatiha Foundation is one of the Muslim organizations that advance the cause of LGBT Muslims. Dignity USA serves the Catholic community. RMN, the Methodists. Keshet, Nehirim, and others, the Jewish Community. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Buddhists, Hindus… all have one, or several, groups representing them. These organizations show that LGBT faith transcends coincidental or subjective personal stories. These organizations prove that larger social change is inevitable.
It goes beyond the examples of Bishops Gene Robinson and Mary Douglas Glasspool; or Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum, Denise Eger, and Steven Greenberg; or Archbishop Desmond Tutu; or Bishops Jim Swilley and Yvette Flunder; or Reverends Peter Gomes, Malcolm Boyd, Jo Hudson, or Pastor Jimmy Creech, or Imam Daayiee Abdullah. Every single person of faith is now empowered to change, build bridges, or make a difference.
The lines of division between “us” and “them,” black and white, male and female, Mormon and non-Mormon, believer and atheist, gay and straight may be real and important; but at the end of the day, people are just people.
Affirmation welcomes reinvigorated interfaith cooperation and faith-based LGBT equality initiatives. We will strive to do our bit. Ultimately, it is up to the individual believer to clarify, through study and critical reasoning and prayer, how to best use their agency.