Curtis Penfold: “I love the idea of marriage so much that I want everyone to be able to get married”
Compiled by Hugo Salinas
Last week, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear oral arguments on cases related to Prop 8 and DOMA, Americans of every faith expressed their support of marriage equality. Thousands attended candlelight vigils and rallies held across the country, and hundreds of thousands wore red or changed their Facebook profile picture in support of giving LGBT people the right to marry. The following vignettes describe LDS participation in many of these events.
In Provo, Utah, over 100 BYU students and local residents gathered at the Utah County Courthouse, where they sang the national anthem, prayed, and lit candles. “I love the idea of marriage so much,” BYU sophomore and organizer Curtis Penfold told KSL5, “that I want everyone to be able to get married.” Brook Swallow carried a “Gay is OK” sign. Sara Vranes, a returned missionary and BYU graduate, said that she regrets having voted yes on Prop 8. “Now people have repented of their votes,” she told the crowd. “That is exactly the journey I am on. I want to make my vote a ‘no.’”
At the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington DC, Spencer Clark, executive director of Mormons for Equality, represented Latter-day Saints during an interfaith prayer service held in support of marriage equality, where he read a scripture from the Bible. Along with wife Cherry and daughter Clementine, he marched to the Supreme Court holding a sign that read, “MARRIAGE IS LOVE, COMMITMENT, FAMILY.”
In Providence, Rhode Island, Lexi Magnusson, a Mormon and a mother of four, was invited to testify at the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of marriage equality. “I am Mormon, but I don’t believe this is a religious issue,” Lexi wrote. “I believe that when you protect the rights and freedoms of others, you are also protecting your own rights and freedoms. It happened with the women’s, civil, and disability movements. In each case these people received their rights and their dignity, really, and the world didn’t come to a crashing end as was believed by many at the time.”
In Salt Lake City, Utah, 400 supporters of equality gathered at the Main Library amphitheater, including Family Fellowship co-founders Gary and Millie Watts. Russ Baker-Gorringe, a returned missionary and BYU graduate, spoke at the event flanked by his son on one side and his husband on the other. Russ and his husband married during the 2008 Affirmation conference held in Los Angeles.
In Bakersfield, California, PFLAG supporter Wendy Montgomery spoke at a candlelight vigil and apologized for having once supported Prop 8. “As Mormons, we do a lot of things right,” she told the audience. “There is so much that is beautiful and good with our faith. But we have this issue wrong. And I will fight to make a place in our congregations for my son, and other gay Mormons. If they want to be there, they should be allowed to be there.”
In the studios of ABC4 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Affirmation member Alasdair Ekpenyong spoke about his involvement with the Provo event. “Our faith drives us, as Christ reformed the community, to explore questions of social justice,” said Alasdair, who is a BYU sophomore and returned missionary. “It’s the lessons that I learned in Gospel Doctrine, for years, about being who I am and speaking forth that give the courage and the innermost conviction that it is correct to go forth and speak the truth that I have within myself.”
On Facebook, thousands of Mormons changed their profile picture to a red equality sign to express their support for equality. “I changed my profile picture because I believe in love,” says Amanda Klein Nokleby, a straight Mormon supporter from Durham, North Carolina. “Any two people who share this love should be able to enjoy the rights of marriage in this country, and it’s time to allow our LGBTQ friends that privilege. Facebook has become a wonderful medium to share opinions and thoughts on very pressing topics like marriage equality, and I hoped that by changing my profile picture, conversations would start, and change, bit by bit, would happen.”
At the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington DC, Michael Amesquita, who identifies as gay, Mormon, and Latino, participated in a rally for marriage equality. “In a country that boasts so many freedoms, it should not be this hard to be able to love the person you want to, and to have that love be equal and validated,” Michael wrote about that experience. “The Mormon pioneers were forced out of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois because their neighbors thought they were different and wouldn’t allow them to be who they were or live how they wanted to live. How can our fellow sisters and brothers not see the irony?”
On YouTube, LDS vlogger Christopher Allen posted a clip explaining why he supports marriage equality. “I always just thought that being gay was wrong… until I met people who were gay and realized they weren’t that different from me,” says Christopher. “When I saw that they were just regular people who wanted to laugh, and cry, and love just like the rest of us, I kind of had to rethink my opinion about the whole marriage thing.”
In North Carolina, Affirmation member Dean Scott Tingey, who was recovering from back surgery and couldn’t attend a local vigil, wore red in support of marriage equality. “I wore red today,” Dean wrote on his blog. “Someday I hope to wear black and white… a tuxedo. I hope to hold my guy’s hands, look into his eyes, and say, ‘I do.’ I hope we will have that right.”
In Floyd, Virginia (population: 432), Affirmation member Jim Best helped organize a candlelight vigil which included “music and laughter, colorful hand-lettered signs, and pleas for acceptance and compassion.” Held in front of the county courthouse, the event attracted over 50 people. “I choose love over fear every single moment that I’m able,” wrote Jim in a report about the event. “And I deserve the right to get married.”
On ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, Marie Osmond spoke about her lesbian daughter Jessica in terms that suggested support for marriage equality. “I believe in [my daughter's] civil rights, as a mother,” Marie said. “I think that my daughter deserves everything that she desires in life. She’s a good girl. She’s a wonderful child.” She then added, “I don’t think God made one color flower. I think He made many.”
In Logan, Utah, nearly 140 people gathered at the Historic Cache County Courthouse for an event co-sponsored by PFLAFG, Allies on Campus, and Love Is For Everyone. “The God that I know … is focused on breaking down laws of hate and exclusion,” said the Rev. Paul Heins of the First Presbyterian Church. “The God I know welcomes and invites all God’s children to discover freedom and equality and the depths of human love and relationship, and that invitation is not contingent upon the gender identity or the sexual orientation of the persons involved. God welcomes us all.”