A couple of weeks ago, the church held a news conference in which Elders Holland and Oaks discussed the church’s support of efforts and legislation to protect the rights of members of the LGBT community while calling for protections for religious liberty (see newsroom article here).
Much has been said about whether or not this announcement represents progress, a reiteration of an existing position or something else all together. But it clearly communicated that this is still an issue that concerns the highest quorums of the church as well as local wards and branches.
As the battle for marriage equality is coming to a close, church leaders seem to have given up the fight and shifted their focus to religious freedom. I'll leave the discussion of threats to religious liberty and necessary protections to another day. Because right now I want to talk about what we are going to do, now that marriage equality looks to soon become the law of the land in all fifty states. What are we - as saints and allies - going to do to reach out to these marginalized communities and the individuals within them? What are we going to do to make our wards and larger faith community more welcoming? What are we going to do to support all of our siblings in the gospel?
I’m going to offer a few suggestions to get us all started.
1) Keep talking. For those of us who have advocated and fought for marriage equality, it’s been really exciting to watch our goal of marriage equality to become real in state after state across the nation. But the fight isn’t over. There is work yet to do. And it is going to require some good old fashioned conversation. Conversation is how education happens. Conversation is how empathy and trust are established. Conversation is how support is offered.
2) Expand the dialog. It can be really easy to think of this as a gay issue, but it’s about a lot more than gay men. For example, my stake sponsors a support group for gay men yet nothing similar for lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex or asexual people. These are groups that are likewise marginalized by church culture and policy, and perhaps even more likely to fall through the cracks. We need to expand our scope, educate ourselves and think beyond gay marriage.
3) Embrace diversity. Every ward, every community is unique. Every ward, every community has members who don’t quite seem to fit the mold, who are pushed or flee to the margins. Let’s seek them out, find ways to get them more involved in the ward community and open up space for diversity. A few conferences ago, Elder Uchtdorf rather famously said, "there is room for you in this church". (see conference talk here) I take that as an exhortation and a challenge to each of us in the church to make more room in our respective congregations for those who might feel pushed out and unwelcome. It's our job to make sure there is room for all who wish to worship with us. There is will only be room for LGBTQIA members to be authentic and find support in our faith communities if we make room for them.
This list is short and hardly exhaustive, but perhaps it might be a starting point. I am continually touched by the capacity of my fellow members to reach out and serve one another. There is so much potential within the membership of the church, so much love, so much passion. What are your thoughts? What next steps can we take to make the church more hospitable, welcoming and supportive for our LGBTQIA siblings?