I met Daniel when I was a freshmen at BYU. We’ve recently reconnected via Facebook. I was so impressed with his response to the recent announcement from the LDS church that I asked him to write a guest post. Daniel’s blog can be found here. And you can see some of his FANTASTIC artwork here.
Salt Lake City just passed an ordinance that protects gay people from being fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes simply because they are gay. In an unprecedented move, an official spokesman supported the ordinance on behalf of the LDS Church before city council. This is an important ordinance--I know because I live in Utah, and I am frequently scared that I could be fired from my job or kicked out of my apartment because I am gay. Don't believe it happens? Think again.
One of my friends was living in a privately owned apartment in Provo. The apartment complex as a whole was contracted with BYU. When BYU discovered that my friend was gay and had previously been in a relationship (he was, at the time, single and celibate), BYU called the apartment manager and forced the owner to evict him from his apartment.
I do appreciate the Church for standing up for this ordinance, though the ordinance would have passed with or without the Church's approval. I hope that this move will set an example for members of the LDS church and let them know that it's okay to support gay people and their rights in both the public and private sphere. Mormon friends, the stamp of approval is there--you can be a gay ally!
But as a whole, this small move is not enough. While it might make the Mormon Church appear moderate and reasonable, the reality is that the Church didn't make any concessions on this PR stunt. Case in point, the scenario involving my friend could still happen to me.
It's not just that the ordinance only applies to Salt Lake City and I live in Provo, though that is in and of itself significant. (Where was the LDS Church during the Common Ground Initiative when this very issue was brought before the State legislature?) Even if that same ordinance were passed in Provo, exemptions that the LDS church made sure were included in the ordinance would allow BYU to evict people from it's contracted housing even though it doesn't own that housing or collect rent from its tenants.
Says Michael Otterson, the official LDS spokesman, "In drafting this ordinance, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations — for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements," he said. No wonder the LDS supported the ordinance! It seems they don't want anyone else to fire or evict gay people, as long as they still can.
As the Church stated, this ordinance protects common-sense rights. It shouldn't be significant that the Church stands up for common-sense rights, it should be a given. My head will turn when the Church stands up for equality and fairness even when it isn't obvious, and even when it means compromising previous positions that were discriminatory. And the opportunity for them to do that will come in the near future if they want to take it up, because as a gay Utah resident, my rights are still not protected. Equality for LGBT people isn't a reality yet.