Matthew Workman: Why I Marched, And Why You Should, Too
Last year, I was one of the thousands stunned by the large crowds participating in and watching the march at Faroe Pride. I was there to record audio for a podcast I do, but ended up been swept away by the masses who had gathered to show their support for the LGBT community in the Faroes.
In June of this year, I marched in the Pride parade where I live in Portland, Oregon and it was an amazing experience. Why did I march, and why should you? I’ll explain…
I’m part of a Christian sect called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. While considered quite radical a hundred years ago, Mormons are now known for being politically conservative and for putting their considerable organizational and fundraising skill behind California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in that state in 2008. (The US Supreme Court recently declared Prop 8 to be unconstitutional.)
I marched in Portland with a group of Mormons working under the banner, Mormons Building Bridges. They’re a group that believes our church needs to be a more welcoming place to our LGBT brothers and sisters.
Despite the fact I have many gay friends and recently learned I have a cousin who is a lesbian, the decision to march was a difficult one. I knew many friends and people I attended church with could be offended by my actions. I knew I would have to answer lots of questions and perhaps even be seen as an “other” by some of my peers.
So why do it? First, I heard the rhetoric being hurled against gays, and recognized some of the language. Gay relationships were called “unnatural,” an “affront to God,” a “threat to real marriages and families,” that “could be the slippery slope that lead to people marrying animals.” These were the exact same things said about my people when we practiced our own peculiar form of marriage: polygamy. Mormons stopped practicing plural marriage in the late 1800s and I’ll admit to being happy not to live in that era. I’ve got one wife. She’s wonderful. I don’t need any others.
But when the Mormons did practice polygamy, those opposed to it used it as an excuse to hunt us like animals. Indeed, it was legal to kill a Mormon in the state of Missouri until 1976. Actually, it was the law that you HAD to kill a Mormon if you encountered one.
So when I hear language like I’m hearing in the debate about gay rights, I know where it can lead. And as a Christian, I have a moral duty to oppose it.
As I see my LGBT brothers and sisters fight for the same rights I already have, I’ve come to see the struggle for gay rights as the civil rights battle of our era. When I looked at my actions over the past years, I began to see myself following the pattern of white liberals in the segregated American south of the 1950s. They opposed segregation and the way blacks were being treated, but they didn’t say or do anything, and were certain things would change eventually. They did nothing not because they were bad people, but because they didn’t want to rock the boat, they didn’t want to offend their neighbors, they didn’t want to lose their position in the community.
Things did change, but not as quickly as they could have without help from those sympathetic whites. Now that history has moved on, they have to answer questions from their children and grandchildren. “What did you do during the civil rights struggles in the 1960s?” One day soon my children will be asking me similar questions about the gay rights struggles today, and I knew I didn’t have a good answer. So I marched.
Finally, I marched because of the teachings of Jesus as found in the Bible. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Later, Jesus said the “first and greatest commandment” was to love God (Matthew 22:37-38) and then commanded that we “love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:40)
So in short, I believe in a God, and I believe I will have to answer for my actions in this life. I believe that judgment will involve me having to answer these two simple questions: how did you show love for God, and how did you show love for your brothers and sisters. Nowhere in that judgment will God ask, “How much have you done to keep the gays down?”
So I marched. I marched for my friends, for my faith, and for my family.
You should, too.