Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I’m thinking about what we as an LGBTQ community have to be thankful for lately. Recent news has been rather sobering.
News broke recently of a new policy of the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), which states that the children of same-sex parents may not be baptized or serve a mission until they are 18, and then only if they move out of their parents’ home and “specifically [disavow] the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.” Being in a same-sex relationship is also now considered apostasy and can lead to being ousted from the church. That is perhaps not surprising from a church that has institutionally long opposed LGBTQ equality — but the requirement that children condemn their parents’ identities and reject the family structure that raised them seems a new low.
Francisco Negron, a 17-year-old who was planning to serve a Mormon mission after high school, has now decided it would be “hypocritical” to do so, since he has a gay dad, reported KIVI-TV. He says he will leave the church.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a mom, who was raised a Mormon, is also leaving. She wrote in a Washington Post piece that while “spiritually and emotionally, I left the church I grew up in decades ago,” she remained on its rolls until now. “It was the gratuitously cruel and stigmatizing treatment of children that pushed me to disavow the church of my childhood.” Thousands like her, who had remained part of the LDS Church although not necessarily active, also formally cut ties with it on Saturday.
The Mormon policy wasn’t the only bad news out of Utah of late, however. Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen ordered a foster child removed from the home of a married two-mom couple in Carbon County, solely because he said research indicated children are better off with heterosexual parents. (He should perhaps read the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on marriage, which cited overwhelming evidence to the contrary.) The women, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, had been approved as foster parents, and are already raising Pierce’s 12- and 14-year-old children. They told KUTV that the foster child’s biological mother and state-appointed attorney support them. Under pressure from LGBTQ advocates, Johansen later reversed his decision, although a final hearing isn’t until December.
In a small bit of good news out of the Beehive State, however, a lesbian couple was awarded more than $24,000 in court fees after Utah initially refused to put both their names on their baby’s birth certificate unless they did a costly and intrusive step-child adoption.
In a similar vein, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has updated its policy so that both same-sex spouses will be named on their children’s birth certificates.
But the Wisconsin state Court of Appeals has just ruled that a married lesbian couple cannot put both their names on their child’s birth certificate, despite the fact that married different-sex couples can do so. The court said the couple improperly presented their case as an adoption petition in order to avoid filing fees and the requirement to notify the then-attorney general, who was known to be antigay. One of the plaintiffs, in an email to family and friends that she shared with me, explained that they only brought their case as an adoption action because there was no other category into which it fit, “since it is a right that is automatically granted to opposite-sex married couples without them having to file any forms in court.” A federal case in Wisconsin on the matter (with different plaintiffs) is still pending.
Other news reinforces the sense that a backlash against LGBTQ equality is gaining steam. Voters in Houston, Texas, have also just defeated an equal-rights ordinance that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodation. Opponents successfully tried to scare voters with images of men in women’s restrooms (apparently not realizing that that’s what they’ll get if transgender men aren’t allowed to use the restroom of their identity).
A week later, however, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to clarify a city ordinance to explicitly ban discrimination based on gender identity.
And the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in North America, issued a resolution at its recent biennial conference affirming the full inclusion of transgender people in Jewish life. They are not the first Jewish denomination to affirm transgender rights (the smaller Reconstructionist movement was), and several Christian denominations have done so as well. The Reform resolution, calling for training and advocacy, as well as gender-neutral bathrooms and language, is more “comprehensive” than the others, however, according to Michael Toumayan, manager of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, in the New York Times.
Are the wins enough for us to be thankful in the face of continuing bias and discrimination? Yes — for even most of the losses are starting from a point of accepting (however grudgingly) same-sex couples’ right to marry, and acknowledging transgender people’s existence in our communities. We are fighting these battles because we have won others. We are fighting them because we have children and we want to continue making the world better for them. Even in the midst of a backlash, then, we should be thankful — thankful, but not complacent. We should use the power of that gratitude to continue making progress towards equality and justice in our homes, our communities and around the world.