Change the World

Gay Dads Respond to the Mormon Church's Policy Reversal

We asked gay dads with experience in the Mormon Church what they made of the religion's recent about face

Jared Lynton

In November 2015, the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced a new policy decision that shocked many in their community: not only would same-sex married couples be considered "apostates," but even their children would be barred from receiving church blessing and baptisms.

The move was immediately met with backlash. Some allies resigned from the church in protest. Others stood by the church's decision, creating chasms within families. According to the Salt Lake Tribute, some even committed suicide.

Last week, however, the church did an about face: just three and a half years after first announcing its policy, children of LGBTQ parents can now be baptized and same-sex couples are no longer "apostates." (Though "homosexual acts" are still very much a sin.)

We caught up with several gay dads in our community with experience with the Mormon religion to get their perspective on the change.



"I'm grateful this policy doesn't have to be a factor in my kids' life"

"In 2015 I posted this photo to my FB in response to a policy that kept children of gay parents from being baptized into the LDS church, and labeled gay people as apostates. My kids attend church with their mom, and it hurt that the church I was raised in would do something so hateful. The huge response from that one post led me to start this IG account.

Today the church has reversed that policy. I am glad that an impactful organization has made such a move towards more inclusion and acceptance. I am also grateful now that this policy doesn't have to be a factor in my own kids' involvement with the church.

Since 2015 my views have changed, and that's ok. I'm human, and I'm allowed to change. We should also allow an organization run by humans the same leeway to make mistakes and change their views. This doesn't take away the pain that I and many families have felt over the past few years because of this policy. An apology from the church would be appropriate, but I don't expect one or need one. I've moved past allowing a church to make decisions for my family.

This policy made me take a harder look at baptism and how it's used to shape a child and determine their life course. It's definitely a decision that should be made when one fully knows what it means to align oneself with any particular church. When my kids are able to understand the dynamics of this policy, I hope they learn that they alone get to decide to have a relationship with God or not. Spirituality is a personal decision and should never be left in the hands of indecisive church leaders, especially when those humans still haven't fully embraced all the goodness in the LGBT community.๐ŸŒˆ

What can we all do now? We can reach out and support those who have been affected by this policy. We can work to heal our culture and find more common ground rather than dwelling on our differences.

No matter what, I love my kids, and they love me regardless of who I love. Nothing can stop us from living life to the fullest and having our adventures together as a family. โ™ฅ๏ธ"

- Dad Devon, @dadsnotdaddies

"It's a minor step forward..."

"The church's reversal of its LGBT policy is a minor step forward. However, there is a long way to go before praise is due for its treatment of LGBT people. The church still classifies same-sex marriage and LGBT "behaviors" as "serious transgressions" and many cite these views toward LGBT people as the reason for Utah's increasing suicide rate.

With that said, the church has plenty of good members - our own families among them. In our marriage and in adopting our daughter, we have felt nothing but love from our Mormon family members. We support them as they support us and hope that one day the church, as a whole, will finally recognize and embrace its LGBT members for who they are."

- Dads Jason and Brian, @dadsbydesign

"Love doesn't lie and always prevails"

"I have to answer this first by saying that my departure from the LDS organization was primarily because of the lack of belief in the doctrines and lack of edification. I found myself more unhappy attending the church than enlightened and uplifted.

Having said that, it was no surprise when the church originally announced that gays and their children were apostates and such children weren't allowed to be baptized into the organization unless they essentially reject the parent(s) that raised them. So when the church reversed their policy and said that children are no longer apostates, I can honestly say it had no emotional affect on me. Even if the LDS organization never had policy changes, the only involvement I would want for my children to have, is a respect for other people's beliefs and lives. That is one of the truest measures of love in the world.

I have a hard time seeing why any child of a gay parent or person (in general) would want to affiliate with any organization that teaches the lack of worth for being your best and honest self; or would want to affiliate with an organization that they don't believe the claims/teachings. The purpose of life is to learn how to love yourself. So, if the only way for a person to gain that sort of experience in this life is to join a religion, that is where they belong. Regardless, love doesn't lie and always prevails."

- Dad Jared, @jleolyn

"Too many people still see faith and LGBTQ identity as incompatible"

"The policy was a reminder that too many people still see faith and LGBTQ identity as inherently incompatible. But as one who has deep familiarity with both "sides" of this, I've come to stop seeing "sides." There should not be a division. Being gay is a gift that enhances my spirituality. I'm grateful for the step forward that undoing this policy represents as I believe any policy or tenet that disregards the inherent compatibility of one's faith and one's LGBTQ identity will eventually fade away. People grow. Their understandings change. And God really is a God of love. So I'm hopeful.

If you feel neglected or rejected by any faith community, your hurt deserves to be validated. You may need distance to protect yourself. But also know that change can come. Continue to see the humanity in the people of any organization, even if it is one that hasn't yet figured out a place for you. Radiate love, and love will find a way to influence change. It may be slow and frustrating. But you have worth as a child of God, and your identity and unique gifts matter in the community of faith."

- Dad Travis, @robertsmanta

"Some took their own lives. They are the collateral damage of the Church's error"ย 

"On November 5, 2015, the ground shook beneath the feet of queer Mormons, myself included. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had openly created an exclusionary policy that abruptly castigated LGB Mormons as apostate and further classified our love as "counterfeit." Apostasy, by Mormon definition required excommunication from the Church.

The Church further instructed that children of LGB parents would no longer be considered for blessings, would be prohibited from baptism, sacramental ordinances and other religious rites until they had turned 18 years old, disavowed us as their same-sex parent, andโ€”as a last requirement: the child must move out of their queer parent's home.

The pain of that Policy was extensive and immediate. As a contributing factor, some within our LGBT Mormon community took their lives by suicide as a result. I personally knew some of these beautiful, now deceased people. They are the collateral damage of the Church's error.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has now rescinded this heinous policy. Some have praised the move as evidence of the Mormon Church's progressive and changing trajectory. I disagree. The Church intentionally set a fireโ€”and now they want praise for extinguishing it. They must own the results of their actions.

Reversing the Policy is a good thing, it was the necessary thing to do; but doing the right thing from the very beginning would have saved lives from being lost, families from unnecessary fracture, and insulated some marriages from the sting of divorce.

Today our best option is to move forward with the same message that buoyed us through the last 3.5 years. To the LGBT community: you aren't broken, you aren't alone, and you are safe with those who love you. You were created by divine design and we need you."

- Dad Kyle, @theRankAndKyle

(Kyle Ashworth is a gay man and father of four children from a previous heterosexual marriage. He is a queer community speaker and host of the Latter Gay Stories Podcast, the longest running Mormon LGBT themed broadcast resource. Visit their website, and check them out on Facebook and Instagram.)

"LGBT individuals should be loved and celebrated as they are..."

"Although we personally stopped attending the LDS church long ago, we always maintained a respect and appreciation for the positive experiences we had as kids growing up in the Mormon community (leaving the gay/identity conflict aside). Most of our family and childhood friends are active, believing Mormons, and are very good people. As gay fathers living in Utah, we always wondered if we could someday support our kids, if they chose to attend church with cousins, aunts, grandparents....and how that dynamic could play out if it was something they wanted to do as they got older.

The exclusion policy of 2015 changed all of that.

The unprecedented pain and damage to us, our local LGBT community, but also to many believing Mormons, including our families, was immediate and widespread. It was the final straw that motivated us and many of our close friends to remove our records formally from the church because the message was clear that we and our children had no place among them. We know several LGBT Mormon youth and young adults, who took their own lives after the policy was announced because they lost all hope. That is NOT ok and can never be made right.

Although the recent news of the policy reversal is a step in the right direction (anything that furthers inclusion and acceptance is a GOOD thing), the hostile doctrine that will continue to be preached to LGBT youth within the pews of the church is damaging. LGBT individuals should be loved and celebrated as they are, and never told they are "challenged with same-sex attraction," nor should they resign themselves to a life of celibacy. Even so, it is our hope that this policy reversal will help a new generation of LGBT kids who choose to stay, find a little more peace, than the generation lost by the exclusion policy."

- Dads Spencer and Dustin, @thehomedepotboys

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News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother โ€” like a "normal couple" โ€” in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah โ€” just south of Salt Lake City โ€” asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press โ€” no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident โ€” and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar โ€” many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here โ€” and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment โ€” Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Speaks Out Against Trump's Attempts to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE says adoptive dad Erik Alexander.

Four years ago we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. We were told that in our own city of New Orleans, there was a newborn baby that needed a forever home. What we were told by the agency would likely take five or more years took mere weeks. We frantically started putting together her nursery and planning for her arrival. She was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in the NICU to grow and gain her strength and weight before she was released. She was so tiny and delicate. We were almost afraid to hold her in the beginning because of how fragile she was.

Finally, the day arrived that we were able to bring her home and we were thrust into overdrive. We prepared by reading all the baby books and watching the videos, but all that goes out the window when you have a baby in your arms. Our little baby had trouble digesting her formula due to her prematurity. The look in her eyes due to the pain she felt broke our hearts. We felt helpless! All we could do was just try to make sure to do everything on our end to help alleviate any pain she may encounter while feeding her. It was terrible. We would hold her for hours trying to console our hurting baby girl. I remember thinking to myself while she was crying that I would do anything to make her feel better.

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Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce โ€” and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months โ€” the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

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New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

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