Update Oct. 7, 2 p.m.: The meeting location for tonight’s protest has changed. Meet now at 50 East 1st Ave. (south of Brigham Young Park) at 7 p.m.
Just days after an LDS Apostle’s anti-gay remarks made national headlines, Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has planned a number of events to protest the leader’s sermon, and to show support for LGBT people and their straight allies.
During the LDS Church’s semi-annual General Conference Oct. 3, Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, made the remarks during a sermon against same-sex marriage and pornography. He stated that the LDS Church would always oppose same-sex marriage, said that gays and lesbians could change their sexual orientation to straight, and compared homosexuality to “a habit or addiction that is unworthy.”
“There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature,” he said. “A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?”
One day after the conference, activist Eric Ethington, owner of the blog PRIDE in Utah, called for a protest against Packer’s remarks.
“[Packer] … sent a clear and loud message to all LGBT teens living [with]in the church. The message of saying you need to change your sexual orientation and you will always be second class until you do is vile and dangerous,” wrote Ethington. “This kind disgusting hate speech is responsible for more teen suicides every year then we even know. Kids kill themselves, or are thrown from their homes because they are taught by men like this that God doesn’t love them.”
Ethington referred not only to the suicides in September of at least nine teenagers because of anti-gay bullying, but of three young Utah gay men in July. On Sept. 30 another Utah teen, Alec Henriksen, also committed suicide. It is unclear whether Henriksen was gay or not.
Frequently, gay and transgender-rights activists in Utah and elsewhere have drawn a link between suicides of Mormon and formerly Mormon gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens and remarks from church leaders. The LDS Church considers gay sex sinful and has encouraged members to support anti-gay measures in several states. The most notable of these was 2008’s Proposition 8, which re-banned same-sex marriage in California.
“We’re going to be a bit creative about this though,” Ethington continued. “Please wear a black shirt, and be prepared to lie on the ground.”
The protest will begin at City Creek Park, the southwest corner of State St. and North Temple, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7. Protesters will meet there and then walk over to the Church Office Building on Temple Square. Protesters are asked to keep to the sidewalks.
To RSVP to the protest visit this Facebook event.
On the same evening, Salt Lake City’s PFLAG chapter has also planned a “response of love and support” to Packer’s remarks in the form of a potluck dinner. This will be held in the Utah Pride Center’s Multi Purpose Room, 361 N. 300 West, from 7–9 p.m.
“It has been a particularly difficult week here in Utah, after the comments made by Boyd Packer of the LDS Church,” reads a statement on the chapter’s Facebook page. “These unfortunate and hateful comments have touched each of our lives and those we love, even if we are not LDS members. But it has hit our friends and families who are LDS particularly hard, and it is important for us all to “Circle the Wagons” as [LDS author and gay rights advocate] Carol Lynn Pearson has said, and reach out to … our PFLAG community at large.””
On Oct. 9, Southern Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community will hold a similar rally to Ethington’s. Protesters will gather on St. George’s Main Street for a candlelight vigil and a march to the LDS temple on 250 E. 400 South.
“The biggest injustice we have ever faced is the loss of a life,” said St. George resident and rally organizer Jason Lee Beeno. “Countless teenagers and adults have attempted to, or have succeeded in taking their lives because instead of being embraced in open arms and being told that everything is OK, they are told they are vile and sinful. This rally is an attempt to say to southern Utah that it’s still OK to be who you are. We all need to come together, in a spirit of acceptance, to avert suicides like that of [Rutgers University freshman] Tyler Clementi,” one of the nine known teens who committed suicide after anti-gay bullying in September.
Protesters are asked to meet at 6pm on Main Street at 100 South, near the library.