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From the Far Margins

Walls of ice


Boise's air chills and coalesces into ice fog. Night falls. Geese call frozen from the river.

We are the ones who work to stay warm. It's not a given. Warmth may be conditional for us. If we comply or smile, cook dinner, keep quiet, don't question, we have a bed in a house, groceries to eat. If we make sure no one knows we like girls or boys or inside are one or the other or both, then our parents feed us, call us son or daughter. If we praise God and can pretend we don't need a drink or a fix, we sleep in the shelter. If we do not, we may sleep in a frozen car, a clump of bushes or the concrete underpass.

Our lives are more governed by churches than we know. One third of Idaho's state lawmaking body are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The highest two positions in the House of Representatives and Senate are also LDS/Mormon. Many committee chairs are as well. They pray with arms folded.

Yet these people of LDS faith in power are generally rational and good-hearted people, compassionate and progress oriented. They are not the religious extremists who make the wild headlines for their lack of compassion for refugees or disdain or even paranoia concerning those who worship other gods—or God by some other name.

No, the LDS leadership of the Idaho House and Senate has not been glaringly obvious about its presence until the issue of gay marriage and ending discrimination against gay and transgender people became a focus of civil rights work in our state. Quietly the LDS bloc became not a warm, rational body but a cold, hard wall. It's a wall my body has met, again and again the past two years. I've gone to jail with more than 100 others trying to melt this wall, trying to get lawmakers to hear our stories. But that wasn't enough.

Why? Did good people suddenly grow heartless? No. They were told to sit down.

This may be a cautionary tale for religions that give their love with unreasonable strings attached.

You can't ask people to fight their own natures, their own being or ignore the Proclamation on the Family and turn away their own children and then expect them to continue to follow faithfully, without question. There comes a point when some cannot, when the demands seem too cruel or too impossible and perhaps too unrelated to salvation to make sense.

So, in the Idaho legislature, it's the LDS members who often seem the most conflicted. They know the need for our state to say that firing, evicting and refusing service to their gay children is wrong.

Yes, they have gay children. Some will and last year did admit their hands are still tied—tied by a church that recently admitted it planned to cast out the children of those who enter into gay marriage. Was this policy pure cruelty or a desperate gasp of a religion with no easy way to change on an issue it knows it must change on?

Change. Church after church has torn over this. One hears Pope Francis in Africa and can't help but remember the pain Catholic families have faced. One can't help but see the light in the man's words when he speaks of poverty and wealth. This is not the Catholic Church we knew. Overnight it changed.

The LDS church has a deeper problem. The church's stand on gay people is a result of how gender segregated the religion itself is. If you know the religion, you know each family must have a priesthood holder and a mother and how impossible it is to ascend to the highest level of heaven if you do not have one of each. Especially if you have two wives. This is not like making caffeine OK.

That wasn't even in writing. Minor edits erased the worst of racist scripture. Gay marriage creates a problem that would take far more than a simple revelation to fix. Everything would have to be rewritten to fit gay couples in—doctrine, scripture, everything. Who eviscerates their religion in this way? Willingly? No one.

Hating a religion isn't an answer. It makes us no different from lawmakers who hate Syrian refugee children because they're Muslims. The church is not just that tiny Salt Lake council of 12, it's the families torn by all this as well—good people trying to reconcile values, family, sons and daughters they love, children they have lost to suicide or who've left the state to distance themselves from the pain of a place where they're seen as less than human, less than worthy of God.

This is the season of winter solstice. It's the darkest day of the year. It's also the day on which the days begin to grow longer, brighter. For all the religions of the world that hold holy the struggle of winter, the celebration of survival, birth in cold and darkness; for all who worship giving, could we set our religious strife aside? Contemplate the cold, all the kinds of cold, and what we have to offer those who cannot escape it? Let's keep each other warm and fed and not be so quick to judge and cast others out for their difference or their faith.

I say this with love. In these uncertain times, let's keep the ice from our hearts, reach out with acts that blur the margins and lines between us. Let's aspire together to be something stronger than we are alone.