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Motivationally Interviewing a Mormon About Same-Sex Marriage

How does a humane Mormon deal with her Church's role in fighting gay marriage?

Note: Abby Huntsman is one of four regular co-hosts of The Cycle on MSNBC.  The daughter of former Utah Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, both she and her father see themselves as political moderates at the same time as they are observant Mormons.  Huntsman (like her father) is also very good looking.

News Item 1: Gay couples rushed to get married in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in Utah after a federal judge ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The couples feared that the decision would be rapidly reversed given the opposition of the Mormon Church, a political powerhouse in Utah, and its Governor, who had immediately appealed it:

Even as gay couples celebrated the ruling, it drew condemnation from some religious leaders and elected officials in this deeply conservative state. Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, assailed it as judicial activism that had upended the will of Utah voters.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement saying it hoped a higher court would overturn Judge Shelby's ruling. And The Deseret News, which is owned by the Mormon Church, criticized the ruling for creating "a new class of same-gender applicants deemed 'married' under the Utah Constitution."

Observers and officials in Salt Lake were caught off guard by the pent-up demand for same-sex marriage. Gay couples, for their part, ran like scared rabbits (1) to marry loved ones, (2) to legitimize their parenthood, and (3) to secure insurance as couples, to wit:

(1) "I can't believe it," James Goodman said. He and his partner, Jeffrey Gomez, rushed from work to the clerk's office on Friday after hearing about the ruling. Since they had no car, they hitched a ride from a boss and colleagues at Nordstrom, where Mr. Gomez works. Their rides also ended up being their witnesses.

"We knew it was just something we had to do," Mr. Gomez said. "This is my home, and I never thought I'd be able to get married here. I feel like a real person."

(2) Brandon Mark, a lawyer in Salt Lake City, said his partner, Weston Clark, called him shortly after the ruling to share the news. They raced down to the clerk's office with their son, Xander, 3, joining a throng of news cameras and cheering couples.

"We wanted to wait until it was legal in our state," Mr. Mark said. "This is the state we live in and where we raise our family. We weren't willing to settle for second best."

(3) Jim Dabakis, a gay Democratic state senator who married his longtime partner on Friday, said he planned to call Utah's health insurance office and enroll his partner, "whether the state likes it or not."

"We will expect every other right and benefit of other Utah marriages," he said. "I don't see how the state takes that back."

News Item 2: The Mormon Church was the driving economic and political force behind a measure banning gay marriages in California in 2008: "Interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat -- and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers."

News Item 3. After a long history of forbidding blacks equal standing in the Mormon Church, including the right to be priests (restricted to white males), in 1978 the Church granted African Americans full rights of participation.

These events lead me to want to propose the following questions to Ms. Huntsman:

  1. Do you and your father tithe or otherwise contribute money to the Church?
  2. Would this mean that you and the Governor were financial supporters of California's ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, which succeeded with a large infusion of cash and support from your Church?
  3. The State of Utah is currently fighting a federal judge's decree that the State's ban on gay marriage in unconstitutional. In the interim, while the judge's ruling has been appealed, hundreds of gay couples in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in Utah have rushed to get married before the right to do so is legally withdrawn. Do you support the Church's and the governor's fight against permitting gay marriage in Utah?
  4. In 1978, the Church declared that its century-old ban against blacks participating fully in the Church no longer held. Do you see a possibility the Church will reverse itself on gay marriage and, if so, what time frame would you imagine for such a reversal?
  5. Do you agree with Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, former (and current?) GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, along with others, that the Christian bible is dead set against same-sex marriage, a position that can never be reversed, no matter what civil rights rulings are made by American courts?

Stanton's latest book, with Ilse Thompson, RECOVER! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program, due out February 4, is available for pre-order here.

P.S. (December 29):

Huntsman a cultural Mormon

Former Mormon

He has a Mormon background but isn't active in the church. I don't know about all of his children, but I've read that several attend other churches. I don't know what his opinion of gay marriage might be, but I suspect that it is far more favorable than the official Mormon stance.

Well, then

Stanton Peele

My questions should present Abby and Jon with an opportunity to make clear (a) that they are not active members of the Church, (b) their opposition to the Church's position on gay marriage. As people of integrity (Jon Huntsman's main selling point -- Abby's as well), then they should welcome this opportunity.

Can you think of any reason either -- or both -- of them wouldn't? Are they afraid of something? What? And why would this fear be strong enough to dissuade them -- people with some influence in the state -- from speaking out about their true beliefs in re gay marriage? Aren't Christians honest and humane?

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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