Election 2012 / Politics

The “Moho” Vote

Members of Affirmation, a Mormon LGBT support group. Photo courtesy of Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons website.

While it’s almost certain which presidential candidate has the Mormon vote in the bag for the Nov. 6 election, the Mormon gay community, which some call “Moho,” is keeping its own counsel. While some gay men align with the LGBT community at large in their more liberal attitudes, others adhere to traditional Mormon values in their choice of candidate.

Whichever way they vote, gay Mormons have been emerging more recently as a vocal force within the Mormon community. Randall Thacker a senior vice president of Affirmation, an organization that supports LGBT Mormons, said that despite the obstacles, he’s been able to reconcile his sexuality with his religious beliefs.

“Gay Mormons feel that it’s all or nothing, that they can’t be both,” he said.

After coming-out, Thacker was not excommunicated from the Church. Though he faces restrictions because of his orientation, such as exclusion from the priesthood, he is allowed to attend Church and even plays music for the children’s group of his ward.

Apparently, unapologetic homosexuality is no longer a one-way ticket to hell—rather, tolerance of homosexuality depends upon the local Mormon leadership. In some instances, openly gay Mormons have been accepted into the Church without penalty.

Joshua Behn, president of Affirmation, spoke of an instance of flexibility within the Church.

“One of [the organization’s] vice presidents, he went back to the church and went to his bishop and said, ‘You know what, I’m coming back to Church, but I’ve got a boyfriend and I’m not gonna change, this is who I am…and this bishop [said] ‘all right, we’re glad, come in to our ward,’”Behn recalled.

Social networking has provided an important means of support for LGBT Mormons. David Burton, an openly gay man who is still very much active in the LDS Church, saidthat once he came out, he realized he shared his story with many others.

“There are so many gay Mormons out there,” he said. “I feel like…they’re like popping up everywhere.”

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Kevin Lindley, a 27-year-old graduate student from Idaho said, “Look–we exist, we’re real people, and that’s ok.”

According to the Pew Forum, a research center devoted to the study of religion and its impact on public life, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints are some of the most socially conservative citizens in the United States. Although small in number, Mormons traditionally vote for Republicans in droves. According to Pew, only 1.7 percent of American adults identify as Mormon. The same study reveals that, in 2009, Mormons were even more conservative than Evangelicals, the group widely thought of as being the most zealous in support of conservative values. While 50 percent of Evangelicals identified with the Republican Party, for Mormons, that number jumps to 65 percent. It would follow that this relatively small religion, known for its insularity and sense of community, would likely support a Presidential candidate who is also a Mormon. The likelihood of support is even greater since Romney’s platform reflects the Church’s conservative values.

Conservatism can be found among gay Mormon voters as well. Of the 11 men interviewed, four indicated they were Republican. One “independent moderate” and two Republicans said they plan to vote for Mitt Romney.

Though Mormon doctrine emphasizes tolerance and acceptance, the LDS officially disapproves of homosexuality. However, the Church maintains this can be “forgiven through severe repentance.” As of late, the Church has veered more toward a policy in which homosexuality is tacitly permitted, as long as the attraction is not acted upon.

Kevin Lindley is an openly gay member of the Church who is married to a woman, in what he refers to as a “mixed-orientation marriage.” Lindley lives in Idaho and says the reaction to his coming-out was one of tolerance.

“I’ve received a really, really positive feedback from everybody who I’ve personally interacted with,” he said.

Some experiences are not so positive. There are those who have left the LDS voluntarily because of the Church’s attitude toward homosexuality.

Joseph Broom, a convert to the Mormon faith and member of the Church for 28 years, explained, “I could have been excommunicated and I had told myself that I would never permit myself to go through that process and I would resign. And that’s what I did.”

Many people like Broom have left the Church, but still identify with the faith.

“I’m no longer an active Mormon, but I consider myself at the same time a member of the Mormon community,” he said.

Gay Mormons have been a driving force in applying increased pressure on the Church to reassess its position on homosexuality. Leaders within the Church have begun to change the way in which they deal with people who do come out, however the LDS’s position on gay marriage has not budged.

Though the Church is adamant about its apoliticism, insisting it does not encourage its members to vote for a particular party, the Pew foundation study indicates a positive correlation between Church attendance and conservative political ideology. Among the 11 people interviewed, those who were closer to the Church, or in mixed-orientation marriages in which they currently do not act on their homosexuality, tend to be voting for Romney.

Lindley has realized the dream of the idyllic Mormon family, which so many gay Mormons are excluded from. He has a five-year-old son and is “happily married” to a woman. His vote will be cast for Romney.

Of the men who said they would be voting for the challenger, none indicated Romney’s social policies or the fact that he’s a Mormon as selling points. In fact many, like Lindley, indicated they would never vote for someone based on their religion. “I’m not like ‘Oh you’re a Mormon, check.’”

According to the Pew study, Mormons are more economically conservative than the general public. About 75 percent of Mormons surveyed in 2011 said that they “prefer a smaller government providing fewer services.” Indeed, all of the men interviewed who are voting for Romney indicated that the economy was the most important issue for them in this election.

“You know in this case it’s really the way the economy’s going,” he said. “With Romney I think we’ll be progressing in a way, because he has a lot of experience in the business world.”

For the Romney voters in the group, it’s hard to imagine how they can reconcile the candidate’s position on gay marriage with their own sexuality. Though Romney has sent mixed messages regarding his position on gay civil rights, he has taken a solid stance against same-sex marriages. Of the interviewees who support Romney, it appears that issues of social justice simply take a back seat to economic concerns.

Lindley explained that he “doesn’t really have an interest in opposing individual rights” but that he trusted the Legislature and Supreme Court to prevent a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

David Burton, a 40-year-old marketing consultant living in Washington, D.C., was the sole undecided voter of the bunch. He represented the inner struggle that many voters are experiencing this election cycle.

“You know I’ve wrestled a lot with this upcoming election because the two issues that are most important to me are the economy and gay rights.” Burton said.

If he concludes the economy is of the greatest concern, he will vote Republican, but if gay rights end up being more important to him, then Obama gets his vote.

Though some gay Mormons have been able to look past Romney’s position on same-sex marriage, many simply cannot permit the possibility that their civil rights as gay men will not be realized under a Romney administration.

David Baker, a 23-year-old political consultant living in Washington D.C. identifies as a “liberal Republican.” Largely due to Romney’s position on gay marriage he will not be voting for the Republican nominee. Instead, Baker says he will be writing in the former governor of Utah, Republican John Huntsman, for President.

The rest of those interviewed said they would be voting for Obama come November—six of the 11 men indicated they will be siding with the incumbent.

Joseph Broom, an openly gay man who is no longer an active member of the Church, nevertheless still considers himself a member of the community. Broom understands Romney’s policies as totally incompatible with his sexuality.

“For me, personally, social issues are paramount,being a gay man voting for Romney or supporting the Republican Party as it has become, is just totally out of the question,” Broom said.

Corey Clawson, a PhD candidate at Rutgers, also found Romney’s position to be indigestible.

“I cannot support Romney as a candidate who would endorse an amendment threatening the possibility of securing my family’s well-being,” he said.

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