Mormon Family Values
The Hardys' public criticism of the church has caused rifts between them and relatives, friends and colleagues--and has created tension for their eldest daughter, who remains active in the church. But even as their community banishes them, they continue in their quest to compel the media and, they hope, the church to acknowledge the struggles associated with being a homosexual in a community of Saints.
They do so in several ways. First, they fund diverse cultural fare in otherwise archconservative Utah. Last year they financed local stage productions of The Laramie Project, which focuses on the aftermath of Shepard's murder (a film adaptation debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival), and Confessions of a Mormon Boy, a one-man show detailing actor/writer Steven Fales's journey from marriage and fatherhood to reparative therapy and excommunication. (Confessions opens Off Broadway next fall.) They also open their home for three hours on the first Sunday of each month to young Mormon men and women struggling to confront their homosexuality--and any heterosexuals wanting to show support. Carlie is also planning a series of mountain retreats for those dealing with issues involving homosexuality in themselves or in their families.
Along the way, they have achieved a certain visibility in the press. Last Easter the Salt Lake Tribune published an Op-Ed piece by David; that same month, the CBS affiliate ran an interview with Carlie after she and David spoke at a candlelight vigil remembering the "Mormon Gay Suicides." In August they landed significant mention in a Newsweek article on gays and the Boy Scouts. Their squeaky-clean image has helped. "If there were a propaganda center in the church, this is the family they would choose," says Doug Wortham, a board member of Unity Utah, a gay and lesbian political action committee. "It's a pretty rare story to find a family like this," he says.
As for the Hardys' most vocal goal, an official endorsement or condemnation of the pamphlets, they've just recently succeeded: Harold Brown, the church's official spokesman on homosexuality, said of the pamphlets to The Nation, "I wouldn't even want to suggest that they were outdated or not in use." However, he says, "If you [take] the whole context of what has been written in the church, I think you'll find it's a voice of love and concern for people.... What we teach are the standards of morality that we believe will lead to happiness." (Boyd K. Packer was not available for comment.)
Brown says no amount of press attention or activism is going to influence God to change the rules regarding homosexuality--as when He outlawed polygamy in 1890 or gave equal rights to blacks in 1978. "Being black is not a sin," he explains. "Being immoral is."
The Hardys do not appear deterred. Their work fighting for the acceptance of gays is, in a sense, their new ministry; clearly it has helped fill the void created by their exit from the church. Judd is proud of his parents' commitment. "They've stopped talking about Christianity and charity and religion," he notes, "and they've started practicing it." At the same time, their activism irks him because he wants to be known by the world for what he does with his life, not for what happened to him in the past.
Honoring Judd's wishes, his parents ask his permission before speaking to the press. Usually, Judd rolls his eyes and then obliges them. Despite the unusual circumstances, there is something familiar about this dynamic--he is a regular kid, annoyed and embarrassed by his parents.
To Carlie and David, that is a blessing.