PFLAG enters Prop 8 fallout fray, seeks LDS Church support

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Updated: 5:21 PM- Their stories and backgrounds may differ, but about a dozen members of PFLAG - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays - stood in Salt

Their stories and backgrounds may differ, but about a dozen members of PFLAG -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- stood in Salt Lake City on Monday with a unified message.

They came out in a downtown news conference to support the "Common Ground Initiative," a reference to five gay-rights bills Equality Utah will bring to the 2009 Legislature, and call for LDS Church backing.

"Without laws that protect my gay son and our other children from discrimination in employment, in housing, and in life and death, it's doubtful he could build a meaningful life absent of fear and persecution," said Kathy Godwin, the new PFLAG Salt Lake City chapter president. "As a mother, this truly saddens me."

Last week Equality Utah, a political advocacy group, extended a hand to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking for help in moving forward bills that would advance equal treatment for same-sex couples. The move came in the aftermath of California's passage of Proposition 8, a measure that defines marriage as exclusively being between a man and a woman. The LDS Church's efforts to pass that measure have spawned protests outside temples and finger pointing at Mormons. But because officials have been heard saying they don't object to same-sex couples having certain rights, Equality Utah is challenging the church to make good on those words.

"As of this morning, we have not received a response back from the church," said Mike Thompson, Equality Utah's executive director. "It's a little disappointing, ... [but] we will continue to hold out hope."

In a written statement to The Salt Lake Tribune late Monday, LDS Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said, "The Church is not planning on commenting on civil unions for the time being."

But spokesman Michael Otterson suggested a few days ago to a Washington Post reporter that the church's post-election remarks were "based on civil unions in California and that no decision has been made regarding similar rights in Utah," the paper said. "'I don't want to give the impression that the church is saying civil unions in all cases are OK,'" Otterson was quoted as saying.

While some PFLAG members were discouraged by the Mormon Church, Kathryn Steffensen refused to be. The faithful Latter-day Saint said that while she doesn't think the LDS Church should have moved "into taking away peoples rights that were given by the state and government," she's been heartened by the support of her community and bishop.

"The church loves its gay members and they love me," said Steffensen, 77, whose son, Erik, acknowledged being gay a couple of decades ago. "Everyone I know thinks they should have rights."

Steffensen described many of those she knows as "quiet but uncomfortable," people who don't feel good about rights being snatched away from same-sex couples but aren't yet ready to speak up.

Cori Redstone, 31, echoed that concern, calling on people to "take a stand. ... Now is not the time to sit back and be quiet."

Redstone took her own stand about seven years ago when she left the LDS Church. She'd been a devout member but became disillusioned when -- among other things -- she watched a close friend "self-destruct" while pretending to be straight in public.

"He's still posing as a straight faithful member of the church," she said. "He should have been allowed to be who he wanted to be."