McEntee: Gay or straight, commitment deserves acceptance

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This past spring brought three weddings I was honored to attend.

In March, my sister married a New Jersey man in an azalea-ringed backyard in Orlando. In May, our niece threw herself a fabulous wedding in La Jolla, Calif., with bridesmaids and groomsmen and a riotous dinner party featuring Brazilian drummers and dancers.

Later in May, two dear friends exchanged vows in Memory Grove, where a songbird offered all the music we needed to hear.

All were joyful; only one lacked the imprimatur of church or state. In Memory Grove, it was two women who danced that first dance to "Come Rain or Come Shine" in a recording by (who else?) Bette Midler.

It was all the more poignant because it happened in a state dominated by a faith and government that evidently will never concede that gay people are entitled to the same recognition as their straight brothers and sisters.

Last weekend, LDS general authority Bruce C. Hafen told a conference of Evergreen International -- which claims to help Mormons overcome homosexual behavior and diminish same-sex attraction -- that such sexuality is not a biological phenomenon.

He also promised that if those who feel such attractions live chastely, as do unmarried straight Mormons, they can arise in the resurrection with "normal attractions for the opposite sex."

And Hafen challenged the American Psychological Association's recent recommendation that therapists steer their clients away from "reparative therapy," citing studies that indicate it just doesn't work and can do harm.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In years past, it fought against gay rights in other states.

In 2004, voters amended the Utah Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman, and the Legislature -- overwhelmingly LDS -- has dumped proposed legal protections for same-sex couples and is likely to do the same with Salt Lake City's plan to banish housing and workplace discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Paradoxically, Salt Lake has a vibrant LGBT community living and working alongside the straightest of the straight. And like our friends, many have committed to one another for life.

My question is this: Why would anyone want men and women to live without the deeply human ties of romantic and sexual love? What stronger alliance is there for a society that depends on moral, honest people doing the right thing for themselves, their loved ones and neighbors?

It's not just the LDS Church, but any number of Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, as well as Islam. In California, the coalition for Prop. 8 included representatives of all of these.

I don't hate religion. On the contrary, I admire most religious people for their conviction and compassion. What I will never understand is how compassion can fail when it comes to gay people.

So I think about our friends, and the words of George Eliot they said to each other:

"What greater thing is there for two human souls meant to feel that they are joined for life -- to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent and unspeakable memories at the moment of last parting?"