Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, flew into Salt Lake City from Washington D.C. earlier this week to call on LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer to "correct" statements he made about same-sex attraction. His group, which expressed concerns that Packer's speech would negatively affect LGBT youths, delivered a petition with 150,000 signatures to LDS Church headquarters.
A number of LGBT advocates in Utah rallied behind HRC's effort. In fact, HRC had to rent a small tourist bus to carry everyone from a news conference at the Utah Pride Center to the LDS Church Office Building.
Here's a run down of what was said at the Utah Pride Center.
Solmonese • "Same-sex attraction cannot be repaired, it cannot be washed away and it certainly cannot be changed simply by praying more. … The problem, the danger, with the statements that [Packer] made is that they will be believed as revealed truth and then used by some to rationalize discrimination or violence and by others to perpetuate self loathing or suicide. That is simply not acceptable conduct by a man who should know better."
Bruce Bastian, a member of HRC's Utah steering committee • "I remember as a student at BYU and as a missionary and as member of a [LDS] bishopric [hearing] what a horrible human being I was for the thoughts I had. I was even told it would be better if I had never been born. There were many days I hoped I would die. … Please stop telling kids they can and must change. There's nothing wrong with them. God loves them just as they are of this I bear my solemn witness."
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center • "I can unequivocally say the recent past will inform us but will not determine the future we hope to create here in Utah. … Together we must work tirelessly to illuminate the unsupportive and rejecting environments that damage these [LGBT] youth and adults in both families and institutional settings."
David Melson, president of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons • "Following a month in which seven gay youth took their own lives after being victimized by bullies because they were gay, President Packer's statements that same-sex attraction is 'impure and unnatural' and can be overcome, and that same-sex unions are morally wrong and 'against God's law and nature,' is both improper and reckless."
Kirk Dansie, psychologist • "Heterosexual and non-heterosexual orientations are considered normal variations of human sexuality despite the persistence of stereotypes that a non-heterosexual orientation is somehow disturbed."
Missy Bird, social worker • "Today in Utah, thousands of youth are homeless either because they are run away or thrown away. Today in Utah, 40 percent of these youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. … [We] need to find out what we can do to build homeless youth shelter in Utah."
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah • "There is concern that the bridges we have built over the last year [with the LDS Church] have crumbled. … I am here today to issue a call to action, a call to work together to find common ground and common sense solutions to this critical situation."