Friday, September 17, 2010

Families: united by love but divided by hate.

In discussing the terrible tragedy of two teens driven to suicide by anti-gay bigotry—which I advise you read if you haven't done so)—I said to the bigots: "But they could be your children." Of course, we know many examples when they have been their children. Certainly Bobby Griffith was tormented by his own mother and family and church until he killed himself. Mary Griffith realized what she had done, but it was too late to save Bobby. Since then she has campaigned to end the prejudice.

This is what must terrify the anti-gay bigot in ways that can't torment the racist. A Klan leader is not going to discover that the white son he has known his entire life is going to announce he's really black. But no anti-gay bigot with children can have that confidence throughout their entire life. There is always a time when they simply don't know. And many remain clueless their entire lives. But many of them do find themselves facing down their own children and hating them for being gay.

As often happens in politics two powerful political families are united when their children marry. Both families are very conservative, both are Mormons and of course, they are Republicans. Matthew Salmon was Republican state senator in Arizona, he ran for governor and he was a U.S. Congressman. Jeff Flake in the Congressman from Mesa, another conservative Republican and like Salmon, another Mormon. The Flake and Salmon families have been a foundation for the Right-wing Republicans in Arizona. And now they are united by romance—though neither of them are particularly thrilled by it.

Matt Salmon is named after his father, the former congressman. At 14-years-of-age he told his mother he was gay, which didn't stop his family from campaigning against gay people. His partner is Kent Flake, the second counsin of Congressman Flake.

Matt followed the teachings of the Mormon sect and went through therapy to change. It failed, as might be expected.

Kent is from Snowflake, Arizona. Snowflake was a small town founded on orders of Brigham Young, the alleged Mormon prophet. Young sent William Flake to found the town and Apostle Erastus Snow was put in charge of colonization. These polygamists were the founders of the town and when Mormons to name it after Flake others wanted to honor Snow. The name Snowflake was how they honored both simultaneously.

Of course each young man knew of the others family. Matt befriend Kent on Facebook and soon they started dating. At this point Kent told his family he was gay. But under pressure he broke up with Matt and tried to go through church therapy to cure himself of being gay. Matt and Kent had an argument about Kent's attempt to change and faced with a final decision Kent decided to stay with Matt and to resign from the Mormon cult. Matt was sitting in church one Sunday in the summer of 2008 when the minister, following orders from the church heirarchy, was urging everyone in the Arizona congregation to send money to defeat marriage equality in California—that is donate to Proposition 8. The minister told the congregation that all homosexuals are promiscuious and their relationships are selfish. That was when he decided to quite Mormonism completely, and today compares it to some of the outlandish teachings from the cult of Scientology.

Flake is getting the worst of it. He rarely sees his family anymore, hasn't had a real conversation with his father nad has been told that his father doesn't want Matt around his family or his grandkids. Kent's sister told has publicly said that she called them "fags" and "pedophiles" but insists they still love him, they just don't want "to see him in a gay couple." The same is true in Salmon's family. He was told that his family still loves him but that Kent is not welcome in their home. Matt's own siblings dropped him as a Facebook friend in protest over his being gay.

One cousin, Krista Gohus, still is friends. She recently left the Mormon sect as well and considers herself a libertarian, not a Republican. She told the Phoenix New Times: "Matt and his boyfriend, Kent, have been to my home many times, and my 10-year-old son knows Matt and Kent are a couple. I'm teaching my children that being gay is just like being left-handed or being born with curly hair. It's not right or wrong, it's just the way you were born."

Photos: Matt (L), Kent (R).

Labels: , ,