Can this friendship between a devout Mormon and a gay man be saved?
September 21, 2008 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Am I really going to lose this very important friendship over politics?

One of my best friends is a devout Mormon. I am gay, out, and I have a relationship with his entire family, who up until recently have always struck me as very open-minded compared to other Mormons.
Recently, I used an LA Times tool to see if anyone in neighborhoods where I've lived have donated money for or against California's Proposition 8. Lo and behold, there's my best friend's dad, who has donated $5,000 to support the initiative banning gay marriage. I found this upsetting, and decided to talk to my friend about it the next time I saw him- I was under the impression that being such good friends with me, he would have a different opinion about gay marriage than his father.
Today, a few days after that, I sign in to Facebook and see an invitation from my friend to join a group "iSupportMarriage," urging me to vote YES on Proposition 8.
I sent him a text, indignant that he would have the gall to invite ME to such a group. He said he was sorry that he hurt my feelings, he just invited everyone.

In my opinion, it's bad enough that being best friends with a gay guy isn't enough to make you consider whether you want to ban gay marriage. But then on top of that, he doesn't even have the foresight to understand that he can't invite me to join what I basically consider a hate group against a minority that I belong to. He has said that he doesn't want to lose our friendship over this, but my opinion of him has suddenly, irreversibly changed.

I really feel like his support of Proposition 8 indicates a basic lack of respect for me. It makes me feel like I am his family's token gay friend so they can tell themselves how forward-minded they are.

I guess my question is, is this a friendship worth salvaging? Or is this the kind of situation where I have to lose a great friend, someone that I love, because of politics? What would you do?
posted by tumbleweedjack to Human Relations (64 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think anyone else can answer this question for you. I know that if I was in this situation, it would be hard for me to accept that my friend truly cares about me if he believes that I should not have the same rights as he does.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 5:37 PM on September 21, 2008

If you really care to save the friendship, I'd recommend having a non-confrontational conversation with him about his views on marriage. Many people are against the idea of gay marriage because they find it too "different" or "wrong," as if by allowing gay marriage to happen they're giving something up. If they spend time actually thinking about the real effect of opening up marriage (i.e. that their own marriage won't be affected one bit), they may change their mind.

Or not.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:38 PM on September 21, 2008

I think there is a huge difference from accepting someone who is gay and someone who supports the gay community/lifestyle.

I understand your friend completely and I have been in his shoes on several occasions. Its tough and its difficult and just as you will never accept that there are those people who view your lifestyle as "evil" there are those who just cannot accept a homosexual lifestyle.

And yes, religion plays a huge part in this....but that life right?

You wont be able to change his mind and he wont be able to change yours.

But on a positive note for you both, life will go on....

Take care
posted by TeachTheDead at 5:47 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not a question that the internet can answer. But I think it's interesting that you frame this as a political issue. Sadly it's the type of thing we're all going to have to go into the polling place to pull the lever on, but that doesn't make it "political." A generous interpretation could be that it's a religious issue; personally, I'd call it a moral one.
posted by rafter at 5:47 PM on September 21, 2008

In a way, you intruded on their privacy when you checked to see if anyone had donated money for/against Prop 8. You didn't mean to, but you learned something that they hadn't told you. You clearly value your friendship with the entire family, who despite disagreeing with you on this issue value having you as a friend.

I come from a somewhat conservative Christian family, and until we became United Methodists, my Dad's take on my gay uncle was very much "love the sinner, hate the sin". I have two takes on this: either your friend and his family have been cultivating your friendship in an attempt to do their Christian duty by you, such as they believe it to be, or they are open-minded enough to be best friends with someone with whom they have profound religious/moral differences.

If the former, why not use it as an opportunity to cultivate their friendship and continue to expose them to someone who is openly gay? Couldn't help but be good for them in the long run (knowing my uncle was gay profoundly changed the issue for me when I was a bigoted youngster, utterly confident that my Bible held the answer to any question).

I'm not sure what best friends means to you- to me, it means that I consider the person a close, intimate confident. Someone whom I could talk to about my feelings if such a situation should arise, and someone who should have been sensitive to my feelings. He may not know that you support gay marriage- my uncle, for example, thinks we should reserve the word marriage for religious unions and use domestic partnerships (or some analogous term) for state-recognized relationships between any two humans.

If he is your best friend, he should have known before this. But have you taken opportunities to explain to him in a sensitive, non-confrontational way what this issue means to you? I think you should stick to discussing the issue (Prop 8) and not bring up the financial contributions unless they tell you about them. And I think if they care about you as much as it sounds like you care about them, the friendship is worthwhile. Even if they don't agree with you.
posted by arnicae at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a gay, I say get over it. Those facebook apps are designed to be sent out to everyone, you really have to stop and think in order to leave certain people off, and it was a minor, unintentional (if inconsiderate) slight.

You may be friends with these people for many years, but as time passes and you find yourself surrounded by people who truly understand and support you, this friendship is destined to become something of a footnote. Take this incident as a learning experience and move on. The lion may lay down with the lamb from time to time, but that won't make them best friends. And occasionally, the lamb has to be replaced.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 5:50 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have been close to a similar situation: a so-called libertarian in our writer's group, "Sean," openly telling a gay member, "Greg," that he was against gay marriage, and even treating us all to his tortured rationale for supporting bigotry.

Some people just can't see the harm that their political views do to real people, even when it is staring them right in the face. Most racists I've met have one or more genuine minority friends- because when they actually meet them, they are perfectly capable of relating to them as fellow human beings. But they will turn right around and swallow whatever hatred Rush Limbaugh is spewing that week, and never see the contradiction. Sean was like that: he genuinely cared about Greg as a person, but he was extremely easily led and swallowed whatever the republican party served him up, hook line and sinker.

This sounds like it might be the case with your friend, except maybe he falls into line with whatever his family tells him. I hate to say it, but if he's already a grown-up, he is unlikely to change, and there is almost certainly no way you can talk him into it. You need to decide if you can stomach being friends with him. What are the pros of the relationship that would balance out this huge con?

As far as I know, Greg and Sean are still friends. I no longer speak to Sean. Politics wasn't the only reason, but I sure don't miss hearing about how great Bush is, or reading movie scripts with "subtle" messages about killing millions of Arabs.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:01 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is an amazing opportunity for you to really talk with someone on the other side of this issue, which is clearly important to you both, and for both of you to maybe come to a fuller understanding of why your feelings and his feelings, and your beliefs and his beliefs, are what they are. I'm not saying that coming to such an understanding would be easy, but giving up on the basis of "You wont be able to change his mind and he wont be able to change yours" seems to me that you'd be throwing away a real opportunity to learn something that might be valuable. What if it all just comes down to semantics? Or something else? Why would that word, "marriage", be so important to you? To him?

You, my friend, can find out a little more for all of us, by talking to him and by examining your own emotions as such a dialog develops.

Please try. Not just a one-off; develop between you ways of talking about this, and then be careful, considerate, compassionate, and forgiving. It sounds like both of you are capable of that.

Because, frankly, I'm not sure what other methods could be used to truly find a way through this problem. You are it. You and a few other people who can manage to form trusting relationships with seeming "opponents".
posted by amtho at 6:02 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think it's important to understand that it's possible to not have a problem with gay people and still not support gay marriage. Especially from a religious point of view. They can love you and be your friends and yet still think that marriage should remain as it is.

This doesn't mean you have to remain friends with them, but it's not necessarily something that they were hiding from you or trying to keep secret. Without knowing much at all about the situation, it seems like they accept you as a friend even though they don't support every issue you do. Their friendship is there- it's up to you whether this issue is big enough to keep you apart, or if you can put it down to a differernce of opinion and move on.
posted by twirlypen at 6:06 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also re: this:

He has said that he doesn't want to lose our friendship over this, but my opinion of him has suddenly, irreversibly changed.

Talk is cheap. I'm not talking about politics now, but just about friendship. He says he "doesn't want to lose you" - but will he back it up with action? Will he withdraw from the bigoted group? Will he tell everyone on Facebook why?

No one wants to lose a friend. But a true best friend will TAKE ACTION to preserve the friendship.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:09 PM on September 21, 2008

As mentioned, this is an question that only you can answer.

As a gay man I'm running into a similar issue with my best friends wrt/ the presidential election and gay rights (not 'lifestyle' as some may say). What has worked well for me is agreeing to disagree, and then trying to open their eyes bit by bit. Sometimes my straight friends really do just think of me as the token gay guy. Sometimes they don't REALLY see my life, they just see the parts that we're together for. They often don't truly grasp the fact that those gay rights you're fighting for are actual RIGHTS... rights that they just take for granted. To them it's out of site, out of mind. More prevalent in my case is they have other issues that are more important to them than my gay rights, and they are going to vote to appropriately. Most people do this. Unfortunately, most people don't seem to 'get it' that it's the majority's responsibility to protect the rights of the minority. Prop 8 shouldn't even be up for a vote, because the fact is the majority generally isn't going to vote in our favor - it SHOULD be decided by a judge. But just like I won't be able to convince my friends about this in my issue, you probably won't be able to convince your friend in yours.

Keep in mind that you're dealing with a Mormon. No offense to you Mormons out there, but that lovely little religion is going to have some tenants and beliefs that you'll NEVER be able to overcome with your best friend. Even if he WANTED to change his mind on some issues, he's not going to admit it to you or anyone else if he wants to stay with the church.

I wish you the best of luck... but sometimes you just have to know when to keep your mouth shut. Do you like him? Do you like being around him? What's more important to you - being yourself or being accepted by someone who ultimately isn't going to accept you? Yes, whether anyone is going to admit it or not (including yourself), accepting you as a gay man means your friends must also accept the satellite issues surrounding your sexual orientation.
posted by matty at 6:10 PM on September 21, 2008

I'm guessing that he just doesn't "get it" - he has no clue that from your point of view, this issue is personal - it's about your ability to marry the person you love. For him, it is probably a more abstract religious/political issue. You might want to sit down in person and talk to him about what the issue means to you, personally, and ask him if he thinks you, personally, should not be allowed to marry. You might also want to explore his own experience of prejudice as being a Mormon to see if he can relate to some of your experiences being gay in the USA.

After you talk, you will get a better sense of his real attitudes towards homosexuality. You may find that his attitudes prevent you of staying friends with him. Or you may find that he is tolerant, if not fully accepting, and you can still be friends but not with the same closeness you had before.

I'm sorry this is happening to you. However this turn out, you being out and befriending all different kinds of people adds to the climate of acceptance, making things easier for the next generation.
posted by metahawk at 6:15 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'd be upset by this too, but I suggest that it would be a good idea for you to maintain your friendships and to try to discuss this with your friends. Your friend and his family probably do genuinely care for you, and I think that your relationship with them can be the thin edge of the wedge that might make them see that they are wrong in their beliefs on this matter. The cognitive dissonance of supporting such legal policies while being confronted with their effect on someone they care about is bound to get to them eventually.

And I'm reminded of Howard's End. If this family would only connect....
posted by orange swan at 6:18 PM on September 21, 2008

I don't think it's your job to change this guy's mind. You've already done your part. You did what many here told you to do; you got to know a homophobe and his homophobic family. You opened up to them; you invited them into your life. They clearly aren't open to considering your rights a priority. They still don't see you as a whole human being. They hid the whole thing from you, didn't they. Donating a LOT of money to squelch your rights. That doesn't sound like a friendship to me.

I don't know how long you've been out, but it's not unusual for those still struggling with identity issues to become close with people like this, just because it proves to them that they (the gay folks) are still normal, still likable, that this revelation hasn't changed anything.

It's damaging. You don't deserve that from people you commit to in any context.

If I were you, I'd be drawing the line in the sand around this. It demonstrates profound disrespect, and you don't need that kind of homophobia in your life.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:19 PM on September 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

My sympathies. I have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy (nice use of that phrase, yeah?) with one set of family members here in CA. If they're voting for Prop 8 (after coming to my wedding, mind you) I don't really want to know about it. I try not to talk politics with them because I am afraid of hearing something hurtful. I have regretted every political conversation I've ever had with them, and knowing that they were voting for Prop 8 would really hurt. I don't want to know because they are family, and it's a little harder to end my relationship with them.

If I had friends who told me they were supporting Prop 8, I do think that that would probably be the end of my friendship with them. To know that someone I am personally close to can believe that I am not worthy of the same civil rights that they enjoy -- yeah, that's not friendship, in any way that I understand it. If someone not only supported Prop 8 but asked me to join a facebook group for it, I would be royally pissed.

You need to make your own call on this, and decide for yourself if you want to be friends or not. I'm sharing my perspective, and what I would do, because you asked, but only you can really make that call.

In a way, you intruded on their privacy when you checked to see if anyone had donated money for/against Prop 8.
Well, no. Political donations are very public, and for good reason. People understand when they make donations like that that they are public. It's on the form they fill out. No privacy involved.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:20 PM on September 21, 2008

I would hold off on making this decision until after the election. Emotions are running high right now and everyone on both sides of the issues understands exactly how much is at stake. Yes, I had a momentary urge to disown my mother when she told me that she gave Palin's acceptance speech a standing ovation and demanded that I read up on her positions because "you really need to hear what this woman has to say," but I opted instead to ask her to not bring up politics again until sometime in December.
posted by The Straightener at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2008

It sounds like you're framing this as a human-rights issue in your mind. I can guarantee that it doesn't have anything to do with human rights in his mind. As a mormon, I can tell you in this (lds) culture it's more along the lines of... say the requirements to be a firefighter. A guy that weighs 600 pounds (either by being born like that, choosing to be that way, or various other reasons) can not and should not be a firefighter, because he doesn't meet the requirements, and allowing him to be one would seriously affect the duties and responsibilities of other firefighters. Yes, admittedly it's a weak metaphor.

Now, you and many others might find this a load of you-know-what, but I'm just trying to find a metaphor that might help you understand his mindset.

I have gay friends, and am active in my church. I don't necessarily agree with the political stance of many members of the church, but I think it's important to understand why people think the way they do. If you can understand (not necessarily agree) each other, you can find enough common ground to base a friendship on. I personally think that the government shouldn't have any involvement in marriage, because it should be a solely religious institution, and each religion should manage it in accordance with their own doctrines and tenets.

Like abortion, I think that this is an issue over-loaded with emotion, and won't be solved by anyone other than you and your friend reaching a mutual understanding.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:47 PM on September 21, 2008

In my understanding, there are a whole host of reasons that certain people oppose the governmental institutionalization of gay marriage. Some people hold these views because they're homophobic assholes; some because they hold a libertarian view of marriage and think the government should be less involved, not more, in sanctioning our sexual lifestyles; some because they hold such-and-such a view on state's rights vs. federal rights; and many for a whole host of other idiosyncratic reasons. Most political positions actually do turn out to be a great deal more complex and diverse upon closer examination than the pundits would have us believe.

It might be more easy and convenient to assume that anti-gay-marriage people feel that way simply because they're hateful and lack basic respect for others, and given the personal nature of the issue, I can certainly understand that being your knee-jerk reaction. But if this really is someone you feel you know well and share a friendship with, I think you might owe it to yourself to investigate the real origins if his/her views. If it comes out at that point that he/she really is secretly disgusted by or disapproving of your lifestyle, then time enough at that point to jettison the relationship. But there's also some chance that you might find that your friend's reasoning is perfectly consistent with a deep respect for you and your identity-- in which case, you've saved what sounds like an important friendship. In any case, can't hurt to ditch the strawmen and find out.
posted by Bardolph at 6:49 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm going to echo some things others have said, and maybe having more of a consensus will help you...or maybe not, 'cause the first thing I'll say is: you are the only one who knows whether to try to salvage this or not. What is the friendship worth to you? That's the important thing. I think the reality is that friendships mean different things to different people, and you know whether it is worth saving or not. End of story, really.

But, there are other things going on too, obviously. First of all, the feeling this raised with me was one of "screw this person and his family, they are complete assholes who don't deserve your friendship." I can't agree with others' perspective that it is possible for them to be your friend and support this legislation. It's basically like kicking you in the nuts all the time, over and over. Yeah, that's how it makes me feel. It really infuriates me when people use religion or some notion of morality to justify making serious life-impacting decisions FOR OTHER PEOPLE, decisions that are fundamentally not their business. That makes you an asshole, folks. If you don't like queerness then...don't be queer, and shut up.

I will echo what others have said in that they fundamentally don't respect you. Any b.s. about them showing you some sort of open-mindedness just because they are your friend is disingenuous: if they cared about you, if they conceived of you as a whole person and not just some sort of religious obligation or whatever, they would not support this legislation.

That's MY rational and emotional reaction. What's yours? Is it possible for you to engage these folks in a positive way, and try to show them the light? Is it worth the pain of dealing with bigots to try and maintain this relationship? Again, you are the only one that knows that.

This is not a moral issue, it is not a political issue, it is a personal issue. What is your tolerance level for dealing with your friend and his family now, and what is it worth to you?

Oh, and about holding off until the election is over: no, that won't work; they'll still be ignorant after November 4th.
posted by dubitable at 6:50 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would strongly urge you not to drop the friendship - at least not all at once - and to ignore the answers here that suggest your friend will never change his mind. This is the same worldview that told abolitionists "slavery will always be with us" in the 18th century. Obviously, people do change their minds - otherwise we would not have most of the rights and freedoms we now take for granted, nor have the ability to fight for those that remain withheld from us.

This is, as others have said, an opportunity for open, honest, respectful, face-to-face dialog. It is not necessarily going to be easy: but if you personalize it, you might be able to make some headway.

The question I would pose is not "Why don't you think gays should marry?" but "Why do you think I shouldn't have the right to marry the person I love?"

It makes it a lot harder to argue when "they" become the person that you eat dinner with, tell jokes to, and share feelings with. So try that. Be patient, be sincere, don't become emotional (although you will be strongly tempted to).

Only you can decide how long that attempt should last: two weeks? Several months? No-one expects you to endure it forever, but that kind of personal experience is one of the few things that will cause people to change their minds, so sticking with it for an extended period may well be worth it.

At the time limit you've set for yourself, if they are still set in their ways, then make the parting sincere, heartfelt, and as polite as you can muster: "I'm really sorry. I truly wish to remain your friend. But you can't seem to bring yourself to allow your rights to also be mine. That means, at a very basic level, that you also don't respect me. I wish things were different - and I'll be around to talk about this, should you wish to. But until the time that I feel that I'm respected as a human being, I can't remain your friend."

The best of luck to you, tumbleweedjack.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2008

This friendship is over. He has no regard for you. He may enjoy your company, but at the end of the day he does not give a shit about you. He likely did send the invitation to everyone, but he should have taken the time to drop you from the list so as not to offend you. Also, his father will do what he can in the background to undermine this friendship. He friggin gave $5, 000 FIVE THOUSAND to fight gay marriage. I would run from this guy. It will not Wendell.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:53 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would tell him he is being used by The Right. They prey on people's religious fears by concocting things like "the anti-abortion movement" and "the gay marriage referendum" to guilt the working class into voting for republicans.

They have been doing this for decades now- beginning with the anti-abortion ploy.

Republican strategists really don't care about abortion or gay marriage. It's just a big hoax. It's a numbers game. They can't get the working class into the voting booths based on their real agenda, so they make up these emotional "issues".

As an election ploy, it's sheer genius. But the conservatives who create all of this nonsense really don't care one way or another about gay marriage or abortion.
posted by Zambrano at 6:54 PM on September 21, 2008

Response by poster: Well, I've calmed down a bit since I posted the message, and on reading the posts here I've decided that it is definitely in our best interest to sit down and talk to each other. I'm still angry at him, and this probably will affect our friendship negatively in the long run if I fail to change his mind (which I expect is what will happen), but even though we've discussed this issue at length in the abstract, we've never really discussed it on a personal level, what it means to us as individuals. I suppose making any decision regarding the status of this friendship without first having that conversation would be acting too hastily.

I have frequently defended my friendships with several extremely conservative people on the grounds that exposing them to different viewpoints tempers their opinions somewhat- this time it just really hit where it hurt- it was the perfect storm, so to speak, regarding the issue that matters to me and the people who had the most potential to hurt me about it. Still, I suppose it would be hypocritical of me to burn that bridge at this point.

Thanks for the advice, everyone.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 6:56 PM on September 21, 2008

I've typed and deleted for about 45 minutes now. Now I'm just going to answer what I would do.

I would take a couple of days to let it settle in, let my initial reaction subside, and then I would talk to my friend. I would tell him how I felt upon learning about his position, and I would tell him why I felt that way. I would ask him to tell me why he feels the way he does.

I would write an email. An email can be re-read, can lay out all of your thoughts, and it avoids interruptions and side issues interjecting themselves.

If this were a good friend of mine, I would want to talk it through before I decided whether or not we could still be friends. I might regret writing off a good friend and his family without talking to them. I would be less likely to regret it if had talked to them about it - if you talk it over and you can't come to an understanding that allows you to still be friends, then you'll feel better about the decision.
posted by KAS at 7:06 PM on September 21, 2008

Sigh... When I don't preview the final post, look what happens, you're right where I was (less well stated) heading.
posted by KAS at 7:08 PM on September 21, 2008

I support gay marriage but what I really think would probably be the best overall solution is the nuclear option - the complete disestablishment of marriage as a civil institution for everyone, straight or gay. Leave marriage as a religious institution that can be governed within each church as it sees fit and let the civil end of things be covered by civil unions or whatever.

The whole issue seems to me to practically be a problem of terminology, the conflation of the religious institution with the civil institution because they're both called "marriage". I usually find that I'm able to persuade friends and acquaintances who oppose gay marriage to agree with me that the best thing would be to do away with it all on the civil side. So perhaps that notion could provide some measure of common ground between you and your friend.
posted by XMLicious at 7:09 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

The quick and easy thing to do here is to chalk this up to homophobia, regard your friend as a bigot and move on with your life.

Nobody here can tell you if that's the correct assessment -- though it doesn't seem to be stopping most people from trying.

The fact of the matter, though, is that there is actually quite a bit of room for reasonable people to differ on this issue. Have you considered that your friend might attach a certain significance to the word "marriage" and, as a result, might find it blasphemous to have the government mandating or allowing its use for things which (to him) it is not?

In many ways, this is a political issue. Insomuch as "marriage" is a commitment, a ceremony, and a lifestyle, nobody is preventing anyone from it. The real political and legal question is really more about things like community property, benefits, and taxation.

Bottom line, though, is this: if you don't talk to him about it, you have no idea how similar or different your views are.

You also have some questions to answer for yourself: what level of commitment to "the cause" do you require of your friends? Will you accept friends who don't agree with you? If not, is silent support sufficient, or do you expect them to donate money, attend parades, and call their congress-critters?

Once you decide what you'll accept and what your friend really believes, I think you'll find that you'll be better equipped to answer your question than AskMe will.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:09 PM on September 21, 2008

My skeptical, and yes, gay, opinion is, he's living in a fantasy world where as long as he doesn't see you in a relationship he can pretend you aren't gay and perhaps, if he's really lucky, fulfill his religious duty of converting you back to the 'right' side.
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:13 PM on September 21, 2008

I'm not on Facebook, but if what he says about its apps is true, I'm going to agree with [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST]'s point: don't take his Facebook invite as an intentional slap in the face. It was most likely an act of laziness.

As for the rest, if you want to talk about it with him/them, it might help to couch it in terms they'd understand. Having their rights infringed upon is part of their history. Granted, those infringements were far greater and this is "just" about marriage... but that doesn't make their intended vote any less of a statement of approval for the infringement of your rights.
posted by CKmtl at 7:15 PM on September 21, 2008

On the flip side - perhaps your friend is stewing away at home angry that you are voting against this proposition even though you are aware that he views marriage as a divine institution between a man and a woman. He has his views and you have yours. He has a different perspective about the whole thing and so do you. If you feel that you want to try to change his ideas, be prepared that he will perhaps take the liberty to then try to change your ideas.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:18 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you want to save this friendship, you are going to have to dispense with the a priori assumption that you are right and he is wrong.

You are going to have to come around to the idea that this is something about which the two of you disagree, without assuming that you are right and he is wrong.

Unless you are willing to do that, this relationship is doomed, and the sooner you end it, the better off everyone will be.

If you can agree to disagree with him without holding his opinion against him, and accept that he will always disagree with you about this subject and that you will not change that and will not try to change that, then there's a chance that the friendship can be saved.

How open minded are you? Can you disagree with someone without hating them?
posted by Class Goat at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

It may help you to understand WHY they believe what they believe about marriage (usually I hear "the bible says marriage is between a man and a woman") so... find out where the bible says that, and read it carefully. Note the exact words used. Does it even say what they think it says? Back up and read the whole passage from which this verse is lifted. Note the context. Who was saying/writing this? Who was the intended audience?

Perhaps you will find out that the standard interpretation of this verse is not a very accurate interpretation. Maybe you will find that it wasn't intended to be a definitive declaration from God, but rather something said from a particular person to another person (ie an opinion). Maybe you will find that, yes, it is a total condemnation of gay marriage. I don't know. I'm just encouraging you to look for yourself. Question it. Does the conventional interpretation hold up to scrutiny?

And how does this view hold up to Jesus' commandment to "love you neighbor as yourself"?

If someone believes the world is flat, you can't convince them it is round. They will look out the window and say, "look, it is flat" and it does appear that way. But if you were very careful, and you walked the earth with that person, always heading west, eventually you would wind up in the same place you began, and that person's illusion would be gone. You have to walk the earth with these people, so to speak. But they have to be willing to walk with you.
posted by senorpuma at 7:33 PM on September 21, 2008

One of the tests of friendship is that you can disagree on some things but still understand that the friendship is stronger than the disagreement.

As others before me have said, only you (and they) can tell whether the disagreement is stronger.
posted by megatherium at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2008

There are some beliefs and actions that cannot be forgiven or overlooked. You need to decide if this is one of them... I'm inclined to say that it is, but then that's easy for me to say because I don't stand to lose a friend. It is incomprehensible to me how someone in this day and age can have a gay friend for years and still believe that homosexuality is a sin that needs to be cured, and that it somehow threatens the "sacred institution" of heterosexual marriage.

I would write your friend and his family a heartfelt letter; it may help them begin to understand how tremendously harmful their beliefs are to others. And then I'd say goodbye.

I'm so sorry.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2008

It sounds like (on the face of it) you're the "best friend" in the sentence, "Some of my best friends are gay".

I agree that this is an incredibly personal situation and only you can decide if you wish to salvage this relationship. But these are Mormons we're talking about, and they of all people should understand about controversy around one's preferred system of marriage (which, on preview, I see that CKmtl has already referred to). If you choose to discuss this with your friend, talk about their history, and express your concerns that they are now doing what was done to Mormons over a century ago.

Good luck.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2008

Am I really going to lose this very important friendship over politics a basic lack of respect for me?

Maybe. It isn't about politics, it's about basic rights and respect. Do you think they would end their friendship with you if you donated $5000 to a group trying to prevent Mormonism from being respected as a religion, or if you send out an invite (including your friend) to everyone you know to join a group dedicated to the idea that Mormonism isn't a religion?

I realize that's not quite apples-to-oranges, but you're gay, and this is about taking away a right you've just been granted. I'm sure these folks consider their religion to be more than simply a choice, right? So it's not an unreasonable comparison.

Or to put it another way, what if you were African-American, and they hung out with you, but were against civil rights? It's not a political issue, it's about what they believe in, and what they believe in isn't you as an equal member of society with equal rights. I don't believe this would be an easy choice if it were more obviously a civil rights issue as we understand them, but it would certainly be easy to understand what the conflict was about. It's going to be a while before it's generally accepted that this is a civil rights issue, and until that happens, it'll be easy to see this as purely politics. It's not.

Best of luck to you, I know this sucks on multiple levels.
posted by davejay at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2008 [5 favorites]

There is no non-homophobic way to oppose gay marriage. There. I said it. There is no way to oppose gay marriage that is not degrading, insulting, or laughable. Marriage has always been a civic affair; the churches can claim it all they want, but it doesn't make atheists or hindus less married. The churches don't like atheists or hindus, but they don't get to deauthorize their marriages, do they!(Besides: several christian churches are more than happy to preside over a gay marriage; why does one church get more votes than another?) People can have all the magic ceremonies they want on their own time; marriage is a civil affair first, and there are serious legal, medical, and financial implications to not allowing gay people to marry. Given that it has exactly no impact on anyone else's marriage (other than to boost the economy in which we all live), there is no single rational reason not to support it.

Unless you just hate the gays.

Oh, right, the libertarians: why disapprove of gay marriage? Go out and fight against marriage as a whole, don't pick on an abused minority. I really wonder what goes on in those people's heads sometimes.

So yeah, you don't need to compromise on this. Either you think you deserve equal rights or you think that's something you can compromise on. If your friend and his family believes its in the best interests of your country that your rights be compromised, I seriously doubt you can maintain the friendship. It might be downgraded to casual acquaintance, and then former associate. Sad, yes. I wish everyone would do unto others as they would have them do unto themselves, but that message hasn't quite gotten through their thick heads yet.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:14 PM on September 21, 2008 [10 favorites]

To be frank, I think you're the closeminded one here. His facebook invitation clearly wasn't intentional, and you're the one getting really upset that someone dares to disagree with you. Just chill, and when you're around him talk about other stuff.
posted by Autarky at 8:25 PM on September 21, 2008

Response by poster: I wrote the following letter to him:

Dear [Friend],

In 1838, the governor of Missouri issued an extermination order aimed at driving Mormons out of the state by force, and seizing their property to defray the costs. It made it permissible to shoot and kill a human being just because he or she was Mormon. At that time, Mormons were a new church and very much a minority group, and were considered by the governor of Missouri as “enemies” that “must be exterminated or driven from the State” for “outrages beyond all description.”
A hundred and fifty years later, you and I and most sensible people who have bothered to get to know families like yours know that there is nothing heinous or outrageous about Mormons. Most are good people who want to lead their lives true to what they believe in and don’t want the government to interfere. I, especially, have learned this and a great deal about Mormons because of you and your family. You know I respect all of you deeply and consider you a part of my family.
Even though I am a different sexual orientation, and have no religion, and have very different politics from you, we have always been great friends because we have very similar upbringings and very similar values. We both consider the family to be the utmost in importance. We both believe that individuals are responsible for their own actions, and shouldn’t always blame other people for things that are wrong in their lives. We also both believe that all people have equal worth and potential to contribute to our world. It’s those values that keep us close as friends.
However, I was extremely hurt to find that you had joined a group trying to ban gay marriage. It seems to me that it is hypocritical of a Mormon to try to use the law to persecute another minority, because of the history of the Church of LDS. I also don’t believe that it follows that because your religion opposes gay marriage, or even that because you oppose gay marriage, you have to support a law opposing gay marriage.
First off, I think it’s important that we cast this issue in another light, because I think it is merely the word ‘marriage’ that causes us so much trouble. I agree with you that marriage is a purely religious term, and that it is not the case that the government should be able to decide what is and what isn’t marriage. That’s up to each person’s individual religion. So, let’s pretend that the government act of registering two people as committed to each other so that they can enjoy certain legal benefits is called something else- “Commitment Rights.” Do you agree that the government should offer Commitment Rights to both straight and gay couples? From the conversations we’ve had before, my understanding is that you do believe these Commitment Rights should be available to any couple.
However, purely for reasons of semantics, what the government offers is not called Commitment Rights- it’s called Marriage, even though it is blatantly not the same thing as the religious institution bearing the same name. Now, because we’ve changed the name of The Thing, you are against it, even though you were for it before. A word is not as important as my rights as a human being.
Finally, I’d like to invite you to consider a scenario and think about how it would make you feel: What if my dad donated $5,000 to an Anti-Mormon group that had controversial legislation on the ballot, and then I sent you an invitation to join my group that discounts the validity of the Mormon religion? I think you’d feel that I and my family don’t respect you or your rights, and you’d question whether we are really friends if I can know you and still act in a way that shows a basic lack of respect for you.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 8:35 PM on September 21, 2008 [9 favorites]

I just popped in to vote for you staying friends if you can manage it. Your friendship with someone like this has a much bigger effect on the debate than someone who donates a bunch of money to a pro-gay marriage political action committee. That having been said, I couldn't fault you if it were just too personally painful to continue on.

Your letter is fantastic, but you might ask yourself if your last paragraph is just a little too inflammatory. You already said you were hurt by their actions, you don't need to put them on the defensive. You're trying to bridge a divide, not create one.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:56 PM on September 21, 2008

Good letter stating your position, but here's a follow up suggestion:

Your next move has to be listening to him, and showing him that you really understand his position (after you do). That's going to be difficult, for sure. Then make sure you let him know that you're _working_ here, and ask that he do the same.
posted by amtho at 9:24 PM on September 21, 2008

Class Goat: "If you want to save this friendship, you are going to have to dispense with the a priori assumption that you are right and he is wrong."

Agreed. I suggest you tell him you were hurt by his invitation even though it was accidental. You'd rather not debate the issue because it might jeopardize your friendship and it makes you uncomfortable, and thanks for understanding. Don't even bring up his father's donation because that's really none of your business.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 10:06 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get past it, two things you can't change peoples minds about are religion and politics. he did apologize so just accept the apology and stay friends. if we all agreed on everything the world would be a boring place. just enjoy your friendship.
posted by docmccoy at 10:13 PM on September 21, 2008

In a way, you intruded on their privacy when you checked to see if anyone had donated money for/against Prop 8.

This is completely false. It's a matter of public record and there was no expectation of privacy.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2008

I tend to disagree with the "getting over the facebook invite" side of things.

I mean, if someone can't take 5 seconds to pause and think of his gay friend and how this might hurt them, and uncheck the stupid box beside their name -- well, they can't think too much of their friend at all.

This isn't a stupid forward. I would find it incredibly offensive to be invited to a group that was diametrically opposed to granting me civil rights.

And anyone who's response to that was "oh, oops, didn't think of it" wouldn't be worth my time. I probably wouldn't make a Thing out of it, but in my mind I would be saying goodbye.
posted by aclevername at 10:46 PM on September 21, 2008

One point I usually make in this argument is that IF marriage is a divine, religious institution, the government should GET THE FUCK OUT of it. If not, why not open it up to any two adults? It's a family-building incentive, a tax break. No big deal.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:12 PM on September 21, 2008

Has anyone tried to get facebook to pull this group? I mean, we're talking a hate group here.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:37 PM on September 21, 2008

FWIW, we had a similar situation a while back. My (muslim) husband had been good friends with a local family since he arrived in NY as a teen - regularly over there for meals and holidays, tutoring the kids, late nights drinking beer on their deck, and otherwise spending a lot of time together. After 11th sept they became horribly anti-immigrant and particularly anti-muslim. But it wasn't personal, y'know. We were hurt, they talked about this stuff a lot, and our interactions with them became very stressful and awkward. He tried but eventually cut them off. The point is, we haven't regretted this for a second, there are many more people around us who are positive and supportive and so forth.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:31 AM on September 22, 2008

I just popped in to vote for you staying friends if you can manage it.

Same here. People can change, and if anything will change his mind, it will be knowing you and how you feel about these things.

Your letter is fantastic, but you might ask yourself if your last paragraph is just a little too inflammatory.

Your letter is fantastic, and I think the last paragraph is fine. It's not inflammatory, just an attempt to get him to see it from your point of view. Well done, and please let us know how he responds.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on September 22, 2008

I really disagree with people who say that, oh well, people have different opinions and you need to respect theirs, just as you want to them to respect yours. It's not just a difference of opinion--they oppose a basic civil right for a group the op belongs to. Would you suggest that a black person just chalk it up to a difference of opinion if she learned a friend was in a white supremacist group? Some people still just don't get that gay rights are about RIGHTS, and a gay person has absolutely no obligation to respect the opinions of someone who wants to deprive them of basic human rights. No one should have to be so "open-minded" that they accept bigotry. (And $5000 is a whole lot of money to give to something like that, where I'm from. But maybe they're of the moneyed class.)

All that being said, I think you're right to talk to him about it and see where he's coming from.
posted by Mavri at 8:09 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, this family of friends think it's cool to pass a new law to take away the rights you already have. Give them a chance to see the light. If that fails, well, consider what they want to do to you, and act accordingly.

I am sick of people pulling shit like this and declaring immunity under a cloak of "politics". Politics, at its worse (and hey, America has been in the 'worse' stage for 8 years) is a blood sport. It's for real, it isn't a parlour game. Today it's against marriage. What's tomorrow? Your right to pursue happiness?

For pure drama and effect, and to see if they really know their Bible, if you do decide to dump this entire den of political vipers, as you leave, remove your shoes in their sight, and shake the dust out of them, loudly and blatantly. (it means you find them beyond redemption).

Yea, friends, people you are fond of. Unlimited supply of warmth and goodness. I know, I've been close to a Mormon family myself. I've written my views of Mormons, on Mefi, before. But sometimes, you got to tell the well-meaning when their actions are really a knife in your back.

And yes also to those who are supportive of gay marriage, and sick of this being an divisive issue. Amen! If'n it's religion, it oughtn't be dictated by the government. If the god-damned Republicans weren't so happy creating divisive issues, we could have got past this ages ago.
posted by Goofyy at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2008

If your friend's reply is as thoughtful as the letter you've written to him, maybe there's a chance for the friendship.

That's a big if, but I sure would love it if it he rose to the challenge (and you let us see it!).
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:47 AM on September 22, 2008

I think I'm going to go against the crowd a bit and say to kill the friendship unless your friend does a 180.

While I think there is merit to the argument that your friendship could help him to see the light, I think it could very possibly have the opposite effect. By being friends with someone that at his core believes homosexuality is wrong and that gays should not have the same rights as everyone else I believe that this would convey to him that at some level you do not believe it is right to be gay. Sort of the love the sinner hate the sin thing.

He can love you as a person and still hate that you are gay. Like you can be friends with a drug addict or an adulterer and still not condone either activity. Many religious types believe that gay people can never be truly happy or fulfilled because of their "lifestyle choice." He may not hate gay people, but he can believe that the "gay lifestyle" is morally and spiritually destructive. I think by remaining friends with him despite his professed views, you are implicitly agreeing with him on some level. I don't think you should have to tolerate others homophobia in the name of religious tolerance. I think he should feel the consequences on a personal level of his homophobia, maybe the loss of a close and respected friend will be the reality check he needs to reexamine his beliefs.
posted by whoaali at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2008

You don't need to make a forever decision right now. Just take one step: agree to disagree on gay marriage, and avoid the subject. Then see how it goes. If the friendship can survive, it will -- but if you feel uncomfortable, adjust accordingly. It's okay to feel your way, especially if there's a chance your friend will become more tolerant.
posted by wryly at 11:23 AM on September 22, 2008

Arnicae: In a way, you intruded on their privacy when you checked to see if anyone had donated money for/against Prop 8.

Violethour: This is completely false. It's a matter of public record and there was no expectation of privacy.

What I was trying to say was that this knowledge (or acting on it) pushes the boundaries of a friendship. What I donate is a matter of public record, and I have no expectation of privacy, but I might feel uncomfortable if, apropos of nothing, a friend or a neighbor approached me and said, "So why did you donate $75 to the Kucinich campaign last fall?"

It is somewhat similar to zillow-ing friends/family homes to see what they paid for their home and then bringing it up- while it might not be information that the friend minds sharing with you, you possessing the information or actively seeking out that information seems a little strange. I know on zillow, you have to click on "advanced information" to see the last sale price. Learning how much I paid for a house isn't a passive technology- you have to seek that info out.

So- I don't have any expectation that my donation to the Kucinich campaign is secret, but I would feel somewhat uncomfortable if someone I knew went to the effort of figuring it out and asking me about it. It isn't wrong in a legal sense, but it might be in a personal sense.

By the bye, I thought tumbleweedjack's letter was brilliant, right until you brought up the contribution- that's when they stopped listening and started being defensive. There is no use confronting them on this directly. Starting a dialogue in which both parties feel safe to express their opinions in an open, caring environment should be your ambition, if you want to want to keep the friendship.
posted by arnicae at 9:16 PM on September 22, 2008

The privacy issues are moot, because when someone donates that sort of money to a political campaign, it's going to take a lot more than a single personal intervention to change their mind.

Since confronting them has little, if any, chance of changing their minds on this issue, you have to decide for yourself if it's important enough to cause you to walk away from the friendship. If it is, just cut off contact, and maybe tell them why. If it's not, then forget about it and appreciate them for who they are, faults and all.
posted by stewiethegreat at 9:19 PM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: Fortunately for me, I decided that I would print the letter out and bring it with me to my conversation with my friend tomorrow evening, instead of e-mailing it to him. Based on the advice of several people here, I'm removing that final paragraph from the letter- not because I won't bring it up, but just because I think it's something I can work into the conversation, rather then tack on, "apropos of nothing," to the end of the letter. I'll be reporting back here after I've spoken with him.

Incidentally, I want to thank everyone in this thread for really insightful comments. I took everything that everyone said into consideration.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 10:33 PM on September 22, 2008

I decided that I would print the letter out and bring it with me to my conversation with my friend tomorrow evening,

I'm SO glad you decided to take it with you when you talk to him in person. That's great. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow evening- good luck!
posted by arnicae at 10:40 PM on September 22, 2008

I guess my question is, is this a friendship worth salvaging? Or is this the kind of situation where I have to lose a great friend, someone that I love, because of politics? What would you do?

From your description, it sounds like you're the only party with a problem. Your friend's family has a political view that you disagree with, but they haven't said they don't want to be friends with you, and they're entitled to their beliefs.

So the question isn't what would we do, it's what would YOU do? You don't have to do anything. You can keep on being friends, accepting their views (or having some tactful conversations with them about the issue, but don't expect to change their views).

Remember that their opinion on this issue isn't personal against you. You just have to decide whether it's a friendship deal breaker for you.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:40 AM on September 23, 2008

And please remember, to a Mormon reality is very much an us and them world view. The proposition 8 campaign has been a LDS focal point for months, they've been getting word from the church elders and their minions continuously that if this proposition gets voted down the world as we know it will come to an end. In fact, if they hadn't ordered their Yes on 8 signs from China you would have seen a million of them cropping up in yards all around you. But they will be 3 weeks late and that's another story.
posted by ptm at 5:04 AM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: Well, we had planned to get together and talk on Tuesday evening at 6. One hour prior to the fact he sent me a text message saying he had diarrhea and needed to cancel. That's the last I've heard from him and I suspect he won't be rushing to call me back to reschedule.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 8:34 PM on September 25, 2008

Oh no, tumbleweedjack. I'm really sorry.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:39 AM on September 26, 2008

Any updates, tumbleweedjack? We're all rooting for you (and your friends).
posted by arnicae at 2:21 PM on October 1, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, arnicae: friendship's over. He said I'm the intolerant one for not respecting his beliefs, and I'm done pretending that his mind was ever open to begin with.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 9:59 PM on October 10, 2008

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