Tonight I attended the Sutherland Institute’s “Sacred Ground” kickoff meeting. For those not familiar, this is the newly formed opposition to Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative. This post is mostly going to read like a journal I fear, as there is a lot of information to get through.
To start off, the “gays” were the first ones to arrive at Thanksgiving Point, standing in line in the cold waiting to get in. Once the doors opened, we were shepherded into a long thin tent leading up to the main doors, inside of which was a table to sign in, and about 8 security guards. It was a notable difference from Equality Utah’s “Common Ground Initiative” kickoff event, which was an open-to-the-public, media and all-welcome event. To actually get in, you had to have previously registered with the Sutherland Institute, including providing your home address and email, although they didn’t tell you until afterwards that you were signing up to receive regular mail from them.
Deciding that opposite opinions were not welcome, the Sutherland Institute sent out an email to many of the prominent gay activist leaders in the community (Jacob Whipple and Michael Mueller) in the hours prior to the event letting them know they and their groups were no longer welcome to attend. This went so far as the young man who checked me in apologized for the extra security, saying, “there are supposed to be a lot of bad people trying to get in tonight, so we’re being very careful.” To enforce this decree, they pulled the list of attending people from Facebook, and listed them as banned from the event. Many people, not aware of this change, were actually forcibly removed from the event. Rebecca Huggins, a local single mom who registered well in advance, attempted to sign in with the registration people. Watching closely, she saw them scan down to her name, note a check mark next to it, then was asked to speak to the security guard. “He said I needed to leave immediately,” Rebecca said, “then he grabbed me by the elbow and attempted to escort me out.” Rebecca, who was there not to protest, but to listen and see what the Sutherland Institute had to say, was shocked and in tears after her ill-treatment.
Once inside, the 9 of us who made it in were kept under an intense watch Sutherland’s gestapo (what my Mom called them 🙂 ) to ensure that we didn’t cause any problems. And having an hour to kill before it actually started, I decided to talk to every single person around me. It was interesting, but every person I talked to, without exception, was actually for the rights the Common Ground Initiative stands for, namely the Fair Workplace and Housing Bill. Several commented that they couldn’t believe that was still legal [firing or evicting based on sexual orientation alone], and would definitely support those rights.
The actual meeting kicked off with an opening prayer (I’ll admit, atmosphere was identical to an LDS General Conference), and Shelly Locke (snidely compared to a Steppford Wife by someone nearby) welcomed everyone there. There were 3 speakers, Paul T. Mero, Representative LaVar Christensen, and Lauralyn B. Swim.
Paul’s topic was “Marriage, Family, and Freedom.” He began by telling of the two great revolutions in history that stuck out in his mind, the American Revolution, and the French. “One of these revolutions went on to create the greatest nation in the world,” Paul stated, “while the other lasted only a short period… This is because of what the revolutions were founded on.. The French Revolution was built on liberty foreign to the natural man… that every person was born of natural and civil rights. While the American Revolution was built on the idea of inherited rights..that we do not invent freedom, we are given them by God.” He went on to explain that political freedom comes from what we ought to do, not from what we want to do, and Gay Marriage will make family’s rights disappear. Paul even had some pictures with him, and while showing a building in various stages of construction, likened it to the foundation of families. Straight families stand firm on good foundations, while gay families fall. Paul also explained to the crowd that “knowledge and reason are what seperates us from animals,” and, “we must always remember where we came from, and what we are here for so we can be better people.”
Next up was LaVar Christensen, who spoke on, “A Principled Approach to Same-Sex Politics.” LaVar went into detail about the rights that are given in this country, and stated that, “secularism is stripping rights of their eternal implications.” According to LaVar, “We do not make laws, we merely distort and twist God’s laws,” so we must do all we can to correct that. LaVar continued on a more light-hearted tone, getting a laugh out of the crowd when stating that some people think that it is wrong for the majority to vote on a minority’s rights. “That the [LDS] Church supports any of these rights is lunacy.”
Lauralyn Swim didn’t have much too add, but rather praised the previous two speakers, and explaining that, “this is against those who have decided to cast aside the wisdom of the ages…for we are the Defenders of freedom, protectors of liberty and guardians of virtue.”
All in all, the only topic heard all night was Gay Marriage. Over and over it was flaunted as the stain on the Earth, and completely and irrevocably immoral and wrong. What was most noticeably lacking, was there was not one mention of a single bill in the Common Ground Initiative. Not once did they elaborate on how protecting people’s jobs and housing was going to bring on Gay Marriage.
It truly seems, that all these people can think of to do is scare people with a future topic, and hope they don’t pay attention to today’s issues. For if they do, it’s already been shown that these rights are the will of the majority of the state.
P.S. Quotes may not be absolutely perfect (hard to write so fast!). However no meanings or intent have been changed, and there has been no significant changes in wording.