J Seth Anderson and Michael Adam Ferguson were catapulted into the public spotlight when they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married by the state of Utah. Seth and Michael both grew up in LDS homes, completed full-time missions for the Church, and throughout their twenties, undertook tortuous journeys to renegotiate their relationships with both the institution and with the faith of their childhoods.
Since November 2012, Seth and Michael have been embroiled in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against a gay conversion therapy organization in New Jersey named JONAH: Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On June 25, 2015, a New Jersey jury unanimously found JONAH liable for multiple counts of consumer fraud and unconscionable business practices.
For a link to the Ferguson v. JONAH – Unofficial Trial Transcripts, click here.
This trial has significant implications for LDS LGBT individuals, primarily because:
- The Journey Into Manhood program is co-founded by LDS church members Rich Wyler and Dave Matheson, and has had direct participation and support from NorthStar Founder and BYU Professor Ty Mansfield.
- Ty and Danielle Mansfield have been put forward by the LDS Church including on the MormonsAndGays.org web site as role models for gay Mormon men (encouraging mixed-orientation marriages, which are reported to have divorce rates of around 70% and very low quality of life ratings).
- Ty’s Book “Voices of Hope” is published by Deseret Book, and is the main LGBT-themed book sold at Deseret Book today. Jeff Bennion and Preston “Pret” Dahlgren, who were both interviewed in the JONAH trial, are also both contributors to Voices of Hope, and were also featured on the recent My Husband’s Not Gay TV show on TLC.
- For decades, LDS participants in both Evergreen International (the now defunct LDS reparative therapy-sponsoring organization) and NorthStar have reported strong encouragement to participate in Journey Into Manhood (and other reparative therapy-based programs) from their organizational leaders and/or members.
- Considerable research has been conducted on the dangers of religion-based sexual orientation change efforts and mixed-orientation marriage, which should call into question the LDS Church’s historical and current approaches to dealing with its LGBT members.
Seth and Michael recently completed their graduate work at the University of Utah–Seth finishing his master’s degree in social history focusing on the history of sexuality in the Western United States, and Michael defending his PhD dissertation in bioengineering in which he developed new analytical methods for monitoring brain activity using fMRI.
Seth and Michael are actively involved in education and advocacy on behalf of LGBT and queer individuals, including the project Team Truth–a grassroots campaign they are creating with advocates and allies to end the lies and harm of gay conversion therapy.