Gerardo and I deeply regret if anyone has used our Mormon Stories podcast episode entitled “A New Norm? Married Gay Mormons Get Callings & The Sacrament” as an excuse to intimidate or threaten violence against Charlie Bird and Ryan Clifford. While many of us have been victims of the Mormon church’s well-established “Deznat” wing over the years, we want to state unequivocally that we condemn violence in all forms. We call on the Mormon church to clean up this toxic facet of its culture through the same church disciplinary process it has traditionally reserved for same-sex married couples and critics of the church.
The aforementioned podcast episode had two purposes: 1) to genuinely celebrate the Mormon church’s apparent acceptance of Charlie and Ryan’s marriage – which is an astounding marker of social progress given the church’s well established history of hunting down and excommunicating queer couples (see here, here, and here for examples), and 2) to express a sincere desire for ALL Latter-day Saint queer couples to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges that Charlie and Ryan enjoy — regardless of social status, wealth, or privilege. As someone who was forced to keep his own marriage hidden from the church and from his family out of fear – seeing a same-sex married couple being embraced by their congregation, in public, was a sacred moment for Gerardo — one that he wished he and his husband Zach could have experienced as faithful church members.
We find Troy Williams’s characterization of Gerardo’s peaceful, unobtrusive attendance of a public LDS sacrament meeting as being comparable to the actions of Westboro Baptist Church or of historical LGBTQ “genital inspection” to be inflammatory and repugnant. We struggle to see how “punching down” on and defaming a queer Utahn and an LGBTQ ally/podcast host is befitting of the mission of Equality Utah. We also wonder if Troy’s outrage would be better directed at the toxic and often deadly LGBTQ doctrines, policies, and practices of the Mormon church. (See here for Gerardo’s full response to Equality Utah and Troy Williams).
That said, Gerardo and I express deep regret and apologize to both Charlie and Ryan, and to the broader Mormon and Ex-Mormon LGBTQ+ communities, for the way we handled this aspect of the episode. Everyone – public figures included – deserves a certain degree of privacy. We are deeply saddened and truly sorry to have played a part in any fear, distress, or division within the Utah LGBTQIA community. Gerardo and I have reached out to Charlie and Ryan directly, and look forward to meeting with them to offer a direct apology if and when they feel ready.
As the host of Mormon Stories Podcast, and as the Executive Director of the Open Stories Foundation, it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure that our podcast episodes conform with our values. For this episode, I clearly failed – and I want to take full responsibility for that. I am sorry – to Charlie and Ryan, to Gerardo, and to the broader community. As an organization, we are in the process of reflecting on this situation more deeply to come up with tangible changes to ensure that nothing like this happens again.
Finally, and most importantly, we remain hopeful that the apparent embrace of Charlie and Ryan, as a married couple, into the warm fellowship of their LDS ward and stake, represents a welcomed shift in LDS policy and doctrine regarding the status and fellowship of LGBTQ Mormons. It has long been the position of Mormon Stories Podcast that Latter-day Saints should not have to choose between the person they love, and their treasured faith.
John Dehlin and Gerardo Sumano
Mormon Stories Podcast