History will remember Mitt Romney's attempt to oust Barack Obama as President of the United States as the tipping point of the marriage equality movement.
Some will credit Joe Biden's "blunder" or Barack Obama's assertion that "gay couples should be able to get married." Others will assert pop culture's influence, noting the Green Lantern's proposal to his boyfriend or the same-sex marriage of Marvel Universe's Northstar to his lover last month.
However, the historical account of the gay marriage movement will memorialize Mitt Romney's Mormon faith as the magnifying glass that moved Americans most – regardless of which candidate wins the White House in November.
In June, The New York Times published an op-ed piece, "Why We Fear Mormons," by J. Spencer Fluhman, an assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University who suggested that "making Mormons looks bad helps others feel good." He states, "By imagining Mormons as intolerant rubes, or as heretical deviants, Americans from the left and right can imagine they are, by contrast, tolerant, rational and truly Christian." He further proposes, "Anti-Mormonism has long masked America's contradictions and soothed American self-doubt."
Resisting a snarky retort seems like the more reasonable road to travel, but it's hard to refuse noting the similarities between Professor Fluhman's musings about faith and why some wish to keep the institution of marriage from same-sex couples, why adults and children justify bullying kids who don't conform to gender norms, why preachers hit the Web with bold assertions to beat "gayness" out of children, and why Pastor Curtis Knapp of Kansas contends "government should kill gays, but they won't."
The Mormon church's past anti-gay positions and its role in financing Proposition 8 – California's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage – may have been the first dominoes to fall around the faithful, but vetting Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate links the straightforward similarities between Mormonophobia and homophobia. In both cases, it can be argued, that we ridicule others and deny others humanity in order to feel better, to feel more faithful or to assert our moral superiority. Mitt Romney's "youthful indiscretions," his contemplation of classmates who are bullied because of real or perceived sexual orientation and his argument for the freedom of religion are all rooted in deep considerations of morality, acceptance and the motivation behind the actions we take against others.
I find it impossible to conceive a scholar wouldn't make a connection between bullying gays and any hypothesis explaining the mocking of Mormons. In fact, the argument is so hypocritical I want to state for the record that, if there is a Mormon epithet, I've never heard anyone use it. And no one ever knocked on my door to ask me if I would consider homosexuality as a lifestyle.
Professor Fluhman may have failed to articulate a direct connection between discrimination based on faith and discrimination based on sexual/gender identity. But many gay and straight Mormons alike, speaking out to friends and neighbors, cannot (or won't) defend their faith's flaws or a presidential nominee's defense of gays and lesbians in the workplace but denial of gay and lesbian marriage in the household.
Persons of faith, who want to do their faith justice, turn the religious among them right when they believe those persons are on the wrong path. The path to the White House has long been paved with religious intentions; and Romney, reared in a faith ranked near the bottom of a list of American's "most respected" religions, is going to be expected to mainstream, upstream, if he wishes to be seen with integrity by those of us with the will and power to vote.
As Mormons take to the streets, demanding the Church of Latter Day Saints reconsider its position on same-sex marriage, the general election has taken on a blander, more boring and even more predictable persona now than before Republicans settled on their nominee.
In this Mormon moment, Americans have been put on the spot, confronting ideals our country will reflect to the world. The only October surprise possible now would be Mitt's march toward marriage equality.
Like John F. Kennedy, the only position left is drawing the bright line between church and state. After all, Romney may have missed June's parades, but he rarely resists currents.