Washington (CNN) Kevin Kloosterman, a former Mormon bishop, said he “came out” last year just not in the way that many people associate with coming out.

“I came out and basically made a personal apology to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) folks for really not understanding their issues, not really taking the time to understand their lives and really not doing my homework,” Kloosterman said in an interview with CNN.

Though not speaking on behalf of the church, the then-bishop stood in front of a crowd of gay and straight Mormons at a November conference on gay and lesbian issues in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.

Donning a suit and tie, Kloosterman was visibly shaken, struggling to find the right words as tears welled up in his eyes.

“I’m sorry deeply, deeply sorry,” Kloosterman told the group in a speech that was captured on video. “The only thing I can say to those of you who have been so patient, and have gone through so much, is for you to watch and look for any small changes with your loved ones, with your wards (Mormon congregations), with your leaders. And encourage them in this repentance process.”

Kloosterman’s apology was just one example of what many Mormons and church watchers see as a recent shift in the Mormon community’s posture toward gays and lesbians, including by the official church itself.

Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.

A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons the same one Kloosterman addressed last year is seeing an uptick in popularity.

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

Purdy wrote, “If members are becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others then this can only be a positive development.”

  • Gay rights activists hold hands in protest in front of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July 2009.

‘It is definitely getting better’

The Brigham Young students who taped the pro-gay video this month were contributing to a popular video series meant to inspire hope in young people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality identity.

The video featured students telling stories of being gay at Brigham Young, sharing tales of heartache, loss and even suicide.

“It kind of is a very different world to be gay and Mormon because it feels like neither community accepts you completely,” said Bridey Jensen, a fifth-year senior and acting president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction, the group that posted the video.

“We put out the message for youth that are going through this, and we want them to know that we were them a few years ago, and it gets better and there is a place for you,” she said.

Though chastity is a requirement at Brigham Young, gay and lesbian students say they are under more scrutiny. The school’s honor code says that “homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates” the code.

But Jensen said reaction to the video, which has been viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube, has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Carri Jenkins, an assistant to Brigham Young’s president, told CNN that the production of the video is not a violation of the honor code and that the students will not be punished.

The honor code, Jenkins said, is “based on conduct, not on feeling and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.”

Jensen said that while gay and lesbian Mormons face a tough road, she sees a shift toward greater acceptance. It is definitely getting better within the church, she said. “They are not so quick to judge. They understand that they don’t understand everything. I am glad I can be a little part of it.”

Some scholars of Mormonism, such as Columbia University’s Richard Bushman, said they see the very existence of such a gay rights group at Brigham Young as a step toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians.

“The last 10 years have been a huge sea change in terms of willingness to accept homosexuals,” Bushman said. “Gay kids are still going to have a tough time in the church, but this level of acceptance and acknowledgment that is really that last decade I would say.”

Most gay Mormons point to 2008’s push for Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state but has faced legal challenge in the courts, as a low point in the relationship between the church and gay and lesbian community.

Mormons make up 2% of California’s population, but they contributed half of the $40 million war chest used to defend Proposition 8, according to a Time magazine report.

The church’s Proposition 8 activism angered many gay rights groups around the country, with some labeling the church “bigoted,” “homophobic” and “anti-gay.”

But church officials pushed back against the perception that the Proposition 8 backlash has provoked a Mormon softening on gay and lesbian issues.

“Many positive relationships have come from the Church’s experience in supporting traditional marriage in California,” Purdy, the church spokesman, said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.

Purdy draws a distinction between being against same-sex marriage and against equality for gays and lesbians.

He reiterated that the church was “strongly on the record as supporting traditional marriage,” but he said its stance should never be used as justification for violence or unkindness.

“The Church’s doctrine has not changed but we certainly believe you can be Christ-like, loving and civil, while advocating a strongly held moral position such as supporting traditional marriage,” Purdy wrote in an e-mail message.

“We do not believe that strong support of traditional marriage is anti-gay,” he wrote. “We love and cherish our brothers and sisters who experience same gender attraction. They are children of God.”

Church doctrine says that sex outside marriage is a sin and can lead to excommunication. Since gay people cannot be married in the church, any sex for them would be premarital and, therefore, sinful.

“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear,” the church’s website says. “It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.”

Openly gay and a church leader

Mitch Mayne seems to relish his role as a lightning rod.

Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who blogs about homosexuality and the church, received the calling a term Mormons use for being invited into a church position in August.

Mayne is now executive secretary in a San Francisco ward of the church.

“I view myself as gay and being completely whole as being gay,” Mayne said.

Many observers of Mormonism say Mayne’s calling marked a unique moment in church history. Purdy said that Mayne’s appointment is “not unique,” but it’s hard to find precedent for an outspokenly gay executive secretary.

Mayne said he sees his job as building bridges with the gay community in San Francisco and showing them “there are pockets in the Mormon Church where you can be yourself.”

The biggest obstacle toward building those bridges is the threat of excommunication, said Mayne, who told CNN that in some wards just being gay can lead to expulsion from the church.

According to church doctrine, a formal disciplinary council can be called at the request of church leader.

While the leaders of the church mandate councils called for murder, incest or apostasy, it has a long list of reasons to call a disciplinary council.

According to the church’s website, the list of reasons includes “abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations. …”

Some wards are observing that guidance while others aren’t, Mayne said.

“Here in the Bay Area … we are no longer seeking out LGBT members of the church and excommunicating them,” Mayne said. “Our role is to bring people closer to the Savior, so if we are routinely excommunicating people, then we are really not doing our job.”

Mayne said he believes the challenge is to convince church leaders that they don’t ever have to excommunicate gay members.

And he said the Proposition 8 campaign was the “least Christ-like thing we have ever done as a church.”

“Not only did we alienate gays and lesbians, but we alienated their parents, their friends, those who support them the ripple effect went way beyond the gay community, and I don’t think we were prepared for such a negative fallout,” Mayne said. “I think the church deserved the black eye they received.”

He added, “As a result of that really horrible time, I think we are entering a really good time to be a gay Mormon. It is getting better.”

‘Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off’

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks, the City Council of Salt Lake City listens. At least the council seemed to in 2009 when it voted on an ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against gay and transgendered residents in housing and employment.

“The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage,” church spokesman Michael Otterson told the council.

Shortly after the church’s expression, the City Council approved the measure unanimously.

Many gay rights activists said they saw the move as an olive branch after the Proposition 8 debate.

“The tone and the culture is evolving, and the way the LGBT people are being treated is changing. I don’t think the church’s policy has caught up to that change in culture,” said Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “The Mormon church hasn’t gotten nearly as politically involved as they had since 2009.”

Though Murray sees the church lobbying for anti-discrimination laws as a positive step, he said the church’s shift is more about style than substance.

“It is going to take a lot of intentional effort to actually prove they are different,” Murray said. “That burden, because of the really public nature of their support of Prop 8, falls harder on the Mormon church than others.”

Joanna Brooks, a popular Mormon blogger and president of Mormon Stories, a nonprofit group that facilitates conversations on Mormon issues, echoes Murray’s sentiments.

She said she sees the church’s stance as challenging gay Mormons to choose between the religion they most likely grew up with and their desire for romantic companionship.

“Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off,” she said, adding that the church can’t make it that “either you are gay or you are Mormon, or either you support gay rights or you support the church.”

By Dan Merica, CNN

Conservatives like to claim that same sex marriage endangers marriage, despite all evidence to the contrary. But a new experiment finds that opponents of marriage equality don’t actually believe that gay couples will harm their unions.

A study led by Eastern Kentucky University psychologist Matthew Winslow examined 120 undergraduate students, asking them how threatened they felt by marriage equality. Winslow’s examination focused on the “third-person perception,” a psychological effect where people believe that others are more influenced by outside sources like the media than they themselves are. Surveying 120 college students, Winslow did find that many of his subjects believed they – and their relationships – were less affected by those kinds of outside pressures than others’ were. While the students Winslow surveyed who supported same-sex marriage did experience this effect, it was more pronounced among opponents:

The group most likely to see itself as impervious and others as vulnerable was composed of people with a personality trait called right-wing authoritarianism. People with this trait strongly value tradition and authority, and dislike people not in their own social group.

Right-wing authoritarians’ perceptions of themselves as strong and others as weak might help explain this group’s strong opposition to gay marriage, Winslow said. But the study, published April 10 in the journal Social Psychology, also highlights that everybody judges themselves as a little bit better than the next guy.

“If everyone believes that other people are more affected than they are, that’s just not logical,” said Winslow, who suggested that focusing on putting yourself in others’ shoes might help banish this bias.

Winslow has a simple solution for marriage equality opponents: “If you believe you are not going to be affected by [same-sex marriage], just recognize that probably other people believe the same way, so the good news is that probably people aren’t going to be affected by it that much.”

-Zachary Bernstein

NEWS FLASH from ThinkProgress LGBT

REPORT: SAUDI ARABIA BANS GAYS AND TOMBOYS FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS| Gays and “tomboys” have been barred from attending Saudi Arabian public schools and universities in an effort to fight the “phenomenon” of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, a report from Emirates 24/7 said. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is charged with ensuring the immediate implementation of the rules, although it remains unclear who issued them. According to the report, “instructions have been issued to all public schools and universities to ban the entry of gays and tomboys and to intensify their efforts to fight this phenomenon.” Banned students will be required to “prove they have been corrected and have stopped such practices” in order to re-enroll in their school or university. The U.S. State Department human rights reports criticize Saudi Arabia for abuses against the LGBT community. — Fatima Najiy

April 16, 2012, 3:56 PM CET By Veronika Gulyas

The Budapest municipal court last week allowed Hungary’s annual Budapest gay march to take place at its original place and time, overruling the police in a decision that highlights continued controversy over gay rights in Hungary.

  • AFP/Getty Images
  • Members and sympathizers of a right-wing group at the 2011 Budapest Pride

The Hungarian arm of Amnesty International, civil rights group Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and organizations of homosexual activists welcomed the court’s decision. The organization expect some 1,500 people to show up at the march on July 7.

Like in recent years, the police refused to grant permission for the Budapest Pride, saying the march would restrict commuters’ right to free movement. The court said, however, that traffic can be diverted from a road that otherwise frequently hosts marathons and bicycle rides.

Some organizations and a parliamentary opposition party in Hungary have said the march should be banned because it would set “a bad example” for children. Radical Jobbik party last week submitted an amended proposal of its original bill aimed at protecting “public morals and the mental health of the young generations” from homosexuality, transsexuality, transvestitism, bisexuality, and pedophilia, said MP Adam Mirkoczki, the bill’s proponent. The amendment seeks to outlaw “promotion of sexual deviations.” Several regions of Russia have similar legislation in place.

The governing Fidesz party last year passed a new constitution for Hungary, enacted on Jan. 1, defining marriage as “a relationship between a man and a woman.” The wording is identical to the Polish constitution of 1997. Polish conservative leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski referred to that definition of marriage in 2010 to claim that even same-sex civil unions, which the Polish ruling Civic Platform party has said it would consider introducing, would violate the constitution.

 

A former management analyst at the Library of Congress is claiming he was fired after he “liked” a Facebook page for same-sex parents, an act he says led to his boss discovering he is gay. 

Peter TerVeer liked the “Two Dads” page on Facebook, a group that helps “promote the gay and lesbian community,” according to the page.

When his manager, John Mech, discovered he was gay, TerVeer’s once-positive performance reviews turned negative, he alleges, and his boss started making derogatory statements about his sexual orientation, according to TerVeer’s attorney Thomas Simeone.

Simeone would not comment on details of the case, but a Roll Call article published Tuesday said shortly after TerVeer liked the Two Dads page:

TerVeer said he started to receive emails from Mech that contained ‘religiously motivated harassment and discrimination.’ Mech then called him into a meeting for the purposes of ‘educating him on hell and that it awaited him for being a homosexual.’

TerVeer’s therapist ordered him to take medical leave because of the stress, Simeone said. He was fired last week for missing 37 consecutive days of work.

A spokeswoman for the Library of Congress said she could not comment on personnel matters. But the Library released a statement saying, “Library of Congress employees, like all employees in the federal government, have protection against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Library employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination may avail themselves of an internal administrative process to address their equal employment opportunity complaints.”

TerVeer filed a claim with Library of Congress’ Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, Simeone said. The office has until mid-May to make a ruling. After that, TerVeer can take his case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC spokeswoman Christine Nazer would not comment on the case.

Even though sexual orientation discrimination was part of the case, Simeone said his client will fight the termination based on religious bias. He saidlaws protecting workers against sexual orientation discrimination are limited and provide few, if any, remedies for compensating workers in cases like TerVeer’s.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a wake-up call for employees who may not yet understand the extent to which their social media participation can impact their careers. The question of what’s private and what’s not on social networking sites is rearing its head in the workplace more often.

This month Maryland became the first state to ban the practice of asking for a job candidate or worker’s social networking password; and Illinois is considering similar legislation, said Daniel Prywes, an employment attorney for Bryan Cave.  “The proposed bills would broadly prohibit employers from seeking access to private areas of social media accounts, with no exceptions for law enforcement or similar sensitive types of employment.”

Facebook has threatened to “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users” in cases where employers seek passwords.

While most companies don’t cyber snoop on workers and job candidates, it can be legal for your employer to mine your social media meandering and take adverse action against you for something on your Facebook orLinkedIn, as long as your employer doesn’t thwart discrimination laws or collective bargaining rights.

 

MSNBC.com

By Eve Tahmincioglu

Though he does not officially support gay marriage, President Obama voiced opposition to a proposed anti-gay marriage ballot measure in Minnesota today.

Obama for America Minnesota Communications Director Kristin Sosanie said:

“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples.”

“That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do – single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and the President does not support it.”

The proposed Minnesota marriage amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

It’s the second time in as many months Obama has weighed in on the issue.

The Obama campaign in North Carolina issued a statement in March with the same language in opposition to Amendment One, which would also define marriage in the state’s constitution as between one man and one woman.

Just as in North Carolina, same-sex marriage is already banned by a statute in Minnesota. Unlike the North Carolina amendment, the Minnesota amendment does not mention civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Today’s news comes after White House press secretary Jay Carney stated that First Lady Michelle Obama – in referencing how Supreme Court decisions will impact whether people can “love whomever we choose” – was not commenting about marriage equality.

Her husband, though “evolving” in his views on marriage equality, technically opposed marriage equality and supported civil unions in his 2008 campaign.

April 9th, 2012 4:32 PM by Free Britney

NEW YORK — A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.

Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.

“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.

Phone and email requests from the AP for comment from the archdiocese were not immediately answered on Saturday.

The conflict started with a letter to Dolan from Carl Siciliano, founder of the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people. He said the cardinal’s “loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people” creates “a climate where parents turn on their own children.”

“As youths find the courage and integrity to be honest about who they are at younger ages, hundreds of thousands are being turned out of their homes and forced to survive alone on the streets by parents who cannot accept having a gay child,” Siciliano wrote in his letter, sent last week.

Siciliano, who is Catholic, said parents who are strongly religious are much more likely to reject children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Of the nation’s homeless youths, as many as 40 percent are LGBT, studies show.

Siciliano received a response from the cardinal in a letter dated March 28.

“For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory,” Dolan wrote. “Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children.”

The response prompted Amodeo to quit the board, said the 24-year-old gay Catholic who still teaches religious education to elementary school children as part of a New York archdiocese program. He’ll be doing that on Easter in a parish near Manhattan’s Union Square.

Amodeo was a member of the executive committee of the junior board of the New York branch of Catholic Charities, one of the largest global networks of charities, started in New Orleans in 1727 as an orphanage.

“Every Sunday, I teach second-graders to ‘love thy neighbor,’ but then, when we as a church have a teachable moment, we fail,” Amodeo told the AP in a telephone interview.

He said the cardinal “failed to respond to a call for pastoral assistance, to answer the question, ‘What can we do together as a church and as a people for youths who are homeless?”

Dolan leads one of the nation’s largest archdioceses — which has 2.6 million Catholics — and is president of the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Last summer during New York’s same-sex marriage debate, the prelate warned that the proposed legislation — which later passed — was an “ominous threat” to society.

___

By VERENA DOBNIK

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: 12:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012