Dressed in our Sunday best, my hands gripped the handle of Abby’s stroller just a little bit harder as we turned the corner. I wore my new white skirt, a rainbow bracelet and a freshly pressed blouse. Abby wore her prettiest church dress, her pigtails adorned with brightly colored ribbons.
Heidi, my nanny turned closest friend, walked beside me carrying the signs we had made the night before. She walked with a bounce in her step, a broad smile of excitement. I walked with trepidation. The signs loudly proclaimed we were Mormons, and we were about to walk in a gay pride parade.
Weeks before, I had written a blog post about my support for gay marriage. The comment section exploded, and I felt the scourge of people from my own faith. It was truly painful, and I wrote about that pain in a post where I committed to walk in the Capital Pride Parade with the Mormons for Marriage contingent.
I knew why I was there, and I felt strongly about it. Shouldering the pain of rejection from many from my own background, I went before a group of people I feared would also reject me; this time from the outset because of my religious affiliation.
From the first step I took out on the parade route, my fear disappeared. Tears fell down my face as I looked into a crowd that broke out into cheers. I walked by an older gentleman who had tears in his eyes. He held his hand over his heart and mouthed “thank you.”
And then there was this: the defining moment in the entire parade for me. As we walked a man ran into our group crying. He was cheering, “I can’t believe you’re here! I’m Mormon too! Thank you for coming! Thank you for being here for ME! Thank you! Thank you so much!” and then he went through and hugged everyone in the group.
And so on this day where we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement I say this: I am here for you. There’s a spot saved for you in the pew next to me at church (though you’ll have to be comfortable being climbed all over by my kids), and a place at my dinner table. I’ll be there for you at the rallies and the marches, I will be there for you as we work now in Rhode Island to get marriage equality passed as we did in Maryland and Washington State this last year.
I am a married, straight, Mormon mom. I could not have been more different than most of the people who were celebrating that day, and yet, I was immediately embraced. My daughter, who’s differences are written in the shape of her eyes, was loved and fawned over. If you can’t support gay marriage, I hope that you will rethink it. But at the very least, you can embrace people who are different from you in the way that this group of people did me that day.