Ed Smart has come out as gay.
The father of Elizabeth Smart stated he is "finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept" in a letter sent to loved ones Thursday on Facebook Messenger, reports NBC News.
"I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay. The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief," Smart wrote.
Ed's daughter, Elizabeth, made international headlines when she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home at age 14. She endured captivity for nine months, and after her rescue by police, cited to her Mormon faith as a factor in her survival. Ed's advocacy kept her plight in the media during her kidnapping.
In the letter, Ed, 64 said he is leaving his wife, Lois, and said he was sorry for the "excruciating pain" that he had put her through. The pair are divorcing.
There have been mixed reports about whether Ed would stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. "As an openly gay man, the Church is not a place where I find solace any longer," he wrote in the letter. However, Ed told CNN that he would remain a member until the church tried to oust him. "If they were to push me to do so, I would [leave]," he said.
While the Mormon Church softened some of its anti-LGBTQ policies this year, such as no longer barring the children of same-sex couples from baptism, it is still antigay in many respects. Many credit the spike in youth suicides in Utah to its hostility to queer people.
Ed, in his letter, added that he "mostly watched in silence for years as many LGBTQ individuals both in and out of the Church have been victims of ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" and that he "numbered among" these victims.
Elizabeth Smart, now 31, released a supportive statement in response to her father's coming-out. "While I am deeply saddened by their separation, nothing could change my love and admiration for them both," she said. "Their decisions are very personal. As such, I will not pass judgment and rather am focusing on loving and supporting them and the other members of my family."
Ed told NBC News in a statement that he is "grateful for the amazing love and support from everyone."
"It was, as I’ve said, incredibly hard getting to this point, and I feel for so many that are struggling in my situation trying to make the decision of whether to come out or remain closeted the rest of their life," he said.