A Utah lesbian couple say they’ve been harassed by local Mormon leaders who wanted to bring them before a church court, and some other same-sex couples are coming forward with similar stories.
Leisha and Amanda LaCrone, a married couple with five children in Mount Pleasant, Utah, say they’ve had several bizarre and unwelcome encounters with church representatives, Salt Lake City TV station KTSU reports. Both attended the Mormon Church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as children, but they have not been involved with the church for years.
Leisha LaCrone said a hardware store employee tried to talk to her about the church a couple of times, and after she declined, the couple started receiving phone calls asking them to meet with the local Mormon bishop, and they also turned down these requests. The topper, they told the station, was when church members hand-delivered a letter saying a disciplinary council — a church court hearing — was being held for Leisha because she had been reported to “have participated in conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.” She posted a picture of the letter on Facebook.
The disciplinary council was scheduled for last Tuesday, but the women did not attend. They assume they were targeted because of their relationship, but they wonder why the church — which last year strengthened its stance against same-sex unions — is coming after them now. Leisha, for one, told KTSU she received a letter of excommunication — expulsion from the church — 15 years ago.
She bears no ill will toward the church, but “I would just like for them to let us live in this society and raise our children, and leave us alone,” she told the station.
A church representative declined comment to KTSU, saying disciplinary councils are private matters. A local PFLAG activist said he plans to address the situation with the bishop and ask if there will be similar actions regarding other same-sex couples. Watch the station’s report at the bottom of the page.
Religion News Service blogger Jana Riess wrote that she’s heard stories like this one from other couples around the nation, and they seem to be motivated by the church’s stricter policy, which classifies same-sex unions as “apostasy,” or rejection of Mormon doctrine. Friday she carried a guest post from one woman describing her experience.
The woman, identified only by her first name, Elizabeth, said her local bishop arrived at her home, uninvited, saying he wished to talk about her membership. She is a member of the Mormon Church but has been inactive for several years.
“He said with the new policy from the church about LGBT members and apostasy, he needs me to make a decision on my membership: I have to either divorce my wife or he will set up a church disciplinary council,” wrote Elizabeth, who did not share her location. “I told him I was not going to divorce my wife and that I would not participate in a disciplinary hearing because I had done nothing that I consider to be a sin requiring church discipline.”
He said she could resign from the church instead, but she declined to do so, as her roots are in the LDS denomination. “I wish now, looking back on the encounter, that I had said, ‘If I felt that the church welcomed me with open and accepting arms knowing I am gay and married to a woman, I would be at church every Sunday,’” she wrote. “I did tell him that the leaders of the church are now taking this decision about my own membership away from me.”
“If the church’s official policy is now to seek out married same-sex couples in their own homes to issue an ultimatum to divorce their spouses (and possibly leave their children) to avoid facing a disciplinary court, then I am concerned for all the individuals that this may happen to that are not as strong as I am,” she added. She is not sure if she will attend the hearing.
“On the one hand I want to be on record with my story and have them hear from a ‘real live lesbian’ instead of an idea of one,” she wrote. “I want them to see and hear a real person with feelings. But on the other hand I don’t think I should have to answer to them for who I am, or defend how I live my life. I will answer to God, and I know God is okay with me.”