This is a story of two contrasting individuals, two men who couldn't possibly be more different, two men whom I've recently had reason to think about. Mitt Romney is one of the presidential candidates who would like my vote. Actually, that's not true. Mr. Romney certainly does not want my vote. I am a throwaway in his mind, I think. I am gay, Mitt Romney is Mormon, and we couldn't possibly be further apart in ideology. Actually, that's not exactly true, either. I spent a fair amount of my childhood in the states of Utah and Wyoming, and Mitt and I probably have a few things in common. To my way of thinking, it's perfectly normal to drive around town with a deer rifle hanging in the back window of your truck. Like Mitt, I believe in the death penalty for certain crimes. I am not the raging liberal that he might think. I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, not too far away in ideology from the Mormons.
The primary stumbling block between us is the fact that I am gay and Mitt is a Mormon. Four years ago I saw millions of Mormon dollars roll across state lines to repeal marriage equality in my state of California. I saw a flock of religious fanatics, thousands and thousands of them, stand on street corners and declare that I am an abomination to God, a threat to children, and a threat to human civilization. I saw the hate that was thrown at LGBT people during the Proposition 8 campaign. So I can't possibly vote for Mitt Romney. I know where his heart lies. I know what he thinks of me. His religion preaches that I should not exist. He belongs to a religion that believes the world would be a better place if gays and lesbians disappeared from the face of the planet. I couldn't possibly vote for someone who might govern for his religion first and will never support my right to exist or to enjoy the freedoms that everyone in our country wishes for.
As a gay man, my experience with religion has not been good. I would even go so far as to say that people of certain religious organizations creep me out. I can be pretty belligerent when it comes to organized faith. My childhood was buried in religious fundamentalism, and I know what most of Christianity thinks of me. I am 48 years old, and I've met a lot of religious people in my life. Some of them give me the willies. When in the company of religious people, preachers and pastors, in particular, I often feel an overpowering aura of superiority emanating from them, an aura that I don't buy. Most times, when in their presence, I stifle an urge to inform them, "Yeah, I know what you think of me, and I know you think you speak for God and everything, but I'm not feeling it. I'm really not."
So I've been spending a fair amount of time thinking about this and making comparisons between President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney. When Romney shows up on TV, I see him as someone who could find future success as a televangelist if his current gig in politics doesn't work out. I see him as a religious man first, a politician second. His ability to govern in a fair and impartial manner will always be trumped by his religion, I think. That scares me.
My path through life has taken me far, far away from religion, but a couple of weeks ago I was invited to a book-signing event for the Rev. Gene Robinson. Approximately 10 years ago Gene was elected bishop of the New Hampshire diocese of the Episcopal Church, an event that created more hullabaloo than he expected. I attended his book signing at the Danville Congregational Church, partly because the church was right around the corner from me, but mostly because I was convinced that being more engaged and attending events I wouldn't normally expect to enjoy could add something positive to my life. So I posted a couple of comments on Facebook and promised that, for one day, I would set aside my reluctance to willingly set foot inside a church. That was huge for me. My experience with religion has not been good. Did I say that already? Yes, I did, but that's OK. Some things are worth repeating. So I entered the building yesterday, presuming that, unlike in most of my previous experiences with church, this one would be occupied by people who do not view me as less human. The speaker was, after all, a gay man like me. The Rev. Gene Robinson is gay, like me.
I gotta tell you, meeting the Rev. Robinson was drastically different than I had imagined. He was genuinely warm and gracious. He had a sense of humor, a good one, in fact. Most importantly, he was believable, and I understand why the Episcopalians in New Hampshire chose him, against huge opposition, to be their leader. I felt honored to meet him, and I did not feel like a second-class citizen in his presence or inside that church. That's significant, I think. A man who claims to be a man of God, Mormon or Episcopalian, shouldn't repel nonbelievers.
I don't believe in God or religion, and I don't imagine that's ever going to change. I have no desire to get wrapped up in another church, but I would enjoy having a preacher, pastor, priest, reverend, bishop, or rabbi like Gene Robinson. After the book signing, my belligerence toward organized religion has eased a bit. Perhaps I should no longer paint all churches with the same wide brush. Perhaps intolerance and misunderstanding are not pervasive in all of Christianity. I am not a believer, but I am a supporter of those who adhere to a faith that preaches about love and inclusion. I could vote for someone who will defend my right to find love in the way that works for me, which happens to be with someone of my own gender.
So Mr. Romney, I can't possibly vote for you. I know what you think of me. My mere existence is an affront to God, you believe. Mr. Romney, you can't possibly speak for me, or for the millions of people in this country like me. President Obama is my man for this election.
But Rev. Robinson, I do have a question for you. I understand that you are retiring at the end of this year. I'm thinking that you might need to fill your time during retirement with something new. How do you feel about politics?