Younger Mormons more accepting of gay Utahns, panel says
There is a generation gap when it comes to Mormons and the acceptance of gay issues such as marriage.
That was just one of the conclusions discussed after the first showing Wednesday night of a new play, "Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea," at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Studio Theatre in Salt Lake City.
Playwright Matthew Greene, 26, who is straight and Mormon, could not get the play produced while attending Brigham Young University, probably because those with final approval were older, he told an audience gathered for a discussion following Wednesday's premiere.
But Greene said in his experience younger Mormons are more open to the LGBT community.
"I've been very pleasantly surprised at the LDS response," Greene said. "The 20-something Mormons are trying to figure out life and are discovering this is not a one-sided issue."
Greene said he wanted his play to explore the friendship between individuals (one Mormon and straight, one not Mormon and gay), who are pulled apart by the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most of the 50 people at Wednesday's premiere were either LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) or their straight supporters, including teens from Ogden OUTreach, who discussed the play and its issues: Mormonism, gay rights, personal friendship, and California's Proposition 8, among others.
The legal intricacies of Prop 8 will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. Prop 8 was a voter initiative that overturned previously allowed gay marriage in California.
Several LGBT audience members concluded younger Mormons are more accepting of gay people than the generations before them.
"I'm openly gay in Ogden High School with a lot of LDS," said 16-year-old Cache Burlingame. "The younger generation is about love. We're not eating dinner as gay or LDS people."
Sarah Pertgen, 19, agreed: "A lot has changed, especially for younger people."
Greene, a California native who graduated from BYU in 2010, said the gay-marriage issue has galvanized both sides of the issue since 2009 because "it touches on what is so core to people: love, acceptance and family."
Jerry Rapier, producing director of Plan-B Theatre Company, told the audience he and his husband adopted a baby. The men were invited to hold their baby shower at a ward house.
"People are coming to the center on the issue," Rapier said.
The play jumps around time, from 1995 as two boys play tag under a tree, to 2011, when they grow apart as one goes on a church mission and the other explores college life as a gay man.
The play's two actors, Topher Rasmussen and Logan Tarantino, are both 21, straight and grew up with Mormons. They echoed the night's discussion that younger Mormons are more accepting of gay people than the generations before them.
Tarantino, who plays Steve and attends the University of Utah, said he has noticed a generation gap when it comes to accepting gay marriage: His twentysomething Mormon friends are much more accepting of gay people than their parents or grandparents.
'Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea'
When • Through Feb. 10 on Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Studio Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $10-$20; 801-355-ARTS or planbtheatre.org.
Prop 8 Forum
I Ogden OUTreach will hold a forum 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Ogden Library Main Branch auditorium. Jamila Tharp and Michelle Hastings are leading a marriage-equality action Feb. 14 at the Utah Capitol. Learn more about the work they have done in California and what will be happening on Valentine's Day. Other panelists will include: Allison Black, president of Ogden PFLAG and mother of an engaged gay son; attorney Shane Marx; Jolene Abbott and Colleen Mewing, engaged couple and leaders of the Utah group Older, Wiser Lesbians (OWLS); Mark May, recent Brigham Young University graduate, and Kevin Northrup, student at BYU and University of Utah.