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Mormon Woman Grapples With New Church Guidelines On Same-Sex Relationships

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Many gay and lesbian Mormons are looking at a difficult choice now that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued new guidance on same-sex marriage. The choice is stay in the church or leave and say goodbye to a religion, a culture, a whole life. We're about to hear from a woman who is in the middle of such a choice. But first, here's the church on the new guidance.

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D. TODD CHRISTOFFERSON: We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires church discipline.

MCEVERS: That's church elder D. Todd Christofferson in an online video. We asked for an interview about the guidance, but the church declined. The LDS church has always opposed same-sex marriage. But note that Christofferson said it's a sin that now requires discipline. That's the part that's new. The church also says children who live with same-sex parents cannot get baptized until they're 18 and only if they disavow same-sex relationships. This new guidance has been a catastrophe for Berta Marquez.

MCEVERS: Kelly.

BERTA MARQUEZ: Kelly.

MCEVERS: Nice to meet you.

MARQUEZ: Come in.

MCEVERS: We met her at her house near Provo, Utah, last week. Berta Marquez identifies as queer, mostly attracted to women. She's 37 and has been a Mormon her whole life. The church she knew when she was young was a church that rescued her and her family back in Guatemala. Her father was a labor activist and that put the family in danger.

MARQUEZ: Members of the church, like, in Guatemala saved our lives. Whatever country we moved in during their long shadow of exile, there was always a body of members of the church ready to receive us. When we came to the United States and we moved to a barrio and we started from the very bottom, there was this thing called this bishops storehouse where we could go and get food. Basically, their grocery stores without cash registers, you know? So all these things came from the church.

MCEVERS: That was in California, and it's where Berta Marquez started realizing she was attracted to women.

MARQUEZ: So I became self-aware, let's say, around the age of 13 and my mother asking me one day because my wall of course was plastered with "Star Trek" posters of only the women (laughter) you know? You know, mija, do you like the women, you know?

MCEVERS: At the time, her mother gave her some church information about how to overcome same-sex attraction. The family eventually moved to Utah, and Berta Marquez went to Brigham Young University. It's sponsored by the LDS church. And she says she was encouraged to date men.

MARQUEZ: It was really hard to be surrounded by all these students who were actively dating, being encouraged to date through church dances, what are called linger longers - like, stay and talk and here are some cupcakes and may sparks fly - and just seeing that and being surrounded by that and wanting so much to have that but not being able to.

MCEVERS: Berta Marquez eventually was so conflicted she stopped going to church and says at one point she even thought about killing herself. Later, when she was 31, she came out to her family and they accepted her. And she started going to church again and found it to be really supportive - at least at the local level.

MARQUEZ: I have been out to - one, two, three - four bishops in the different places where I've lived. And all of them have been profoundly kind. I mean, one was deeply Orthodox, and, you know, at the time, I wasn't ready to date yet. And I suspect that's why I was embraced and allowed to continue to be part of the congregation.

MCEVERS: Because you were still single.

MARQUEZ: Yeah. And then once I was married, my wife and I moved to a place called Little Cottonwood Canyon here in Utah. And when I went to this - you know, that particular bishop and said, just so you know, we're here to serve, and if there is a place for us then we will come. And, you know, he said the best way right now to serve is to walk with me while I learn. You know, that's not something that can happen anymore.

MCEVERS: That's because the new church guidelines require Berta Marquez's local bishop to call her and her wife before a council that could excommunicate them.

MARQUEZ: For me, I have no interest in going through disciplinary council. You're expected to disclose very, very personal details to this council, this panel, of, you know, 10 to 12 men - some of which you've never met - and while they deliberate and inquire and then make a judgment or a decision.

MCEVERS: Berta Marquez has written letters of resignation from the church for her and her wife, Cathy. But they haven't sent them.

Do you think about having your own children, whether adopting or otherwise, I mean, not being able to raise them in the church?

MARQUEZ: Do I have specific things about Mormonism that I'm fond of, that I grew up learning and that I want to pass onto my children? Yes. But I feel that I can raise - we feel that we can raise ethical, moral, kind children who are spiritual outside of the institution of church if that is what needs to happen.

MCEVERS: It sounds like this new guidance has really turned you against the institution of the church. You kind of sound done.

MARQUEZ: Well, I - yes and no. I mean, yes in the sense that I'm personally done meeting with people at church headquarters and believing that somehow our stories matter - at least in the upper echelons of the institutional church. But I continue to love Mormons profoundly with my whole soul. I love members of the church. They're my people. They're the ones that formed me in my youth. And that's the one thing that doesn't change and won't ever change for me.

MCEVERS: That's Berta Marquez who is in a same-sex marriage and is an active Mormon. And for now, she is trying to figure out how she can be both. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.