Monday, April 01, 2013

Let's hear directly from AZ GOP Rep. Matt Salmon's gay son Matt


The "It Gets Better" video posted by "Matt in Phoenix"

"It's impossible to be brave without first being afraid."
-- young Matt, replying to a comment posted on his video

by Ken

Howie wrote this morning ("Republican Homophobia in Arizona? Jeff Flake Vs Matt Salmon") about the weekend TV babbling of a couple of Arizona right-wingers, Rep. Matt Salmon and Sen. Jeff Flake, dancing around the issue of same-sex marriage.

The interesting wrinkle is that Representative Salmon has a son who happens to be gay. The congressman made clear that on the issue of marriage equality he's no Rob Portman, not having "evolved" to the "station" that the Ohio Republican senator "apparently has." You'll recall that the senator has changed his position to favor same-sex marriage in good part owing to the evolution set in motion by learning that his son Will is gay.

When Senator Portman went public about Will being gay, it was widely and understandably pointed out that it's a shame this was the only way he was capable of having his consciousness raised. At the same time, he deserved some credit for having it raised.

However obvious it may be, I keep pointing out that the sea change in public opinion about the LGBT community has everything to do with more and more previously hostile or indifferent Americans realizing that they actually know LGBT people -- among their family and friends and coworkers -- and have come to understand that their sexual orientation is simply part of who they are; it doesn't make them better or worse people.

Which brings us back to "Matt in Phoenix," who posted the "It Gets Better" video we see above -- from the inspiring series of videos made by LGBT folks from all walks of life speaking to younger peers to encourage them in their struggles with the same issues they've grappled with. "Matt in Phoenix" is of course the younger Matt Salmon.

Today on's "Post Politics" blog, Rachel Weiner posted a piece, "Rep. Matt Salmon: Gay son hasn't changed my views on gay marriage," that includes both the video of Representative Salmon's interview which Howie posted this morning and his son's "It Gets Better" video. Now I don't want to downplay any of what Howie pointed out about the older Matt's right-wing extremism.

But just as it was fascinating to see Yale junior Will Portman's parents through his eyes, as he told his story in a Yale Daily News guest column (which I wrote about in "It's a pretty standard coming-out story, with a couple of wrinkles (like it's a U.S. senator's son)," I think it's intriguing to be able to see young Matt's parents through his eyes.

In her "Post Politics" post Rachel Weiner notes that young Matt --
leads the Arizona Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay rights GOP group. In a 2010 interview with the Phoenix New Times, the 22-year-old revealed that he was dating Kent Flake, the second cousin of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). In the article, both young men discussed coming out to their conservative Mormon families.

"The first time I had a conversation with [my father] about it, it did not go well. He was very upset and said some things right off that I know he doesn't really feel," Salmon told the paper. "He's never called me any slurs or anything like that, but he made it clear he didn't like it." The younger Salmon said his father came to support his activism even if he didn't agree with it, but that the struggle for his family's complete acceptance continued.

"It took me 20 years to accept that I'm gay, and to live openly and understand equality issues," he said. "I can't expect them to do it in four months."
Matt's "It Gets Better" video is totally lovely, and I hope you'll watch in its entirety -- to hear him talk about what it was like growing up Mormon and realizing that he was gay, or about summoning the courage to confront the bullies who had beset him in high school -- and having them apologize and even congratulate him on his courage.

I've transcribed just the portion dealing with Matt's parents, and even here what you won't get from the transcript is the image of his emotional upheaval even in 2011 as he talked about it, or the way his tone lightens and he even smiles when he talks about being able to talk to his parents about his dating problems.
I didn't know if my family would ever come around. My parents were very politically opposed to gay equal rights. My mom was president of the organization in Arizona that drafted the 2006 amendment to ban gay marriage in Arizona. She even asked me to help her edit it sometimes. . . . My dad is also a Republican politician. He was in Congress, and he's running for Congress again [in May 2011].

I can tell you, since I've come out, things have changed with my family, but it wasn't until I realized one key thing: If I wanted them to love me and and fully accept me, I had to love and fully accept them too, despite their opinions that might not agree with mine. My parents, they won't see LGBT rights as an issue. They don't see it as a legal issue, but my dad in his campaign now, he has come out publicly and talked with pride about me. My dad told me, and he told a reporter also on the news, that he was proud of me for standing up for what I believe in, for standing up for gay rights. Even though he may not agree with them, he was proud of me for doing it, because that was the way he raised me. And it's true, he did.

I talk to my parents about guys that I've dated, or troubles that I'm having with boys and things like that, and they give me their honest advice, even though they could say, "I don't want to hear it. I don't like you dating guys." They don't. They say, "Maybe he's not right for you. Maybe you should look for somebody else. And someday you'll find a man that makes you happy." And I'm sure that I will.


. . . there were three comments, and he replied to all of them. I think both the comments and his replies are fascinating.
th3g00dstuff88: Great video Matt. I have a question for you: Are you still LDS? How has the church responded to you being gay? Thanks.

I fully resigned from the church about a year and a half ago. But, I've realized that even though I am not a member any longer, I will always be a Mormon. You can leave the membership, but you can't leave the culture. The church responds as they would, sweep it under, try to retain me while telling me I'm a sinner and considered less than straight members. But, how the church responds doesn't matter, because only I decide my life path, nobody else.

Shyguyx12: Thanks for this great video!! I wish that I was as brave as you.

well, it's impossible to be brave without first being afraid.

kellykak98: I'm sorry what you went through. Your story is very touching. I just hope you know that not ALL Mormons, Catholics, etc. and republicans aren't homophobic. My mom is Catholic and my dad is a Mormon and i was raised Catholic. I'm a conservative republican--more conservative than my parents haha! I'm also a lesbian. I'm 16 years old. My parents LOVE me and don't want me to change! Us Christians love our children no matter what! The ones who don't obviously haven't read the Bible. They aren't true.

I still hold to a lot of republican ideals as well. I understand the individuality that is inherent in humanity.


Young Matt tells us that you and the missus don't see LGBT rights as a "legal issue." Really? So you think your son should be subject to being summarily fired from any job just because he's gay? Or being thrown out of his home, or denied the opportunity to rent or buy one because he's gay? Or being denied a whole range of legal "privileges" -- like common property ownership, hospital visitation, or inheritance, things that are so taken for granted by straight folk that it never even occurs to them to think of them as "privileges."

I put it as a challenge to Senator Portman to do something else, pretty much anything else, to show that he actually grasps the basic issues of human rights involved, though I did offer by way of suggestion (always trying to help, I am) that he might sign on as a co-sponsor of the reintroduced Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I understand, Representative Salmon, that you haven't evolved to Senator Portman's station on marriage equality. But are you starting to get any glimmering that there may indeed be not just a legal issue but a whole bunch of them attached to what you so casually dismiss as "LGBT rights"? None of which you apparently believe your son should be legally entitled to.


Tomorrow I want to share a "for instance" that was passed along to me today and had me punching the walls. If it doesn't outrage you, then there's really something wrong with you.

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