In fewer than five months, Billy Hutchinson's parents went from smiling at his wedding to voting against his marriage.
Raised as Mormons, neither Hutchison nor his longtime partner, Scott Wilkinson, was surprised when the Church of Latter-Day Saints came out in support of Proposition 8. But Hutchinson never anticipated that his parents would donate $200 to support California's gay marriage ban. Now Wilkinson wants nothing to do with his in-laws. The annual Christmas visit to see the folks in Calaveras County is off, and Hutchinson feels caught in the middle. "I don't know what to do now," he says.
The couple's gay and Mormon lives have come into conflict before. Wilkinson says Brigham Young University expelled him for being homosexual (in an et tu moment, he says he was turned in by a "reformed lesbian"). Hutchinson, meanwhile, came out to his parents when he opted out of going on the customary mission, worried he'd fall in love with one of his fellow missionaries.
The two men, who live in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, met on a day trip organized by mutual friends to see the Calaveras sequoias in 1993. Mormon talk was an icebreaker, and their religion wound up playing a key role in their relationship. "We're monogamous because of [Mormon values] and the example of our parents," Hutchinson says.
The partners have made trips to the altar several times now. The first time was in Vermont in 2000. They got hitched again at San Francisco City Hall on Valentine's Day in 2004, only to have the union disqualified by the courts. Their most recent wedding came in June, and was their best-attended ceremony: 20 friends came to celebrate, as did Hutchinson's father, Jack, and sister, Rose. His mother, Billie, had difficulty getting time off work, but there she was on his doorstep the night before the nuptials. "This time in June felt the best because my family was there," Hutchinson says.
Then Prop. 8 happened. Billie pushed for the donation, believing it was what her religion wanted, Rose says. Hutchinson and his partner say they found out about the campaign contribution (made in September) only when Wilkinson stumbled upon Jack's name while scanning donor lists for his old church friends. Hutchinson says his parents explained that it was about protecting the church from lawsuits for refusing to allow gay weddings in their chapels. Rose says her family would love to support gay marriage, but that marriage doesn't belong to them, but to God.
Hutchinson and Wilkinson intend to officially leave the church, but familial wounds linger. Deluged by work, Hutchinson hasn't yet had time for the inevitable long conversation. So his family waits. "I don't want to lose my brother," says Rose, on the verge of tears.
Prop. 8 sold itself as pro-family: Its signs feature the silhouettes of a man, woman, and two children holding up the words "Yes on 8." But for the Hutchinsons, Prop. 8 detonated the nuclear family.