There’s a great article in today’s LA Times about the bond that developed between a friend, Susan Russell, a lesbian Episcopal Priest, and a Mormon documentary film maker over issues related to their faiths. Read it all here.
As Russell told her story to Hunter, he realized that he wasn’t just filming, he was learning from her. He was especially moved by the priest’s concept of romantic love, with its emphasis on spiritual and emotional intimacy as a precursor to physical expression.
“That resonated with me and gave me a renewed appreciation of my relationship with my wife,” he said.
Hunter also felt his empathy growing for gays and lesbians, especially friends who felt compelled to hide their sexual orientation. Perhaps that was because he, too, held a secret: Hunter had been sexually abused as a child by two neighbors in his native Philadelphia.
He knew what it was like to hide a part of himself and pretend his life was in order. “I kept that locked away,” he said.
Something else was occurring: Hunter and Russell were becoming friends. As election day neared last November, Hunter began showing up at “No on 8” rallies alongside his documentary subject.
Russell’s initial curiosity about Hunter gave way to admiration, particularly over his decision to vote against the same-sex marriage ban and to speak out against it. She realized that she was sharing in his transformation. And that filled her with a sense of wonder.
“It isn’t a risk for a priest from All Saints to go to a Prop. 8 demonstration, but it is for a devout, straight Mormon father of three,” Russell said. “It just speaks volumes about how deeply Douglas walks the talk in terms of really putting his faith into action.”
Hunter had to balance his new friendship against his obligation to his church, whose members, at the urging of church leaders, were contributing millions of dollars to help pass the ban.
Knowing he was walking the finest of lines, he told only a few close Mormon friends about his opposition to Proposition 8 and about his documentary, even as it debuted last fall at a gay and lesbian film festival in Chicago. The project also will be shown at a film festival in Pomona in April.
“As a Mormon, I have a responsibility and commitment to listen to my church leaders,” he said. “At the same time, listening to my church leaders does not absolve me of the ethical responsibility to listen to the voice of the other.”