WASHINGTON — Long ago in junior high, some bullies were slugging and humiliating me. Thankfully, a new kid in school jumped in to help me fight back. I later asked why. He said it was simple — the fight had not been fair.

I saw some unfair slugging this week at Sheri Dew, president of Deseret Book and a former counselor in the LDS Relief Society presidency. So like my friend 30 years ago, I'm jumping into the fight because it isn't really fair — and I have something to offer.

The group "Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons" issued a statement attacking her for a speech she gave Feb. 28 to an interfaith group that met at the visitors center of the LDS Washington Temple to discuss ways to defend the family. I covered the event.

Affirmation's press release says that in "one of the most hate-ridden moments of the event, Sheri Dew . . . likened those who do not oppose gay marriage to those who did nothing to oppose Hitler's rise to power."

Affirmation's statement has some truth but twists it just enough to make it sound like Dew was frothing at the mouth with hate while comparing gays with Hitler.

What she did was quote a statement by journalist Dorothy Thompson in 1941 saying that before World War II would be over, every person would either stand for or against Hitler — and that trying not to make any choice was in fact making one, for Hitler.

Dew said in calm tones that the same is true in the fight for the traditional family, and everyone will support or fight it. "If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family," she said.

Dew did add, "At first it may be extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family — but maybe not," and added she feels that breaking up the family will break up society.

Next, Affirmation complained Dew "showed a picture of a same-sex couple with infants and said, in disgust, 'I just can't stomach this — the thought of those girls being raised in that setting.' " (It added that one of the gays pictured was a returned LDS missionary).

I do not remember Dew holding up a picture. Dew did describe a magazine story and pictures she had seen that morning. I do not have a tape of the event — but do have notes that seem to confirm most of a version of her talk in Meridian Magazine online.

In that version, Dew says, "One of the most sobering features of the entire article was a picture of two handsome, young men getting 'married.' What distressed me most was the fact that they were both holding an infant 'daughter' — twin girls they had adopted. I was frankly heartsick."

(Affirmation complains she did not say "I was frankly heartsick," but instead said, "I can't stomach this." My notes say she said, "It is hard for me to stomach.")

Dew continued, "What kind of chance do those girls have being raised in that kind of setting? What will their understanding of men and women, marriage and families be? Is there any chance that, as adults, they could expect to marry and enjoy a healthy relationship with a man, including rearing children together?"

I sensed concern — not ridicule or disgust in her tone and message as she listed why she felt gay marriage is bad for people and society. Affirmation members there obviously saw it through a different lens.

Affirmation issued a statement "to express our outrage." It said, "When we see an LDS leader provoke disgust at our families, spend millions of dollars so that we will never be able to marry, and lobby so that our children will never have two legal parents, we arrive at a different conclusion about who is the aggressor and who are the victims."

They added, "We challenge any religious leader to demonstrate how same-sex marriage will be detrimental to the family." Of course, that's what Dew was trying — but was accused of hate-mongering as her tone and quotes were misrepresented. That is not fair. Make your best arguments in the fight, but be fair while doing it.


Deseret Morning News Washington correspondent Lee Davidson can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]