The latest sordid tale of service refusal for reasons of sexuality comes to you from the great state of Utah, where the sky is clear, the canyons are red, and the Mormon chicks who work the front desk of the visitor center are unrealistically gorgeous.
This story actually starts with a story. Called “Woven”, it’s a fantasy novel for teens and young adults involving kings, knights, disembodied spirits, and the usual stuff that comes along with it. No word on any naked dragon queens or indiscriminate mass killings of all of the main characters, but I’ll hold out hope for the sequel.
Anyway, Woven authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen had signed a contract with Sweetwater Books (a subsidiary of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media) and sent the manuscript with their respective biographies back in January. All was well. The book was very positively received by the publishers, it was predicted to be their most profitable book of the year.
Then David and Michael got a copy of the cover art, and Michael’s biography was missing from the proof.
He emailed Cedar Fort’s acquisitions editor, Angie Workman, who explained that Cedar Fort would not allow Mr. Jensen to state that he lived with a man because the publishing house was concerned about ruining their relationship with the LDS-church-affiliated Deseret Book. [See complete email exchange—read from the bottom up.]
At this point, he wasn’t too sure what to do. It obviously wasn’t as if they didn’t know he was gay. Why they decided not to say anything about it until they started delivering proofs is a little confusing … but I guess in their minds they stood to make a lot of money from the book, and felt as if they could make some “small” changes in the interest of politics. Better to piss off the authors than a million dollar company, I suppose.
So it’s all a matter of money, right? The Church of LDS is powerful enough that we have to ignore common decency to make sure the money keeps flowing? Well, not quite. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Mr. Jensen called Cedar Fort’s owner, Lyle Mortimer, and asked why he was being treated differently from Mr. King. “The conversation really devolved quickly,” says Mr. Jensen. “Lyle started yelling about my ‘agenda’ and how I was trying to destroy families. He even started saying inappropriate things about how God had given me a penis for a reason. It was very uncomfortable. Then he threatened to publish Woven without our names attached or without our bios at all—rather than print that one sentence. He told me that if he decided not to publish because of this, I’d have to buy back the rights to our book and reimburse him for his work so far, and that would cost me thousands of dollars.”
Thankfully, there’s a (somewhat) happy ending to this … in the sense that the rights to the book were given back to the authors and the agreement was scrapped so they could go to another publisher. They’re currently looking for one whose owner won’t completely lose his mind over the fact that one of its authors is wired to like members of the same sex and wants to mention his partner … once … in his biography.
Boy, these people just want everything.
It should be noted, by the way, that both authors have the support of many in the Mormon community:
Forty-one Mormon authors had signed a letter in support of Jensen as of Saturday morning, The Salt Lake Tribune reported ( http://bit.ly/1aAxOLi ).
“While publishers have the right to choose what they will and will not publish, we believe books should be accepted or rejected upon the merits of their content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor,” the letter states.
I remember talking to a couple of family members not too long ago about LGBT rights, and my favorite phrase popped up: “I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your own home … just don’t shove it in my face and force me to celebrate it.” Since their only real exposure to the gay community is one lesbian couple and an endless stream of fear-mongering lunacy from Fox News, it’s easy to see why they have this perspective on the issue. However, if there is ever to be a day when people like Lyle Mortimer are roundly condemned by society for holding the view that people should be denied equal access because of their sexuality, significant attention needs to be called to every instance of discrimination and prejudice in the meantime.
And somewhere, off in the distance, I hear a lone first-year political science major weep softly in the night. (Sorry, inside joke.)