Growing up in New Jersey, Merrie Smithson was one of only two students in her high school that was a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and the only one who was open about her faith. She made the conscious decision to stand up for her beliefs, even though there was a lot of misunderstanding, because she felt it was important to educate people. The issue hit closer to home years later, when her son came out as gay. Merrie was beyond accepting, but she worried about her son’s future, and the discrimination he could face simply because of who he is. When testifying before the Utah legislature in favor of passing housing and employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, Merrie explained that he had moved out of state because he feared discrimination that could cause him to lose his job or place of residence.
“As a mother, I want him to have the same freedoms we all enjoy,” Merrie explained. “I want him to have the freedom to share his wonderful, real self. I hope we can all work together to create safe spaces for all the people who live in our great state of Utah.”