Utah’s resistance to gay marriage is making headlines this week as the state fights a judge’s decision to overturn a 2004 ban on gay marriage. Many assume Utah’s hostility towards homosexuality is just a reflection of the state’s cultural and political conservatism—but in a 2005 paper in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, University of Utah researchers Emma Gross and Edward Cahoon Byrnes suggest a uniquely Mormon reason Utahans are so nervous about gay people:
Utahans appear to worry that homosexual youth will try to recruit heterosexual youth to homosexuality…For example, [of 521] respondents, 55.3 percent [believe] that “when gays and lesbians are involved in any organization there is a risk that they will influence youths to become gay or lesbian.” Significantly, Mormons grow their religion by extensive, aggressive proselyting. Mormon youth serve two years as missionaries whose primary function is to convert others to Mormonism. Interestingly, focus group discussions indicate that there is a connection that exists between the society’s religious preoccupation with conversion, to which Mormon youth are socialized, and the widespread perception that homosexual youth are somehow similarly committed to recruiting.