14-year-old Elizabeth Smart and her family captured the world’s attention when she was kidnapped from her bedroom in 2002, tied to a tree and raped repeatedly during her captivity. In 2003, she was found walking down a street with her kidnappers – a mere 5 miles from her home. (One of the kidnappers was released from prison last year.) Now, Elizabeth’s father, Ed Smart, has suddenly come out as gay.
“I was attracted to men going as far back as 12 years old,” he told CNN. “I tried to suppress that; it’s not me, not who I am. I tried to put that out.”
His religious beliefs made it difficult over the decades for him to accept that he was gay. Smart is 64 and has been married for a long time to his wife, Lois. They will be getting a divorce but Smart has said he won’t leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Never wanted to live with regret,” he said. “My belief was something that was very difficult to come to terms with. I tried and I tried to reconcile my beliefs, and I could not. Therefore, I no longer accept the guilt and the shame that I have basically had my whole life.”
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Smart continues to wrestle with the church’s official belief that gay marriage is a “serious transgression” against the Bible and their concept of God. He said religion makes it very difficult to identify with something “that is so put down upon.”
Smart said he hasn’t removed his name from the church but “if they were to push me to do so, I would,” he told CNN.
The United Methodist Church recently strengthened its ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. In February, the church reinforced a United Methodist Church policy established in 1972 stating that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”