Ember Cook: Raised Mormon, Working to Defeat Prop 8

Hi, everyone! My name is Ember Cook and I’m the family field
organizer for Family Equality Council on the No
on 8, Equality for All campaign
in the San Fernando Valley. My
job is to make sure that families are engaged in the campaign to
defeat Prop 8, the California marriage ban. I have been working
with Family Equality Council for only a short time but my
relationship with this organization goes way back—way, WAY

My dad took my sister and me to our first LGBTQ family conference
back when I was in 7th grade. That was the first time I had ever
really seen other LGBTQ families and it was definitely the first
time I met other kids my age who had a gay dad. My dad had only
come out a couple of years earlier, halfway through my 5th grade
year. Up to that point we had been an average Mormon family, so the
adjustments were still happening by the time we got to the LGBTQ
family conference. That conference was life changing for
me. It was the first time I had ever known a community outside of
my Mormon one.

My sister and I were born and raised Mormon and I won’t speak for
her but for me there are many amazing values that I got from that
upbringing. One of the most powerful values that I have from being
raised Mormon was family. Family is the center of everything in the
Mormon religion and everything is done in order to make that unit
is as strong as it can be. From this value comes an even larger
value of mine—community.

The Mormon community is so all encompassing we call everyone either
a bother or sister. I was Sister Cook and we all were encouraged to
treat each other as family. I remember growing up visiting sick
members and bringing them food. If someone passed or was going
through a really hard time families would help in any way they
could. From mowing the lawn to cleaning up the house, taking the
kids to school or helping pick up groceries, we Mormons took care
of each other.

It wasn’t weird or strange for your Mormon brothers and sisters
to just knock on your door to see how you were doing and if you
needed anything. There was this implicit value of “we are all in
this together.” This idea that we are only as strong as our weakest
member let us all hold each other up and support each other. I can
remember countless teachings around this very matter. We were to
think of everyone as our family member. I share this inherit value
still even though I left the church in high school. This value of
family and community is one of the founding reasons I have
dedicated my life to LGBTQ family organizing for the last 5

One of the reasons I am thinking so much about the values of my
Mormon upbringing is because I find myself standing in complete
opposition with the Mormon Church when it comes to Prop 8. The
Mormon Church—in case you haven’t heard—is one of the biggest
supporters of Prop 8.

The president of the church wrote a letter that was to be read
aloud in all churches across that state calling every member to
support Prop 8 in both time and money. The response has been
overwhelming and heartbreaking for me. This past weekend the
Mormons organized an action to get 1 million YES ON PROP 8 lawn
signs up across California.

This is not the church I remember; these are not my brothers and
sisters who I would go trick or treating with. The people who once
would knock on my door to just simply ask how I am doing and if I
needed anything are now likely to knock on my door and ask me to
vote for a completely unfair, hurtful amendment that will eliminate
rights for thousands of families. As hurt as I am by the church’s
actions, I really am so thankful for what it has given me. I know
what community is and I know what a family is and I know how to
recognize love as love and it’s not someone knocking on my door and
asking me to vote yes on prop 8.

Everyday I am expanding my family to include the people I love. I
have my sister, my mother, my father and his partner, and then
there are my friends and co-workers, too. But today I remembered a
much larger family that I am apart of—yours. I am a part of this
amazing family that includes all LGBTQ families.

As we are standing at the edge of history working to make sure that
we keep our rights to marry whomever we choose here in California I
am also reminded that we have to expand our own definition of
family—who we think of as community.

Here’s my thinking: Today was one of our first Family Friendly
Phone Banks in the San Fernando Valley. The first family to show up
was an incredibly energized married woman with her two kids. I met
her and her husband last weekend at a parenting conference their
business was tabling at. When I told them about Prop 8 and what we
were doing to defeat it, it didn’t take her a second as soon as
she heard it was family-friendly to sign up to volunteer. When I
asked her why she was moved to join us she said something to the
effect of wanting to make sure that everyone was able to have what
she had. It reminded me of taking the casserole to the neighbor
when a daughter was sick, of when my dad would help carpool to the
soccer game. It reminded me that we are all in this together.

I’ll be in California until November 4, working day-in and day-out
to defeat Prop 8 and make sure that families are fully engaged in
the No on 8, Equality for All campaign, but I can’t win this fight
alone. If ever there was a time for LGBTQ families and friends to
come together as the great community we are, it is now. No on 8,
Equality for All needs your time, your energy, your financial
contributions—anything and everything you can give.

On behalf of Family Equality Council and the No on 8, Equality for
All campaign, I invite you to get engaged in our efforts today. To
see what family-friendly opportunities Family Equality Council is
providing, check out our Get
Engaged: Vote No on 8 website

Click here to
donate directly to the No on 8, Equality for All campaign.

Let’s be the community whose values match our actions. Let’s stand
up and secure the right to marry for all.