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Youth
 
Young California Mormon Commits Suicide in Midst of Church Hate
 
ONLINE:  THURSDAY MARCH 2, 6:28 PM EST (GMT-5).

With Chris Rizo in Sacramento (The California Triangle), and Kathy Worthington in Salt Lake City

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A 32-year-old man has taken his life due to a chronic inability to reconcile being both gay and Mormon and recent aggressive anti-gay LDS Church drives over California's Proposition 22.

Henry "Stuart" Matis of Los Altos killed himself with a bullet to the head last Friday night in a Mormon Stake (church).  His suicide note asked the (Mormon) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to reconsider how they treat their gay members.

"I hope my death will be a catalyst for change," the note explained.  The young man's last written words urged his parents not to blame themselves for his death and told them he would soon be at peace.

In a 12-page letter to his gay cousin in Utah written just days before taking his life, Mr. Matis called the Church's position on homosexuality pathologic.

"Homophobia is a disease that destroys families and unfortunately the Church's rhetoric and actions will only continue to nurture this disease," it claimed.  "Straight members have no idea what it is like to grow up in this church."

The young man described the life he was about to end as an existence filled with never-ceasing sentiments of "self-hatred and internalized homophobia."

"The successful passage of Proposition 22 will do absolutely nothing," the letter concludes.  "Wives will still be battered, children will still be abused and spouses will still commit adultery."

Proposition 22, also known as the Knight Initiative after the California senator who introduced it, would ban California from recognizing same sex marriages from other jurisdictions should they come to occur.  That ballot initiative is set for Tuesday and dividing the State with tempers which are beginning to flare.

The LDS Church has been running a massive and aggressive campaign in support of the initiative.  Speeches have been given, letters read from the Church's leaders, and tasks assigned to Church members.  Exhortations to do more, donate more, and work harder on behalf of Proposition 22 occur regularly.

The media in California estimates that $11M to date has been raised by both sides for the fighting.  The LDS Church has been a principal financier in the effort on the supportive side.

Mr. Matis left church service 2 weeks ago crying following a virulent anti-gay hate sermon.  He had stopped attending services before that for emotional reasons on the advice of his Bishop.

Working with those opposing Prop 22, the troubled man's analysis of the Initiative's rationale and potential effects, as described in intricate detail with well supported arguments in his letter, are scholarly.  He is being described by friends as having had a brilliant mind and having made huge contributions to both the Church and the larger community.

But the application of such potential by a gay man in the Church's many enterprises is forbidden.

"He was trapped," close friend Jeanie Besamo stated.  "Trapped in a position where he could never, not even celibate, hold a position within the Church."

And he was celibate.  "Henry wanted nothing more than to be a good Mormon," she added.

The service held last night by the Church focused on that celibacy.  No acknowledgment was made of Mr. Matis' sexual orientation, his other qualities, or his community work.  Friends today are ensuring people are aware that he was much more than a celibate gay Mormon.

The father claims that his son's death was not in protest of Prop 22.  "I am against what is happening here [with gays]," he said.  "I hold the Church's values of family.  I hold the Church's definition of marriage," he added, stating that he continues to support the anti- gay marriage initiative.

Fred Matis told the 300 people gathered at the memorial service that he did not want to see his son's death used as "political fodder."  Marilyn Matis, the man's mother, read from her son's suicide note to the moved congregation.

Those words and the ones in the letter to his cousin ring in morbid reality in Los Altos today:

    The Church's out-spoken frankness on this issue has nurtured a climate that is hostile for young, gay Mormons.  Kids have been thrown out of homes under the guise of Christian love.  Our society is becoming Balkanized as we segregate people into groups.  The parallels between our society now and that of the Nephites-Lamanites at the end of the Book of Mormon are frightening.

The shock wave will start tomorrow, rippling quickly and permanently from this affluent South Bay community to leaders of gay and church communities throughout the world.

"Henry wanted his death to be the catalyst for change in the Mormon Church," claims friend Stuart Bechman.

Close friend Ms. Besamo echoed the plea:  "Yes, we should grieve for his death and to know he is no longer struggling to reconcile his own sexuality with Church dogma.  What we should grieve more, however, is for the Church's lack of responsibility for its treatment of Stuart and other gay and lesbian Mormons.

"I have a large gay Mormon community telling me we cannot let this be buried.  To let Stuart's sacrifice for other gay and lesbian Mormons go unnoticed would be unfortunate."

The LDS Church has declined all requests for statements.

The man's letter to his cousin may be viewed at www.nationalgaylobby.org.