Duane Jennings, 29 November 2011
Thank You, Duane Jennings!
As Duane Jennings Steps Down, We Celebrate an Affirmation Giant
by Hugo Salinas
Duane Jennings and his partner Brian have just announced that they are stepping down as co-directors of the Salt Lake City chapter of Affirmation (formerly known as the Wasatch chapter), so it is time to raise our hands for a vote of thanks. We release them with gratitude for their dedication, and in particular, for the work that Duane has been carrying out for Affirmation for the last two decades.
Above all, Duane has shown an amazing hospitality. Since the early 1990s, Duane’s home has been used for countless Affirmation gatherings, Halloween celebrations, and Christmas parties. He has personally manned Affirmation tables at Pride events and Sunstone symposiums for two decades. He also served as one of Affirmation’s assistant directors (the equivalent to a vice-president) and on several committees in the national organization. At Sunstone symposiums, he also presented papers and moderated panels.
Duane helped plan and carry out not one but two Affirmation conferences: 1997 and 2003. By the time he helped organized the 1997 conference, he had already been named by The Pillar one of Utah’s Gays and Lesbians of the Year. He had worked with the Stonewall Center (precursor of the Utah Pride Center), Family Fellowship, Reconciliation, and Sunstone.
As chapter leader, Duane helped organized missionary reunions, post-conference firesides, Christmas programs, and regional leaderships known as “Cornerstones.” Over the years, he supported Gamofite retreats, Walk-for-Life events that raise money for the Utah AIDS Foundation, and many other community events, including Pride parades, World AIDS Day memorials, and pro-equality rallies.
Duane received a very well deserved Mortensen Award in 1996. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he became a supporter of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, where he represented LGBT Mormons and helped organize the August 2001 roundtable held in Salt Lake City. Also in 2001, he co-moderated, along with gay Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg, a discussion held in Park City during the Sundance premier of Trembling Before G-d. In the early 2000s, when the LGBT Mormon community became aware of the gay Mormon suicide pandemic, Duane organized vigils in Salt Lake City.
Over the years, Duane’s spirituality has been influenced by New Age, Shinto, Taoist, and Buddhist thought. In the 1990s he also became a supporter of Soulforce, a national non-profit that works nonviolently to end the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people. “For the past three years I've studied Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and the people who informed their journey into a Soulforce all the way back to Jesus, the Jewish prophets, and the teachers of nonviolence from every faith tradition,” Duane wrote for Affinity in May 2000. “My own life has been radically changed by what I've learned.”
“I believe that we as an organization are ready for a new season to reach out ever more to Lesbian & Gay Mormons, to the greater Mormon community, and working with other communities of faith and service organizations to make a positive difference where we live and around the world,” Duane wrote in Affinity in November 1996. “I believe it is a time to laugh and dance, to embrace, speak out and to love even more.”
“There is much from our Mormon past to celebrate and honor,” Duane added. “Some of the lessons from the past can be used to educate the Church of our common struggle for truth and understanding, and our common humanity. Perhaps as important, is to learn about and bring out of the historical closet, our Gay & Lesbian Mormon progenitors as we remember the past, celebrate the present and forge forward our future.”
We wish Duane and Brian the best. May God be with them in all their life adventures and journeys.