Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping survivorElizabeth Smart, has come out as gay. Smart made the announcement in a letter on Facebook addressed to his friends and family members and then confirmed it to local media and CNN.
Smart expressed difficulty in “acknowledging a part” of himself which he has struggled to face for many years and “never wanted to accept.” The 64-year-old father acknowledges how coming out has brought its “own set of challenges” but wrote that it’s a “huge relief.”
“I wish to share the news that I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay,” wrote Smart. He continued by addressing the struggles of witnessing in “silence for years as many LGBTQ individuals both in and out of the Church have been victims of ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation.”
He wrote that his relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which only earlier this year said gay marriage is no longer a sin that would result in being banished from the church, has changed.
“As an openly gay man, the Church is not a place where I find solace any longer,” he wrote. “It is not my responsibility to tell the Church, its members or its leadership what to believe about the rightness or wrongness of being LGBTQ. I can only believe what I feel is right, but it is my responsibility to continue to grow, progress and mature as a child of loving Heavenly Parents, and to do that in a way that is spiritually healthy for me.”
“Acknowledging I am a gay man, is freeing but it also hurts many of those whom I love very much,” he wrote. Smart recognizes the “excruciating pain” coming out has caused his longtime wife, Lois Smart, with whom he has five children. He filed for divorce on July 5, online Utah court records show, according to The Associated Press.
Smart and his family have been in the public eye since the kidnapping of his daughter,Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from their home in Salt Lake City home at the age of 14 in 2002. She spent nine months in captivity before being freed.
Elizabeth Smart, now a 31-year-old mother of three, said in a statement to the AP that she’s deeply saddened by her parents’ separation but that nothing could change her love and admiration for them.
“My parents taught me as a young child that they would love me unconditionally no matter what happened,” she said in the statement. “Their decisions are very personal. As such, I will not pass judgment and rather am focusing on loving and supporting them and the other members of my family.”