Mormon women honor the religion we share with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But on Election Day, thousands and thousands of us will cast our votes in support of President Obama.
As a writer who has followed closely the role of faith in this campaign, I have witnessed how progressive Mormon women are finding their voices in this historic moment. A week ago, I took to the Internet to ask Mormon women who support Obama to share how their faith informs their vote. I heard from stay-at-home mothers, nurses, lawyers, hairstylists, and college professors, women with children small and grown, white women and women of color, from California to New Hampshire—and in key states like Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.
Here are the voices of nine of these everyday Mormon women, in their own words:
Andrea Pratt Rediske, 41, freelance writer in Orlando: “My faith teaches me that motherhood is a sacred responsibility, and I am the mother of a severely disabled 10-year-old who has the cognitive ability of a 6-month-old. My son is ‘invisible’ to society--he is too medically fragile to attend school, church, or even go to the grocery store. He has no voice except mine, and I continually battle profit-driven insurance companies to meet his medical needs. No mother should have to choose between health care for her children and the other necessities of life. No one should have to go bankrupt because they get sick, or have a disabled child. I am a Mormon woman who supports Barack Obama because of the Affordable Health Care Act. ”
Kari Earl Short, 36, writer and stay-at-home mother in Las Vegas: “My family’s roots in the Mormon church run as deep as the Romneys’. But Mitt Romney and his plans for America are foreign to my faith values. He has shown behind closed doors how he truly feels about our nation’s poor and vulnerable, while Obama has sought to protect social programs, foreign aid, and real healthcare protections for those who desperately need it. I am an LDS woman proudly voting for Barack Obama.”
Anne Kate Ard, 54, retired engineer in Birmingham, Ala.: “Governor Romney does not consider birth control for women a part of normal family medical expenses, and he has not consistently supported pay equity. But everyone wins when women can plan and provide for their families and when children born are wanted, cared for, and loved. These are bedrock needs for healthy, happy families, and families are central to my Mormon faith. That’s why I’m voting for Obama.”
Kaarsten Turner Dalby, 42, vice-president of ecological services, Conifer, Colo.: “I am a Mormon woman, a working professional, and a mother to two young sons. Thirty years ago our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers fought for the future of their young daughters. They fought for our education and our right to receive equal pay for our work. Mitt Romney threatens those rights that already belong to us. Through my political choices, I want to leave a legacy to my sons – a legacy of empowerment, intelligence, equality, and choice. I urge all women to respect themselves, their minds, and their bodies. They are sacred – we are sacred. I will vote for Obama.”
Jerilyn Hassell Pool, 41, freelance art director in Medford, Ore.: “President Obama is committed to looking out for those whose voices go unheard—women, gays, the poor, and the elderly. I appreciate that his efforts are always pragmatic and educated, rather than impulsive and quick. And Mitt Romney reminds me of every well-meaning yet overbearing male church leader who’s ever underestimated me.”
Merhsa Baradaran, 34, law professor in Athens, Ga.: “I am a Mormon, a working mother, and an immigrant. I agree with many of Governor Romney’s ideas, but I will be voting for President Obama because he will wage the battles that are important to me: thoughtful foreign policy, compassionate immigration reform, serious education standards, responsible market regulation, and equal protection and civil rights for every citizen.”
Emily Elliott, 28, a law student in Ann Arbor, Mich.: “My Mormon faith taught me a strong sense of duty to take care of my family, which has always struggled financially. I was raised on food stamps and the publicly- funded library. I got through Dartmouth College with the help of Pell grants and federal work-study. Now, I’m a third-year law student at the University of Michigan. I have worked hard and studied hard, but I didn’t get here by myself. Public investment laid the groundwork for my achievements. I am voting for Obama to preserve opportunity for others.”
Julina Murillo Salazar, 35, hairstylist in Damascus, Md.: “I am a Mormon mother of three, and I am happily married to an immigrant from Honduras. I believe that we are all children of God, and my Mormon faith teaches me that ‘families are forever’—no matter where their place of origin may be. Governor Romney has spoken disparagingly of ‘illegals.’ No human being is illegal. I am voting for President Obama.”
Karin Olson, 43, a physician in Huntsville, Texas: “My faith in Jesus Christ teaches me a deep responsibility to care for others. But I know there are situations when even generous individual service is not enough. As a physician, I have visited a young single mother who was out of money and baby formula, and I have treated a 65-year-old woman dying of metastatic colon cancer because she had no health insurance and had to wait until she was Medicare-eligible to seek medical attention. For these problems, all of our efforts to serve others as our Savior Jesus Christ has admonished us to do would never be enough. We need a government that values the lives of the vulnerable—‘the least of these’ Christ spoke of--enough to create a safety net for them to survive the challenges of life. I voted early, and I cast my ballot for Obama. I only wish I lived in a swing state where my vote would make a difference. Maybe yours can.”
Joanna Brooks is the author of “The Book of Mormon Girl” and chair of San Diego State University’s English department.