The father of Utah kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has come out as gay, saying his decision brings challenges but also “huge relief.”
Ed Smart said in a letter shared Friday with NBC’s “Today” show that he no longer feels comfortable being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opposes gay marriage and same-sex relationships but preaches love and compassion for LGBTQ people.
“The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief,” wrote Smart, 64.
He has been in the limelight since he frequently went before TV cameras pleading for help finding his daughter, who was 14 when she was kidnapped from their Salt Lake City home in 2002.
She was found nine months later. Ed Smart and his daughter have since become advocates for other kidnapped children.
Ed Smart said he’s sorry for the pain caused to his longtime wife, with whom he has five children. He filed for divorce on July 5, online Utah court records show.
“I love my family and always will,” Smart wrote. “Lois has been a loyal wife, and extraordinary mother, who has had to endure an impossible part of this journey. I deeply regret the excruciating pain this has caused her.”
Elizabeth Smart, now a 31-year-old mother of three, said in a statement 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. “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.”
Ed Smart first came out to family and friends in a Facebook post Thursday that has since been taken down. The Deseret News newspaper in Salt Lake City first reported about the post.
He said in his statement Friday that he’s grateful for the love and support he’s received so far.
“It was, as I’ve said, incredibly hard getting to this point and I feel for so many that are struggling in my situation trying to make the decision of whether to come out or remain closeted the rest of their life,” he wrote. “That decision is deeply personal but liberating.”