United Brethren has retired.

Mormons and Gay Marriage Redux

[Conflation of two posts for the sake of clarity]

LDS.org has posted a statement from the First Presidency, which "favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship."

This statement casts new light on the blog I set out to write. Allow me to put forward my opinions on this subject, then respond to what the First Presidency have said.

[Original post]

Should Mormons oppose gay marriage? Should Mormons in America back a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? Far be it for me to suggest what Mormons should do, so I approach this question personally: should I, a Briton, a liberal, a father, and a Mormon, oppose gay marriage? My answer, for those who won't read any further, is....no!

First, let me share an observation with all those who suggest that marriage should be "Bible based". As Ronald Hendel has pointed out in Bible Review, not even the most conservative Christians would want "biblical" marriage. If we did we would have to:

1. Allow polygamy (oh the irony!)
2. Put adulterers to death (those who have sex with married women), or force them to marry their lover (in the case of unmarried women)
3. Ban divorce

I don't support a return to "biblical" marriage. But what about gay marriage?

Opponents of gay marriage say that a) it's immoral, and b) it would undermine good old-fashioned heterosexual marriage. Now, as I see it from the perspective of Mormon belief all sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are "immoral", that is, they are not in keeping with God's commandments. But would we propose banning cohabitation of unmarried heterosexual couples? You might think it immoral, but only fanatics and lunatics would propose such a thing. The assumption behind this particular fear of gay marriage must be that somehow homosexual behaviour is more sinful than heterosexual behaviour outside of marriage. I see no justification for this view in the official doctrines of the Church.

As for the danger homosexual marriage would pose the "traditional family".... Well, I am not convinced that traditional marriage is in good shape anyway and that isn't the fault of gays. People seem to marry reluctantly now, or at least years after living together. They aren't doing this because of gay marriage.

What about the influence on children who live in a society that allows gay marriage? I discussed this with Becky last night and we imagined the following scenario:

Let's say we have three neighbours. One is a married couple who bicker and fight. The other is a girlfriend and boyfriend who live together. The last is a married gay couple. Who offers the greatest threat to my children's sense of marriage and family? No clear candidate came to mind so I realised that gay marriage is no greater or lesser a threat than society's attitude to marriage in general. And my children's perception of marriage is going to be most influenced by my own.

The fact is that gay people are going to fall in love and will want to live with their lovers just as we all do. The Church asks them instead to live lives of chastity and disciplines those of its members who fail to do so. That is the Church's prerogative, but as I asked above, can we legislate such a thing for the rest of society? I don't think that we can. Nor should we.

And what is the "extra" harm done by gay couples who want to increase their commitment to each other. If Mormons view homosexual sex as sinful in any situation, how is that made worse if it occurs within a marriage relationship? Committed couples, of whatever sexual orientation, are surely a good thing, or at least a better thing.

So, as a Mormon with my own personal moral views, I have yet to be persuaded that we should consider the "fight" against gay marriage as actually something worth expending massive amounts of energy "fighting" for (and I think that Sheri Dew's comparison with the struggle against Hitler was inappropriate in the extreme). Let's solve world hunger and achieve world peace first before we force people to conform to our morals. And let's put our marriages in order, lest our children be put led astray by us. Heaven forbid! It's always those evil people out there who cause all the problems in this world.

[Now back to the First Presidency statement]

If as Mormons we cannot sustain the First Presidency then we have a serious problem as our whole religion rests on the claim of continuing revelation. I have wrestled with this issue and the above is my honest attempt to explain to myself why it is I personally don't feel particularly energised against gay marriage. Am I really that liberal?

I don't think so. The statement reads to me as follows: the First Presidency have stated for the record (and like it or not it is an issue that needs comment) that they "favour" a constitutional amendment. I see nothing in this statement that requires the membership of the Church to now go out and "fight" for such. It is a statement of principle, not (yet) a call for arms. I sustain them in their leadership and it is their job to do what they see fit.

But what about me? As I have tried to articulate, gay marriage is one of many moral issues that exist in the world. I can only rally my energy to those things that really cause my juices to flow. This just ain't one of them. Sorry. Maybe it's because I know gay people, including Mormons. They aren't the enemy to society that they are painted to be among some on the Right.

Of course, this will surely make American Mormons more likely to vote Bush (who favours the amendment). But which is more important, defining marriage, or ensuring a President is elected who can seek social justice in areas such as healthcare, and will not, through war, cause the deaths of thousands of people. It's my political centre that causes me to gravitate to the latter, but let everyone choose for themselves. This is not a vote between Good and Bad, but between the Goods and Bads which mean more to us personally.

Oh gosh, I just thought who I remind myself of: Dick Cheney. Because of his daughter he doesn't support the ban, but he "doesn't make policy for the President" (yeah, right!).

Links to this post:

Create a Link


Blogger Lancer said ... (October 20, 2004 12:54 AM) 


You rule.


Blogger Ronan said ... (October 20, 2004 1:55 AM) 

But where do I "rule":

The kingdom of the jobless Assyriologists?


Blogger Marion said ... (October 20, 2004 8:28 AM) 

I think you have too much time on your hands!



Blogger Lancer said ... (October 20, 2004 9:19 AM) 

You've got stiff competition in the realm of jobless Assyriologists. There could be a reality show about us-- we're all trapped in a museum after hours and the only way to escape is to properly translate obscure texts. Last one to do it is eliminted, and each week we move to different cuneiform collections around the world. The winner gets a job at Harvard. All we need is a name...


Blogger Ronan said ... (October 20, 2004 9:25 AM) 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Ronan said ... (October 20, 2004 9:25 AM) 

What a marvellous idea. Each week, like the Tour de France yellow jersey, whoever translates first is allowed to wear The Corduroy Jacket. Extra padding on the elbows.


Blogger john f. said ... (October 21, 2004 12:54 AM) 

(1) How exactly do you understand the Sheri Dew statement?

(2) What do you think about standing up for principles of righteousness just because of the principle itself (and not necessarily because there is any immediate utility in it)?

(3) How can you predict with such certainty that homosexuals raising children will not have an adverse effect on the perception and capacity for rigtheousness of those children? You might be absolutely right that gay marriage won't affect Jacob at all--but what about the cumulative effect that will trickle down to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren. What will be their perception of marriage, sexual values, and the fabric of society after a generation or two of homosexuals raising children? I don't know the answer to that, do you?

(4) Are you sure that God doesn't think that homosexuality is wrong? If you feel that he does think so, why do you frame the issue as you forcing your morality on other people instead of you simply standing up for your own morality for yourself?

Ronan, I personally would never have supported a constitutional amendment concerning marriage (but likely out of different [i.e. legal] reasons than you, it seems) until the first FP message on it. At that point I had to let go of my own misgivings and put my faith in the message that Church leaders are presenting to us in an official way. I am not confident enough in my own intellectual prowess or social foresight to be able to say that I am right and they are wrong. Do you feel this dilemma in your reflections? I think you do--how do you overcome it?


Blogger Rebecca said ... (October 21, 2004 9:38 AM) 

John - I hope you're not saying that you put homosexuals on par with Hitler, as that is what Sheri Dew said in her prayer at the Republican Convention. To say that someone because of their sexual preference is as bad as man responsible for millions of deaths is irresponsible and offensive. I have a brother who is gay, and the right-wing un-tolerant and ignorant attitude towards him as a person because of something he has felt since he was five years old makes me angrier that you could know.


Blogger Ronan said ... (October 21, 2004 9:50 AM) 

>(1) How exactly do you understand the Sheri Dew statement?

I know this has been thrashed out at T&S, and I know what you're driving at: not that gays or gay activists are Nazis, but that the principle of standing against something is the same. I'm not sure what she said was that nuanced, but "Hitler" and "gays" in the same breath was unwise.

>(2) What do you think about standing up for principles of righteousness just because of the principle itself (and not necessarily because there is any immediate utility in it)?

Yes, I'm all for this. But to ask wider society to endorse "a principle of righteousness" means said principle must be utilitarian.

>(3) How can you predict with such certainty that homosexuals raising children will not have an adverse effect on the perception and capacity for rigtheousness of those children...I don't know the answer to that, do you?

No. I ducked this one.

>(4) Are you sure that God doesn't think that homosexuality is wrong?

I didn't say that. I said that I'm not sure homosexuality is less "moral" than heterosexuality out of marriage. We don't legislate the latter, why the former?

This post was actually a conflation of two posts. I wrote about gay marriage and then saw the FP statement. I was taken aback for a while and had to think deeper. What I am saying is this: I sustain the FP. They make policy for the church. But I *personally* feel nothing in my gut that makes we want to make this an issue. *For me* there are larger problems out there. But like Dick Cheney, my personal views make it difficult to be gung-ho about what they said, but I support *their* efforts.


Blogger john f. said ... (October 21, 2004 12:16 PM) 

Ronan, fair enough! Thanks for responding to me point by point. That helps me understand your position better.


Blogger HP said ... (October 21, 2004 4:07 PM) 

Just for clarification, I agree with Ronan that all sex outside of marriage is frowned upon by the Church and the argument for the equality of homosexual vs. heterosexual activity in this regard may be accurate. But that has nothing to do with the "Marriage" Amendment. Noone is arguing that this will lead to the banning of homosexual activity in America, nor will committed homosexual relationships cease to exist if the amendment passes (such things exist under current conditions outside of Massachusetts, right?).
The issue is more one of the government's role in social engineering. Do you think the government has a right or duty or need to promote heterosexual, monogamous marriages by allowing them certain rights that are not available to people who are not in such a marriage? Is the government, by seeking to deny those rights to people who are not in heterosexual, monogamous marriages (in part, by denying the right to legally marry to those who refuse to enter such a partnership), justified? Did I just ask the same long-winded question twice?
There was a recent debate here that I attended regarding a proposed Utah marriage amendment. It was advertised as debating the legality of telling someone who to love. This was a sham. People will love who they love however and whenever they can. It is not a legislatable characteristic. Thanks to the recent decision in the US Supreme Court regarding the Texas Sodomy law, this is now certain. So, gays will be married whether we legislate the issue or not (at least in their own hearts). And regarding legality, don't palimony suits apply to the dissolution of long-term homosexual relationships as well as they do to heterosexual ones.
So, to recap, this is just about the legal status of commited relationships outside of traditional, monogamous marriage. Or rather, do you think such relationships should enjoy legal status? I would have said probably until about two or three days ago. Now, I will say possibly not and then run away and hide behind something. Ah, to have strong convictions


Blogger Rebecca said ... (October 22, 2004 11:52 AM) 

I also agree that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is wrong, yet heterosexual couples who live together have certain rights under the law as "common-law spouse". They can inherit property on the death of the other etc. I don't see why homosexual couples should be denied the same rights. They cannot have their partner be named as next of kin and in the cases of sudden death, cannot inherit co-habited property. (I'm talking of my knowledge of UK laws, and don't know if it's exactly the same in the US - maybe someone could clarify) This seems to me to be unfair. Why should unmarried heterosexuals have the same rights as marrieds but homosexuals can't?? This says to me that all men are NOT created equal.


Blogger Ronan said ... (October 22, 2004 1:39 PM) 

"do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship"

I just read this again. "Any other sexual relationship" is juxtaposed in the statement with marriage "between a marriage and a woman". So Becky, the FP seem to mean that NO unmarried relationship deserves legal rights. Surely I'm reading this wrong...?


Blogger Rebecca said ... (October 22, 2004 1:59 PM) 

I don't think you do read it wrong. The statement seems fairly clear. The problem is, heterosexual couples are already protected under the law, and that is not going to change, so legally it seems unfair to penalise homosexual couples. The church's ideal would be nice - but it's never going to happen


Blogger HP said ... (October 24, 2004 8:33 PM) 

Speaking of disecting the legalese of the First Presidency's statement, Utah is voting on Ammendment 3, which would establish a man and a woman as a legal marriage and not allow any other relationship, no matter how designated to be given similar or equal legal status. So, should I vote against it because it conveys legal status on a non-traditional marriage sexual relationship (albeit, negative legal status)?


post a comment