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.
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!).