Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gay marriage

Tomorrow, from what I understand, there will be a letter read in sacrament meetings asking church members to contact their senators regarding their opinions on the Marriage Protection Amendment. Specifically, the letter states that church leadership has repeatedly articulated their position "that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship." They quote the Proclamation on the Family wherein it says, "We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society." And they conclude by urging members to "express themselves" on the matter to their elected government officials.

One may believe, as do the folks who maintain the lds4gaymarriage site, that expressing oneself to government officials as being for gay marriage is inconsistent with having good standing in the church.

I don't see it that way.

If one believes, as I do (tentatively), that gay marriage will strengthen the family unit as the fundamental unit of society, then one can in clear conscience agree with the church's right to support the amendment while personally opposing it. The church statement says that straight marriage is the only "acceptable" kind, but does not elaborate. If one takes that to mean, "acceptable by God", then one can believe both that straight marriage is the only acceptable kind for bringing about eternal families but that gay marriage can be acceptable secularly in this free, non-theocratic society. The church's official statements "favor" a traditional marriage amendment, but stop short of proscribing such a view as the only acceptable view for members to hold. The church has greatly decreased its propensity to firmly dictate political positions (and parties) for their members since the 1800s. I don't personally know of any church discipline resulting from political views (only from doctrinal views), although it seems I've heard claims of such.

I'm very tentative in my views. I've heard claims of strong data supporting the equivalent (or even superior) child rearing capabilities of gay couples. I've heard claims of strong data denying that very thing. Basically, I respect the rights of people to believe the set of data that resonates with their gut. Which means I tolerate both folks who oppose gay marriage and those who support it. Unfortunately, I realize there are many gays who refuse to acknowledge even the possibility of any non-discriminatory rationale for opposing gay marriage. This is only a testament to their narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy. One view I find logically valid, non-discriminatory, and potentially true was expressed several months ago on NPR. And, of course, there are many religious folks who can't examine the gay marriage debate from any paradigm but their own, which is equally closed-minded.

So, my position is tentative. I remain a student of the issue. But so far:
  • I DO believe it is fair to extend marriage or some legislative equivalent to gay couples,
  • I do NOT believe it is a matter of civil rights,
  • I'm not sure whether recognizing gay marriage will have positive or negative overall social consequences, and
  • I DO believe that while the church "favors" societal institutions reflecting God's plan for the family, I can independently study it out and conclude for myself what to support as the best possible governance.


mark said...

I wish I could agree with your optimism, but I really don't think the Church's position allows room for anything but opposition to same sex marriages. I've pasted in below the First Presidency's first statement on this from 1994, which seems to me to be pretty clear.

First Presidency Statement Opposing Same Gender Marriages

“News of the Church,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 80
The following statement of 1 February 1994 has been released by the First Presidency under the title of “Same Gender Marriages.”

The principles of the gospel and the sacred responsibilities given us require that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints oppose any efforts to give legal authorization to marriages between persons of the same gender.

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God to fulfill the eternal destiny of His children. The union of husband and wife assures perpetuation of the race and provides a divinely ordained setting for the nurturing and teaching of children. This sacred family setting, with father and mother and children firmly committed to each other and to righteous living, offers the best hope for avoiding many of the ills that afflict society.

We encourage members to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender.

mark said...

On the other hand, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who is LDS, is an opponent of the amendment. So maybe there is room in the church for disagreement with the First Presidency on this, although I expect that if Senator Reid were to directly attack the First Presidency he would get in trouble.

Here is a story about it:

Mormon Senator Asks for Support in Defeating Anti-Gay Amendment
“An attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution for the first time in 230 years”

by Matt Christensen
May 2006

Mormon Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is asking his supporters to join him in opposing Senator Frist in his attempts to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the U.S. Constitution.

"Each week, Senator Frist and the Republican Leadership make choices about the Senate agenda," wrote Sentaro Reid in a letter sent to supporters. "They could focus our work on record high gas prices, the war in Iraq, or skyrocketing health care costs."

"But there's an ugly truth: it's election season and down-in-the-polls Republicans are turning to their same old playbook—fear and division," wrote Senator Reid. "During the week of June 5th, Bill Frist, in an attempt to appease extreme right wing elements of the Republican Party, has promised that the Senate will vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment and attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution for the first time in 230 years."

"Join me in telling Senator Frist, ‘The Senate should be working on real issues — not writing discrimination into the Constitution’ by visiting"

Senator Reid calls the divisive and unnecessary. "[It] would undermine the Constitution," Reid wrote, "[and] has overwhelmingly failed each time the Senate has voted on it. ... Now, more than ever, it's time to focus on security, solutions for the high cost of healthcare and gas prices."

"We need a President and a Congress that doesn't play divisive politics," Reid added. "At a time of war, Republicans should unite the country, not divide and undermine its founding principles."

-L- said...

Wow. You are right, that language is much stronger.

However, I still think my position may be tenable. I'm not arguing the church's position, only what is mandatory for members to do about it. "Encouraging" actions isn't the same as mandating.

I don't have time now, but I'll have to go into more detail later.

Yes, this is a stretch...

Max said...

Reading through your blogs in general, I seem to be pondering most over your posts about homosexuality and same sex marriage. I think it is really unfortunate that, from my point of view, you are forcing yourself into a straight marriage when it is clearly not what you want. Maybe it has to do with my skepticism on religious institution, but I believe the only reason you believe your desires to be with other men are wrong, and furthermore the only reason you put up with being in an opposed-gender marriage, is because of you silently listening to your "authorities" and doing what they tell you is right.

Don't get me wrong: I applaud your ability to do it. It is incredible that your faith system is so strong that you would marry someone who wouldn't be your first choice, and contain yourself from the sexual fulfillment that you would otherwise choose. But I find it unfortunate that you do this only because you want to listen to those you think must be wiser, and accept the phrase "God says so, so that's that."

I guess what I am trying to say is that perhaps "Because God says so" isn't the best reason, or can't be enough to prove something to be true. I think it is a weak argument from people who cannot think of alternative ways to manage family life, to keep control over those who might have urges to live their lives differently. I may be heathen and ungodly, but I would just like to make the suggestion that perhaps this "Because God said so," talk seems to me not an *actual* revelation of God's, which would have been accompanied by spiritual reasons, and demonstrative evidence (for example, teachings against murder or theft), but a way to keep life "simple" and to avoid having greater diversity than the preachers know how to control...I mean, advise.

-L- said...

Hi Max. Thanks for stopping by. I think you misunderstand my position. To save you the trouble of reading through my whole blog to figure it out, I'll summarize: I believe the LDS church is true and I follow its teachings because I think they are God's will, not because some authority figure tells me so.

In terms of the gay marriage issue, my ambivalence has been long standing. I think I'm settling on a more favorable view of gay marriage, but I'm still going to follow the leadership of the church if they suggest that it is a poor public policy choice.

And as for my own marriage, I assure you that you have nothing to feel sorry for me for. I am much happier in my marriage than most people are. I have no regrets. When I chose to marry a woman, I chose the best of two mutually exclusive scenarios that were BOTH something that I want. So, you haven't quite characterized that issue correctly either.

Thanks again for stopping by.