One way to think of marriage is as a bundle of rights associated with what it means for two people to be married. What the First Presidency has done is express its support of marriage and for that bundle of rights belonging to a man and a woman. The First Presidency hasn’t expressed itself concerning any specific right. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, “That is not right. That’s not appropriate.”As far as something less than that — as far as relationships that give to some pairs in our society some right but not all of those associated with marriage — as to that, as far as I know, the First Presidency hasn’t expressed itself. There are numbers of different types of partnerships or pairings that may exist in society that aren’t same-gender sexual relationships that provide for some right that we have no objection to. All that said… there may be on occasion some specific rights that we would be concerned about being granted to those in a same-gender relationship. Adoption is one that comes to mind, simply because that is a right which has been historically, doctrinally associated so closely with marriage and family. I cite the example of adoption simply because it has to do with the bearing and the rearing of children. Our teachings, even as expressed most recently in a very complete doctrinal sense in the Family Proclamation by living apostles and prophets, is that children deserve to be reared in a home with a father and a mother.
I would sometimes like to avoid the subject of gay marriage altogether because it gives me a lot of mental pain. But I don't have that option as it is an important issue right now for so many people (both gay and LDS), and it is playing out in elections and public debates all the time. The recent election and the variations in legislative and constitutional proposals across the country brought it all to the forefront for me again.
My inclination is to favor gay marriage and/or civil unions, but to also follow the advice of the church even when it doesn't necessarily make sense to me. But I don't think it's inappropriate to discuss guidance given by the church, and I think it's actually a spiritual necessity to try to understand it. So, wearily, here goes... (again)...
Elder Wickman mentions that "our doctrine simply requires" us to oppose not only gay marriages but civil unions that accomplish an identical purpose. I don't know what doctrine this specifically is. Gay sex is wrong: check. Chastity is good: check. Freedom to choose: check. The balance of doctrine seems to lean toward allowing civil unions, in my mind. I really would appreciate a clarification, but through some unfortunate oversight I wasn't invited to the Public Affairs interview I've quoted.
Adoption is the other sticking point for me. As many have pointed out before, despite the ideal that every child deserves a home with a father and mother, that hasn't happened for many children and allowing an actual care-giver in a real life situation to properly care for a child seems to be a good idea. When a child comes to the Emergency Department with a gay care-giver who is not related, treatment consent cannot be obtained until the legal parent is available (with a few caveats). This can delay treatment and adversely affect the child's health.
I suppose the objection is that recognizing or supporting gay adoption would have the effect of sky-rocketing the number of children being reared by gay partners rather than fathers and mothers--like we're advocating the better of two unfortunate options. Advocate policy that harms a small number of children today to harm fewer children later... or something like that. But, I can certainly understand the incredulity gay advocates confront this with--the data shows no harm to children from being raised with same-gendered parents.
And I suppose that brings us full circle to the appeal to "doctrine." It may not be doctrine because it's in the scriptures, but by virtue of the fact the 1st presidency says it's the best thing to do. It's an appeal to God's authority, and that's the end of the debate.
So much rides on the question: is the church really God's? Are the prophets really speaking for Him? I wish everyone could respect those who answer those questions differently than themselves without throwing around insults and intolerance. But it has been recently and emphatically demonstrated to me that for both believers and non-believers this is prohibitively difficult.