Mormon Discussion

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Homosexuality and the Institution of Marriage

As the group moderator, I should follow my own rules and tell a bit about myself first.

I've been a member my whole life, although I've gone through various stages of inactivity/activity. I am not a Molly by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not terrible either. I am often questioning things I've heard in church and I rarely take things at face-value. I am ver involved in social and political issues and I find myself often contemplating the connection between politics and religion. I'm unmarried, a law student, and I attend a singles' ward.

I've been thinking a lot lately about marriage, with specific regards to homosexual marriage. I speak as someone who has probably more close gay friends than I do straight friends. That being said, I am not going to question to church's stance on homosexuality, because that is a while different topic. Rather, narrowly focusing on just the marriage part, I'm curious about the political ramifications of a homosexual marriage ban.

There are two lines of argument that interest me on this topic and cause me to pause and consider. The first line of argument is that of sustaining the law of the land. This may be a bit heady, but stay with me on this one. We are taught to follow the laws of the land. The 12th Article of Faith reads: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." The United States Constitution, in the 14th Amendment, reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

So the church says we are to uphold the laws of the land and one of the governing laws of the US is that no state may make any law that abridges the rights of a citizen. "Rights" are a tricky concept, to say the least. Historically, using substantive due process law, basically, rights are that which is not clearly prohibited by law. If there is no law against something, then you have the right to do it. There is no law, for a blatant example, that says you may not talk badly about George Bush, therefore, citizens have the right to do so. Substantive due process law basically says anything not expressly prohibited is an inherent and implicit right, because not all rights need to be specifically spelled out in order to exist.

So, historically there has been no law against marriage. Without a law, using the substantive due process idea, then there is an implied right to be married. So, if the US Const says that there can be no law abridging the rights of citizens, and we are church members are told in the AoF to sustain the law of the land, there appears to be a illogical, glaring contradiction for church members to be in support of homosexual marriage bans. To do so would be to abridge the rights of citizens, which would be to not sustain the law of the land, which goes against the 12th AoF.

Of course, there is the church's teaching that homosexuality is wrong. Without discussing this and simply taking it as is at this time, that appears to me to be a moot point. Yes, the church says that homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, the argument I've heard goes, to support gay marriage is to support homosexuality. This, however, I feel is a flawed logic, because it runs parallel to saying that supporting the KKK's right to march and rally because a person supports free speech means that the person supports the message of the KKK. There is clearly a difference between supporting someone's right to do someting versus supporting the message they are proposing. Do I agree with the KKK? Absolutely not. But that in no way means I can't support their right to free speech. So it is with church members who are uncomfortable with homosexuality and condoning it. Do you have to support homosexuality to support a homosexual's right to marry? Not necessarily. By supporting homosexual marriage, there is support to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which we are told to do in the 12th AoF.

Along similar lines we come to the second line of argument, which also centers around freedom in the US. It is, in my opinion, a fair assertion that every time we as a government and a society limit the rights of other groups besides our own, we inherently limit ourselves. There is a famous poem on the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Washington that reads:

When they came for the gypsies, I did not speak, for I am not a
When they came for the Jews, I did not speak, because I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak, for I am not a Catholic.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak

For us all, as American citizens, by limiting others rights, we limit ourselves. When we do not fight for others, we lose people who will fight for us. Beyond that, every limitation we impose on another group is a limitation we impose on ourselves. If we put prior restraint in place in a paper that speaks slanderously about a particular group, then not only is that particular paper limited, but all papers are limited, because the use of prior restraint in the press is legal and therefore every paper everywhere is able to be priorly restrained.

So, when we limit other groups' rights, we limit our own, even if we do not see it right away. As the poem illustrates, some of us will not be affected until there is no one else to affect. And, since Mormons are a group that at one time has been the subject of persecution, and limitation I may add, at the hands of the government, with regards to marriage (polygamy), then we of all people should understand the extreme importance of not limiting our rights by limiting others. The government cracked down on polygamy and told Mormons that we couldn't do that anymore. They limited our right to polygamous marriage by establishing a rule of law that says we may not marry more than one person. Church doctrine teaches us that polygamy was not bad (nor is it bad in the correct context) but that it was time for the doctrine of it to leave the earth. Arguably, though, part of the reason it was time to leave the earth was that the pioneers practicing it were going to be run out of the country by a crazed mob if it wasn't stopped, especially if the government stepped in and limited our rights. At no time has the church ever ruled out the potential for polygamy to return to the earth (or at no time that I am aware of). Therefore, there is a potential for it to happen again. If, however, we as a society and a government, start interfering even more with the insitution of marriage and limiting people's right to do so, it is conceivable that eventually, even if Heavenly Father commands polygamy again, we will live in a society that has intruded on so many other groups right to marriage that there is no one left to intrude on but us. And since we did not fight for others, there will be no one left to fight for us.

In my opinion, regardless of one's views on homosexuality as a practice/lifestyle, there is no good argument for the support of homosexual marriage bans. I feel, in order to support the law of the land and to prevent future abridgement of our own rights, there is nothing that the reasonable Mormon can do but support homosexual marriage. By doing so, we follow our own teachings, as outlined in the AoF, and we also protect our own rights in the long run.


  • Good arguments. This is a subject I really struggled with in my path to a testimony.

    I am opposed to all political rights to marriage in general for just these reasons. If it cannot be applied to all, then it ought not be applied to some. I like the concept of civil unions that can be entered into regardless of gender and carry the same rights as marriage but without the religious connotation.

    FYI - There are church branches devoted to homosexual LDS persons and one of the General Authorities is assigned to visit these groups, provide instruction, and interact with them on political issues/rights. They are not "rehabilitated" as many Christian groups try to do, but are encouraged to maintain high standards under very difficult circumstances. My dad, a psychologist, has been called to counsel these youth as they "come out" and learn to balance testimony with trials.

    BTW - Mitch Romney, governor of Massachusetts, is a member and has done an excellent job IMO in balancing the AoF you mention with the Church stance on homosexual marriage.

    By Blogger Glo, at 9:44 PM  

  • that's really awesome about the wards that are helping people who struggle with homosexuality! i firmly believe that even within instituions such as religion that don't necessarily approve of homosexuality, there needs to be at least support given while people deal with it.

    i agree with you on the civil union issue. i don't think that having a civil union for homosexauls and a marriage for heterosexuals is the answer, though, since it's a seperate but equal thing and THAT certainly doesn't work. IMO, i think a better solution would be that everyone is civilly united and then if, on top of that, you want to go to a specific church and be married, in the same way you are baptized, confirmed, etc, then you can do that. that way, the religios sanctity of marriage is still preserved, in fact, RESERVED specifically for whatever religion a person chooses to be in, and the rights aspect of uniting people is fair and equal.

    i'm going to look into that mitch romney fellow and let you know what i think

    thanks for the comment!

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 11:04 PM  

  • No problem. And I agree. Most other countries use this system and I think it works better for maintaining the sanctity of both state and religion.

    By Blogger Glo, at 7:42 PM  

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