I am very pleased that Proposition 8 passed. But the debate is far from over. The far left will continue to criticize the Church and the Latter-day Saints. On Americablog John Aravosis accused the Mormon church of “promote[ing] legislative gay-bashing,” writing,
At some point the Mormon Church needs to learn that they’re not the only people with the right to free speech. They have the right to bankroll bigotry and we have the right to publicly call them on it. And we finally are.
Because of the Churches involvement in getting Proposition 8 passed, and because most of Utah’s population is Mormon, and because the Mormon Church is based here, some have decided to unleash their fury on Utah. Aravosis was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “We’re going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state,” “At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one…They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards…You don’t do that and get away with it” (“Thousands protest LDS stance on same-sex marriage,” Salt Lake Tribune; “Utah faces boycott after Mormon work for Prop 8,” AP). One website even called for the Mormon Church to be stripped “of its status as a religious organization” so as to “stop taxpayer subsidies of intolerance.”
Those who voted for Proposition 8 come from all colors and creeds. And hating people whose only common characteristic is they voted for Prop. 8 doesn’t make a lot of sense. If Aravosis had said, “We’re going to destroy the California brand. It is a hate state…At a fundamental level, a majority of the people of California crossed the line on this one,” his argument would lack persuasive force; he wouldn’t be able to rally the troupes. Hatred needs a focal point. Sadly, Utah, the Church, and the Mormons are convenient foci. Though opposition to gay marriage isn’t confined to Mormons—a majority of people in 30 states have passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman—the Mormon Church could very easily become the symbol of what is wrong with religion in America.
I suppose that some on the left were hoping for a different scenario, a smooth transition from the old to the new: Eventually, a majority of Americans would come around and support homosexual marriage, and eventually America’s churches would follow—the error in California is the courts got too far ahead of public opinion. But if America’s churches don’t liberalize the tension will become intense. For the political left this might be the worst case scenario, but to some on the religious right it seems unavoidable.
I also believe that to some extent “soft support” for gay marriage comes from liberal attitudes about sex. If sex is merely a biological function with no deeper meaning there can be no logical opposition to homosexual conduct. If all there is to life are the three Fs—foraging, fighting, and reproducing—then sex is simply this thing that people do. Obviously, attitudes about sex are more liberal now then they were 30 years ago: when I was a kid the raciest images on TV were of Jeannie, Marianne, and Ginger. Attitudes about sex are still evolving and becoming ever more liberal. I remember Jay Lenno joking in an interview that President Clinton made it possible to say “oral sex” on TV. The internet has made pornography easily accessible and quite a lot of young men (and women) are being exposed to it at an early age. This will only further distort their attitudes about sex. Men will want their pornographic fantasy and women will feel pressured to live up to that image. As far as gay culture is concerned, there is an inextricably promiscuous element embedded in it. (See Gay Marriage for examples.) Though I don’t believe such promiscuity extends to all gays, I can’t see any significant portion of the gay community condemning the promiscuous dimension of gay culture, or coming out in favor of abstinence before marriage, or in opposition to the presence of internet pornography. And to that extent social conservatives and gay marriage advocates support fundamentally different value sets. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but the way I see it, gays want marriage rights without the conservative sexual mores that historically have accompanied it. Consequently we cannot be allies, but rather, we must be political opponents.
In principle, I have no objections to civil unions. Homosexual couples should be afforded the opportunity to make a legal commitment providing many of the protections afforded by traditional marriage. Recently the Church stated,
The Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. (Church Responds to Same-Sex Marriage Votes).
What civil unions do not provide is a solid legal footing that would allow others to foist their beliefs on religious organizations, denominational schools and universities, and charities owned and operated by churches. I also believe civil unions would have a less liberalizing influence on sexual mores than gay marriage would; the promiscuous element embedded in gay culture would de facto be denied legitimacy. If homosexuals would be satisfied with civil unions, I think we could get along. However, many liberals view civil unions as “baby marriage,” or “marriage light,” and the gay community would have to abandon their belief that gay marriage is about civil rights as well as the perception that opposition to gay marriage is a form of hate or ignorance. Because civil unions carry the danger that activist judges will erase the legal distinctions between marriage and civil unions, the gay community would have to advocate a legal footing that would guarantee religion in America remain free—such as supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. With such a foundation in place I would be willing to support civil unions.
Gay marriage proponents have invested and dedicated so much of their emotion to hating those who oppose gay marriage, and sustaining the belief that we are bigots, it seems unlikely they could adopt the position I have outlined above. This emotional intensity only increases the potential of a legal backlash should gay marriage become legal, and raises the stakes for the religious right. Gay marriage has unfortunately come to symbolize rejection of bigotry. And for some, and possibly many on the religious right, opposition to gay marriage is fueled by bigotry. Gay marriage advocates believe gay marriage is the way that such bigotry will be defeated so that it never rises again—Given the way homosexuals have been treated this is understandable. But it seems the dynamics of the gay marriage issue is evolving towards a wholesale acceptance of the moral values of the left, to the marginalization of the moral values of the religious right.
I believe that the religious right could be persuaded to accept civil unions so long as there is a constitutional guarantee that religious organizations remain free. That would require that the left abandon the belief that gay marriage is about civil rights, and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
That is a long shot, and it would require compromise from both sides. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.
Heck, it might be the 60s all over again.
Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct 1995.
Interview of Dallin H. Oaks about same gender attraction.
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct 2007
Joel Campbell “Activists’ tactics counterproductive.”
John Elsegood, “The battle to protect marriage.”