19 December 2008

If There Were a Pill...

...which was proven to "cure" homosexuality in one dose (AKA dissolve your homosexual/homoromantic feelings/desires/inclinations/passions and replace them with matching heterosexual/heteroromantic ones), and it was offered to you for free, would you take it?

Someone's statement today resurfaced this question for me. It reminded me of several months ago when my mom asked, "Wouldn't you rather not be same-sex attracted if you could help it? Wouldn't life be easier for you if you weren't torn between what you want and what you believe is appropriate to act on, or to feel more able to find a wife and start a family?" She seemed a little surprised (I hope not devastated) when I said maybe, but I wasn't so sure that I would. How I am is what I know, and it's hard to not want what you want (or not to believe what you believe). Yeah, it's a conflict, but I just don't know if I would take that pill. Maybe. Some days I'd be more inclined than others, perhaps.

Some of my reasons for reluctance towards said hypothetical pill are personal. Some may be very much emotional and possibly not logically defensible. Some I'm not sure I can even identify. But it's an interesting question to ask myself from time to time. Makes me pause to reflect on and assess a few things.

I admittedly worry for people who would stubbornly decry the very existence of the pill and would refuse to even consider taking it because "change" is another word for "dishonesty" and "hatred". But just as much, I worry for people who would be overzealous in their eagerness to take it to become "normal". I worry their attitude will lead them to miss out on the opportunity to love themselves as they are before moving on and to use that love in understanding others. I worry they're trying to skip learning to live life deliberately, to bridle their passions, to see beyond the "monster" they've created in their minds. I even worry they'd be overly confident that all of their problems would be solved by becoming heterosexual and life would be a cakewalk from that point on. I can't say I'd totally blame people for being first in line. But I would (or do) hold back and let the eager masses go first while I figure out if I really even hope to say goodbye to this part of me once and for all. Even if it seems obvious it could resolve certain conflicts for me, it's not a comfortable prospect to shift an entire paradigm and approach life from a very different angle.

Is it possible I've become addicted to or dependent on "the conflict"? It is, after all, certainly a puzzle. I like puzzles. OK, I obsess over puzzles. And it does make me a bit of an oddity, though the high number of LDS SSA/gay/struggler bloggers cropping up are beginning to make me feel annoyingly non-abnormal. Dang. I enjoy the self-flattery of fancying myself to be an anomaly of sorts. I do hope I don't have so much energy and identity tied up in the "conflict" that I wouldn't know who I am without it, that I wouldn't know where life's next mystery is if I were to let go of one side or the other.

Maybe I'd sample the gradual change pill. You know, out of curiosity. Maybe one that would make me "straight" just for a day. See how I like it. Then back to the safety net of neurotic, repressed mohoness to which I'm so affectionately accustomed.

16 December 2008

Common Ground? Not So Sure...

I recently attended a "town hall" meeting regarding the Common Ground Initiative in Salt Lake. Sitting in a room full of gay activists and allies, I felt distinctly...distinct. I looked around the room and thought, "The people crying most loudly to be treated like everyone else are not at all LIKE everyone else. They're rougher, more crass, seemingly oblivious to how bizarre their appearance and speech would seem to most people they encounter on a daily basis. I don't think my perspective is SO skewed that I don't realize that I live in a cozy, suburban bubble that belies reality. I think they are probably deceived, unaware of the oddity and crudity of their behavior and sexual expression." Mind you, people looking or behaving "differently" should be no excuse for treating them with any less dignity or respect than anyone else, except perhaps where they're dishing out disrespect themselves. So I'm not saying people who are different don't deserve rights. I am simply saying I wasn't sure what, exactly, they were really hoping for...was it to be seen as "normal" and "typical" regardless of what they do and say? I wasn't sure. That may sound ignorant, but it's what I thought. Here I was, a gay man rather turned off by gay men and women and their in-your-face, militant attitudes. In their spouting off, they demonstrated just as little real intent to understand their probable political opponents as most Prop 8 supporters did. Common Ground? Really? I was disappointed.

I was left feeling a clear desire not to become what I was witnessing, not to partake in the culture promulgated by those whom I was inclined to defend. Mind you, I had to check my gut reactions and recognize my knee-jerk distaste for what it was, but there was something intangible, inexplicable which spoke to me that this was, in fact, the core of the "gay" world, once you get past the pretty veneer of sexy young guys having sexy young relationships. For some reason, seeing two middle-aged men together, neither one acting much like a "man" in the traditional sense, and it bothered me. Shoot, I'm not as tolerant as I thought, maybe.

I thought, "Well if anything in my recent experience has instilled a desire for heteronormative functioning, this is it. I don't want to be middle-aged and weak- and fragile-seeming. I don't want to sound bitter and harping on religion and the vast majority of society. I don't want to be 35 and look utterly used and spent, probably the result of a really destructive pattern of habits and pastimes." I didn't want to be gay, and I didn't want to be counted as gay. I came to support a positive effort, and I went away feeling bland about the effort. I was a traitor.

And so it became clearer to me, as I felt distanced from the "gay" world, how some gay people desire and attempt to defy nature and what amounts to "common" sense to try making a normal, traditional male-female partnership work, apparently against the odds. I most often bristle at eager attempts at conformity, but in this dark, shrill room, I felt a clear desire for a more "normal" life. The idea of facing social and religious challenges and battling prejudice my entire life, possibly for no good reason other than my own stubborn refusal to accept the sanctity and eternal nature of gender and male-female marriage...well, when that lifelong battle was so clearly before me, I paused. I paused considerably.

I recognize that I still cling to some social norms and traditional roles. Much of me still thinks men should be sensitive and affectionate yet still strong and independent. Much of me still wonders how much of gender identity disorder or transgenderism is really psychological confusion that could be "corrected". And I fully recognize that I would then have to wonder more seriously whether counseling could also, in turn, "help" me with my homosexual/homoromantic desires. They're not the same thing, to be sure, but if I'm going to challenge the gay establishment in regards to transgenderism, I have to be fair and allow my own "condition" to be challenged. In a roundabout way, my pangs of what would be called intolerance by some made me back up and try to understand where those who are "ignorant" or "intolerant" about homosexuality in general are coming from. It reminded me that not all who believe in some kind of "change" are haters or simply not trying to understand, and it reminded me that just as I've gone through processes, I have to allow others at least as much time and learning to "come around", and maybe it's OK if they never completely do "come around" in certain ways because hey, diversity is the spice of life, right?

No Serious Person...

As much as religious people most often show a fundamental lack of understanding of where their gay counterparts are coming from, people often show a fundamental lack of understanding of religious people's views regarding their own sacred institutions and the role of sexuality, as evidenced on page 3 (online) of a recent Newsweek article:

"If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that."

Really? You sure about that?

I could write so much more on this. Another time. I don't have the energy or desire right now.

15 December 2008

Difficult Confession

I've had an inexplicable desire to snuggle and spend time with a saucy, altruistic, hottie brunette...of the female variety. None in specific. Just the idea of one. I know. Weird. For a couple of days now, pretty steadily. I've seen a couple of lovely daughters of God and thought, "OK, not bad. I could explore that possibility for the sake of actually procreating and living without all the baggage and stigma and complication of a gay relationship. Maybe there really is something to this whole marrying the opposite sex thing."

I think I'm not supposed to admit this sort of thing because it misleads the masses. "Wait...but he said he's gay! Liar!" And it threatens the whole "gay guys can't honestly be interested in women 'cause that would ruin our whole insistence that sexuality is totally fixed and absolute" camp. And they're a highly sensitive bunch you don't want to offend if you can help it. Wounded beasts lash out. Not pretty. Lots of growling.

Maybe I've been a switch hitter all along but have just "dabbled" in the gay club. Maybe I've actually been just as interested in girls all along. *stifling a scoff*

Maybe I'm beginning the gay-dreaded transition into heterohood at an alarming rate. By the end of the week, I'll be wearing flannel and spitting tobacco and pinching random women's butts. 'Cause that's what straight dudes do. Dang. I'm going to miss my scarves. But I guess I won't miss them if the woman-loving Hyde takes over.

Maybe the straightness has been in me all along and is now emerging because I've healed my sense of masculinity to the point that the natural processes are taking place. Dave and Rich will be so proud of me.

Or maybe I'm still rather non-hetero but am tired of resisting the urge to ask cute guys out because it will only end messily unless I go all out and open up to the possibility of a "real" relationship with a guy, which I haven't done. So I'm sick of not having that kind of companionship, so hey, those curves aren't really all that bad, if you look at them and slap a Matthew Goode face on 'em...eh no, nevermind, I'm not into gender-bending; take that mask back off. Yeah, OK, those delicately beautiful lines aren't so bad. I could work with that. Especially if she's the aggressive type and will throw me down. That's hot.

And the silky hair, the sweet smell, the soft skin...have I mentioned boobs aren't so bad, really? Could be fun. And the tenderness, the sensitivity, and the thoughtfulness of most women I've known outshine most men I've known. And I could probably take her home to family without tension. And she can probably make babies and feed them naturally and bond with and mother the little ones she birthed. We could still adopt, not out of necessity but out of desire.

Heck yeah, send in the applications, ladies. Just being interested and somewhat open to the possibility of non-perverse love is a rarity for me, so act now. But, um...act fast 'cause this is most definitely a limited-time offer. My less-gay-than-yesterday phases don't usually last very long.

12 December 2008


Hm, maybe the gay rights movement should just let the straighties keep their "marriage" and fight to adopt "garriage" into the Constitution instead. That could be fun. And church manuals and past talks say nothing of sexual relations being OK between garried people, so no sweat on the Church's part to have to clarify what kind of marriage is chaste, right? Adoption agencies can still choose to adopt out only to married couples if they want. And churches can marry or garry to their hearts' content. I think this has potential...

07 December 2008

Power In Labels

Words carry power. Without words, thoughts remain nebulous, and expression pales. When a word's perceived meaning is changed, communication and understanding shift with it. Words carry cultural implications and symbolic nuance.

It is precisely because of this that I often refuse to be a slave to existing social paradigms in the self-application of labels. If I use a label for myself, it becomes mine, and it makes me no less an individual or beholden to some one-dimensional mass. Rather than assimilating wholly into the label, I add context and facets to it. Perhaps I'm naive in thinking so, since most people will not see it this way. Most will see the label and ascribe various traits and beliefs to me without even realizing they've done it or questioning whether it is just to do so. Fortunately, I'm generally not afraid of that. Those who prefer ignorance will persist in it regardless of what I bring to the table. Those who recognize their own ignorance will learn and will add me to their conglomeration of who comprises a given label. But the perception of the label will never change if those whom it describes don't speak up for themselves.

Merriam-Webster's definition of gay:

Main Entry: gay
1 a: happily excited: merry
b: keenly alive and exuberant: having or inducing high spirits
2 a: bright, lively
b: brilliant in color
3: given to social pleasures; also: licentious
4 a: homosexual
b: of, relating to, or used by homosexuals

Main Entry: ho·mo·sex·u·al
1 : of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex
2 : of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex

Some are uncomfortable referring to themselves as "gay" because "gay" is associated, as you can see, with "licentious". And "homosexual" implies purely "sexual" desire. And we, in Mormon culture, know that sexual appetite is evil, right? Some argue that same-sex attraction is about much more than sexual desire--intimacy, sexuality, romance, etc--so to use "-sexual" undercuts those nuances. Generally speaking, people so acutely aware of the problems with such labels don't apply the same stringent requirements to other self descriptions, but perhaps social stigmas make us understandably more defensive about certain pet peeves.

Maybe it's fair for people to say "I don't consider myself 'gay', so I don't care about changing the perception of that label." I, however, would prefer it if, one day, people could hear "gay" without thinking only of Will & Grace, anti-prop-8 protesters carrying "Mormon scum" signs and vandalizing temple grounds, or gay pride parades replete with all kinds of whoredom. I know gay people who are quietly living productive lives, giving to their communities, maintaining committed relationships, living every bit as "morally" as their straight counterparts, just not following the Proclamation on the Family. Are they less "gay" because they don't subscribe to licentiousness? Am I less "gay" because I'm not looking for a same-sex partner? I guess we all draw our lines somewhere.

Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuse to ever call themselves "Mormon" because they are "latter-day saints" or "LDS" or "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Many of us will use "Mormon" casually when it's convenient. Heck, I've even known one or two members of the Church who would not refer to themselves as Christians because that carried a connotation that they were part of the larger, apostate Christian community, and they were more comfortable staying separate and distinct from that. Again, I guess we all draw our lines somewhere.

I'm Gay. Deal With It, Strugglers.

Note: I'll sort of "preface" this, ex post facto, with a slightly more objective (read "drier") post: Power In Labels.

Every once in a while, I can't hold back from addressing a hot-button issue any longer. In this case, the issue is whether I'm "gay".

I think there's an idea in LDS culture that when people who experience same-sex attraction decide to stay active, they're not really "one of them". They're not "gay". They become de-sexualized eunuchs or ex-gays who are "trying to change". To say you're not sure you'll ever change, and you're OK with that, is to blaspheme the atonement, regardless of what you intend to do with that. And to say you're "gay" is to adopt all of the negative connotations of the word as part of your identity.

In some ways, it's true I'm not "one of them", IF "gay" means "one who actively pursues same-sex partnership" or "one who prances around in tiny jeans cut-offs". If gay means "one who is primarily attracted to men", then I'm gay, folks.

Some people have expressed surprise that I'm "one of them" when I tell them I'm LDS or "Mormon". They didn't think LDS people could withhold judgement or could be fun, or they didn't think Mormons could leave their polygamist ranches or drive cars. Should I refuse to label myself as LDS because most of society where I live thinks that means I have 18 wives and sacrifice people in the temple? Or should I maybe approach it differently, educating them about what it really means to be "Mormon".

If the Gay United Nations issues an edict proclaiming "gay" to mean "never attracted to girls in any way" and "fully supportive of and actively seeking same-sex partnerships", then I guess I'll have to bow to the authorities, the owners of "gay", and call myself something else. Queer? Homosexual? Same-sex attracted? More attracted to men than to women? Struggler? Tell you what, I'll make that call when the owners of "gay" count me out.

Until then, I (kind of) understand where you "not gays" or "strugglers" are coming from.

Perhaps you want to keep that big, bad homosexuality properly contained in its verbal cage so it doesn't leak out and take over your bloodstream and your psyche. Just like "American", "black", "journeyer", "Mormon", "Sigma Alpha Epsilon", or "PhD" might taint your identity as a son or daughter of God with culturally loaded distractions.

Perhaps you don't want the labels that come with "gay" or "homosexual" because people's perceptions are wrong. Nevermind doing anything to change those perceptions. And nevermind that calling yourself LDS often conjures images and prejudices that probably have nothing to do with you. But defending what "LDS" means is important because it's not just one aspect of your life, right? Defending what "LDS" means is so important because you have to do missionary work. Defending what "LDS" means is important because you don't want LDS kids growing up feeling freakish and rejected by non-LDS society and committing suicide or otherwise feeling alone and helpless because they think others view them as dirty, devilish, and faithless and could never understand what they're going through.

Or maybe you don't want anyone mistakenly thinking of you as one who engages in same-sex sexuality in any form (pardon my slight eye-roll as I recall the "not gays" whose stories are just as tawdry and disconcerting as any openly gay folks I know). Or you at least want them to know that you think it's wrong, even if you DO have at least as many compulsive, non-committal sexual experiences with others of your sex as any average gay person.

Don't get me wrong: I know "strugglers" aren't all just whores in disguise. And I understand that many are simply wrestling, or "struggling", with how to respond to same-sex attraction in gospel-centered and productive ways, and that's respectable. But really, doesn't framing it that way make life one big struggle? Isn't life about responding in gospel-oriented, productive ways, to everything around us? If you're really so concerned about labels, do you really want to wade through life regarding it as a constant "struggle"? Really? OK, but try to respect the fact that I choose to frame it differently, and I'll try to respect your choice to somehow think you're not "gay".

And I realize not all those who reject the term "gay" also adopt "struggler". There are some who reject "gay" and favor other words, like "same-sex attracted" or "SGA". Whatever. You have your reasons. I felt that way once, too, to some extent.

To be honest, when I first talk with people, I often choose not to say "gay" right off the bat because they may worry I've become part of a smutty culture, or they may offer to set me up with their attractive, available gay friend. I usually refer to myself as same-sex attracted until they understand where I'm coming from. Once it's understood that I'm not a fan of leather and chains or pink feather boas, I casually use "gay". And when they demonstrate the ability to joke about the topic, they're educated on the usage of "moho", just for fun. And the girls are often pleased to be counted as "mohoneys".

06 December 2008

Sometimes I Struggle...

...to keep my thoughts pure while watching Heroes.

I'm just sayin'.

05 December 2008

Gay SLC Couple Kidnapped Children?

First, a couple of thoughts as preface:

A) I'm not sure how I feel about categorizing certain criminal acts as "hate crime". Isn't a crime just a crime? Should it matter, in the eyes of the law, whether it was committed because the victim was a random target or a member of a hated group? I'm not sure...but maybe that's another conversation for another time.

B) I don't think every crime committed against a member of a protected minority group is a "hate crime". Most often, it's just personal. Or it's random. Playing the victim card excessively amounts to crying wolf.

That said, I'm troubled by this story about a gay couple who were beaten by their neighbors after allegedly kidnapping the neighbors' kids. Please at least skim it before continuing, if you haven't already seen it.

The news account, when combined with a very unflattering picture of the victim/suspect in which he looks like what most people think of when hearing the phrase "child molester", paints a rather unsympathetic picture of the gay couple who are the victims of this violence. It's easy to read this story and think, "DUH! You kidnap kids, you get the tar beaten out of you. Don't expect to come crying to anyone or spouting this hate crime victim crap."

I mean, look at the story: a nice family was having a party, when their neighbor sneaked over to their house and took their two children into his home without telling their parents. After the mother of one of the kids came to rescue them and took them home, relatives went over to the neighbor's house and beat him and his partner (claiming not to have known the kids were already back with their families).

As I read it, I thought, "Wait, this doesn't sound like the story I heard from a friend who knows this gay couple's circle of friends. If what I heard is just hearsay, and what's in the story are the facts, then I must admit this does change the story a bit."

Yet there are a few things that I find really disconcerting about this case:

A) IF the assailants didn't know the kids were with their family when they went over to beat the crap out of them, I can only come up with a few possible reasons for that:
1 - They were drunk out of their minds, and reason was not in the picture.
2 - They didn't give the victim even a chance to explain that he didn't have the kids anymore.
3 - They are all deaf and blind.
4 - It's true they didn't know the kids were home when they WENT over, but once they were there, they learned the kids weren't there, and they proceeded to beat the crap out of the victims anyway.

B) Why wasn't the alleged intoxication of the assailants brought into this news story?

C) Lesson hopefully learned: taking someone's kids into your home without parental permission is STUPID. REALLY, REALLY STUPID. Extremely, terribly bad judgment. Speaking objectively. Of course, when you read (and hear from friends) that the children looked distressed and were unable to sleep and very willingly and freely accepted an offer for a comfortable place to rest while their family was having (by all the hearsay I've heard) a noisy, drunken party, perhaps it was bad judgment but nothing nefarious. Maybe? Possible? And aren't we talking about neighbors, here, not strangers down the street? I realize we Americans aren't big on knowing our neighbors, but it's still different from some random passer-by ushering them into their car to take them home.

D) The story makes it sound like it's just settled and properly assumed that the guy did "kidnap" the kids. Granted, it looks really bad IF you don't trust the guy. But if you consider the possibility that his alternative was to tell their drunken, obnoxious relatives to grow up and take care of their own kids and possibly get the kids in trouble for making their parents look bad, maybe it doesn't seem as bad? A friend told me about this incident long before I heard it in the news. He's connected to the circle of friends who assert the victim is a kind man who would certainly not have questionable motives with the children. And the comments on this article show a lot of other voices coming to the defense of the victims. Where are the defenses of the family who committed the violent crime?

F) Not enough evidence to prosecute the assailants? What is there not enough evidence for? The news story says the assailants said they didn't know the kids weren't there when they went over there. Doesn't that pretty explicitly state they admit they did this? So they clearly committed the beatings. Is what makes it ineligible for prosecution the fact that this man took the kids without their parents' permission? And if this had been a 75-year-old man or a 35-year-old woman who took the kids in, would the situation be different? I'm inclined to think the lack of prosecution isn't about law but is mostly about preconceived notions, assumptions, and quite possibly terrible prejudice, not just because he's gay but because he's a male and he's not old and wrinkled.

G) I've also heard that this kind of retribution is pretty much indicative of Polynesian culture (in case you missed it in the news story--they don't mention it--the people who beat the guys up are Polynesian): you mess with the family, you pay the price. That's how disputes are settled in some cultures. So I can appreciate that this may very well have happened regardless of the couple's sexual orientation. Except that they probably wouldn't have beaten a man's wife and automatically assumed she was part of it, though you could possibly chalk that up to gender more than to orientation. But some accounts (keep in mind the accounts are probably from friends of the victims) say they yelled about beating up the faggots, not about beating up the child molesters or the kidnappers or the dirtbags.

So I'm bothered by this story. It may very well be that the victim is a pervert or otherwise untrustworthy man who had impure intentions in bringing the children to his house. It may be that there's a long history of tension between these neighbors, and this man has been pushing their buttons in numerous ways for years, and he finally broke the camel's back when he involved their children. Maybe. But I'm suspicious of the way this story was written and whether the police are handling it honestly. Why are we definitely pursuing charges regarding the alleged "kidnapping" in which no apparent harm was done but definitely not pursuing charges regarding the brutal beating? Is this one of those examples of useless, trashy "good ol' boy" culture in which the cop looks at the beaten child molester, shrugs, and says, "Hell, I woulda done the same thing," and that's somehow respected by the judgmental masses as the kind of justice we need more of? I'm not saying that's what it is. As I said, if the news story is more accurate than the story being circulated (unopposed, as far as I can tell) by friends of the victims, then all is probably as it should be. But unfortunately, it's hard for me to fully trust it is so.

17 November 2008

What Is Marriage Anyway?

Finally, I've found someone else who seems to be asking what I've been asking. And at the heart of debates over whether gay marriage should be legal is that very question: what is marriage? What's it for? Who's it for? Is that why the focus has gone to clearly defining marriage constitutionally?

I can't help but ask certain questions in relation to this line of thought: maybe marriage is nothing more nor less than a family-building (ideally procreative) union of a man and a woman independent of love or affection. Have we over-romanticized the whole thing in modern Western culture? Have we perverted the whole concept of marriage into this romanticized, bonding-of-souls ideal that has little to do with its origins or hundreds/thousands of years of social constructs? Perhaps the ideal would be both the love/passion and the dedication of contractual agreement, but they needn't coincide. Cultures in which arranged marriages are the norm would probably insist quite vehemently that marriage is not ultimately, primarily about love. And maybe they're right.

Maybe plural marriage is, in fact, the highest order of marriage, as it is a matter of dedication, respect, care-taking, community, union of people into industrious units of society. I can't imagine the children had much in the way of male role models except from a distant, detached perspective, which doesn't seem very healthy to me. Isn't that what makes kids gay?

Maybe marriage really is for rearing children, and therefore, nobody should ever use birth control, and sex isn't so much an experience to unite two bodies and souls into one intimately climactic experience shared between only those two but is, after all, simply a means of creating life. The good feelings and intimacy are incidental bonuses. Therefore, sexual intercourse should be practiced only when a child is desired. Sex for recreation, even between spouses, should be eschewed as lustful and selfish spilling of seed, as it does not fulfill its intended purpose but focuses only on the pleasure, the hedonic reward without the dedication to its divine end.

Maybe couples found to be infertile and who refuse to adopt children should be forced into annulment because their marriage is rendered invalid and runs counter to the very foundation of society.

Perhaps divorce should be illegal except in cases of unrepentant adultery or relentless physical abuse verified by a state-appointed physician.

Perhaps parentless children are better off staying in the orphanage or various, transitory foster homes and being brought up properly there than being raised by two dedicated fathers or mothers in a stable but non-ideal (even morally abominable) home. Maybe it's more "right" for a single person to raise adopted children without the help of a partner with whom to share the workload or household duties than to be raised by two people of homogeneous gender representation.

Or could it be this simple, practical applications or implications aside: marriage was meant for nuclear families, a mother and father and children, and no matter how many ways we may have messed it up and degraded it so far, and no matter what other civil union arrangements can be made, there's no sense in obliterating its original significance any more than we already have?

Perhaps there's a touch of edgy cynicism to my questions, but my intent is not to skewer or jab or otherwise engage in some kind of verbal passive aggressiveness. I merely mean to ask tough questions I'd usually rather not even look at but which I believe must be asked if the issues are to be approached honestly or fairly. Just a thought. Or two.

13 November 2008

I'd Hit Me

Ever have those occasional times, on good days, under the right lighting, when you get ready to go out for the evening, and before leaving, you look in the mirror to make sure you're all put together and think, "Heck yeah I'd hit that!"? Yeah, tonight was not one of those times, BUT it occasionally happens, and I'm not gonna lie: it's nice when it does.

A buddy I talked to about this, however, insists he doesn't have those moments. I told him I was surprised 'cause if I were him, I think I would. TMI? Maybe. Sometimes I relish the delightful quirkiness of gay friendships, like that slightly awkward line between affirmation and flirtation. But we're tight like that, so I think I'm OK saying such things to him (in moderation to avoid over-inflating an ego).

That conversation took me back to a conversation a couple of years ago with some mohomies about an aspect of gayness some people may not think of: turning yourself on. I'm talking fresh out of the shower, glancing in the mirror, and thinking, "yeah, that's not bad right there, I could do it for me". Now before you go thinking me the terrible narcissist, I'll just interject that this has not happened to me. ...recently. But one of my friends told a story about when a female friend of his asked him whether he's ever gotten turned on by seeing himself in the mirror, and when he put on his sheepish face and said maybe he had a time or two, this conservative Mormon girl laughed and said that was hot. I think people deserve a pat on the back for creative thinking that taps into rarely discovered/discussed quirks of life.

Oh, come on, I know there are others of you out there who have had at least brief autosexual moments. It's OK. This is a safe place to admit it.

...go ahead. Own up to it.



Dang, this is awkward...

12 November 2008

Now, On To More Important Issues

Enough on Prop 8, it's overshadowing important stories such as this:

First Openly Gay Racehorse To Compete Sunday

Prop 8 - Do The Mormons Have It Coming To Them?

Note: These comments began as a response to a clever, satirical essay a friend wrote about "Prop 9" which would endeavor to outlaw temple marriage (a sort of "this is how it feels" example that I thought was fairly effective, faulty analogies aside) and turned into an essay of its own, so I posted it here instead.

Many Prop 8 supporters seem to have supported the prop not on a solid legal or logical foundation but on fear and some God-given feeling of moral superiority they feel justified in forcing. A tyrannical attitude of "majority rule" isn't my idea of what this nation is about or what our values are, and it frightens me to see so many people shrugging and essentially saying their beliefs are correct, so that's all the conviction they need. Makes me shudder a little to think of where that could go. And it has incited the outrage of many people who feel, correctly or not, that their rights have been robbed of them by overzealous religious bigots eager to force everyone to comply with their own particular moral code at the expense of liberty, an act Prop 8 supporters would obviously decry and fight with all the righteous indignation in the world if such efforts were targeted against their own freedoms and ability to worship as they believe. ...or is that exactly what they felt was happening as well?

Some of my friends don't seem to understand when I try to explain how dangerous it is to insist that "majority rule" means forcing the supposed minority to comply with your superior moral code, but they don't seem to understand, or they don't care because they are justified by the gay agenda's attempts to force gay studies into their young children's schools or to ready the wrecking balls for churches preaching against newly ascribed "civil rights" (I'm not sure I agree whether Prop 8 even changes that possibility), or maybe they understand something I don't.

I'm glad some people with whom I've spoken would NOT have supported Prop 8 had they believed it was limiting the rights of citizens. I know I know, the right to marry is a right in and of itself, but in their view, they're simply clarifying what "marry" has always meant and insisting gay people have equal opportunity to marry as everyone else, they just often choose not to because they don't want to be with someone of the opposite sex, so they opt for a same-sex union with all the same rights and a different label. Whether or not you agree with that reasoning (perhaps you believe "marriage" is and always has been a civil contract or distinct type of relationship and not a heterosexual institution), I think it helps take some of the fear and hatred out of the debate to realize the debate really is fundamentally about what the word "marriage" really means, since it's never been fully defined in law.

I'm going to take a moment to speak to my friends who oppose the amendment in an effort to temper their outrage a touch, as I've spent time trying to temper the rhetoric and clarify the logic of friends who support it. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the amendment, I've talked with some who support Prop 8 for seemingly legally sound and logical reasons, yet most staunch opponents seem unwilling to stop shouting angrily and put down the "bigot" signs to try to understand their perspective and debate it at that level. It's easier to scream "hate-mongers!"

Many of my brothers and sisters in the homosexual community and their supporters are (understandably) hurt and outraged by what has happened. I just hope the community will, in its desire to continue the "fight", take the high road and practice their persistent resistance respectfully, nonviolently, with dignity, with calm confidence. That will help show how much of an "enemy" you really are to your opponents and to civilization. Some Prop 8 supporters are only more sure they were right to vote "yes" after seeing the hatred and aggression from the apparently tyrannical gay community, trying to usurp the voters to angrily force their agenda on everyone else. Are they correct in feeling so justified? Maybe that remains to be seen, depending on how the community continues their battle.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, patience, brothers and sisters on both sides. I guarantee you both sides feel morally superior in different ways, and there's not likely going to be much change on that front. So try to focus on the real, legal issues and set aside the fear and the hatred. I know this may make me sound like a terrible hippie pacifist if you're convinced there's a war at hand and it is foolish to lay down and be bulldozed by the tyrannical opposition. But I also know both communities fairly well, and I know their capacity to listen and reason and coexist peacefully with their fellow men and women. I know both sides' tendency to blindly force their opinions on others, but I also know both sides' remarkable capacity to love. So at the risk of sounding like a pansy who just "doesn't get it", lay down your weapons and talk, for heaven's sake.

Prop 8 - In The News And On TV

Glenn Beck on CNN
I think his logic has holes, but for those of you so deeply confused as to how so many people could support this amendment, please try to strengthen your heart and stop being offended long enough to hear where they're coming from and recognize that there are real risks involved, whether or not you think they will occur:

Wolf Blitzer on CNN

News8 Reports on shady tactics
I hadn't heard about this, but I had heard outrage at a published list of Yes on 8 donors. This is no one-way street when it comes to bad blood.

Bill O'Reilly on Fox News
With guest Sonja Brown explaining some reasons for Prop 8.

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC
His passionate plea lacks complete legal defense, and he obviously doesn't fully grasp the reasons people support the amendment, but I think his summary is possibly the most concise, direct statement I've heard that I think represents where most of my anti-8 friends are coming from, whether or not you believe there's some other more sinister agenda behind the desire for gay marriage:

Bill O'Reilly on passage of Prop 8
Discussion on the demographic breakdown of the vote and where it may go from here.

Ellen Degeneres on Prop 8's passage
For those of you who are so confused at why this is a big deal to people, please turn off your arguments for a moment and just listen. You don't have to accept. Just listen. Even while standing your logical/ideological ground, let the humanity of this in so you can show forth love.

Protests covered by Fox News

KNBC coverage of sometimes violent protests at L.A. temple

Peaceful protests around Temple Square

Print news stories on the aftermath since Prop 8's passage:
Prop 8 Protests Head To Salt Lake City - CBS News
Church Responds to Same-Sex Marriage Votes
Catholic Bishops Decry Religious Bigotry Against Mormons
Church Issues Statement on Proposition 8 Protest
Protests at Temple Square - Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Faces Boycotts - AP
Prop 8: Chill - The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan urges fellow gay marriage supporters to calm down and keep their heads
Gay activists protest Mormon church - Christian Science Monitor article mentioning the call to remove government from the marriage business altogether.
Church Memo on Strategy - some are speculating the current church leadership deviated from a strategy President Hinckley had encouraged, and had they maintained it, the church would be having less PR trouble. I think whether or not you believe they did exactly what they should and what was necessary for the benefit of society, it's an interesting point.
Elton John doesn't need marriage - Interesting take from a veritable gay idol. And I love that Gladys Knight sang at his AIDS benefit.
Young Gay Marriage Activist Leads National Protests - calls for fairness and less finger-pointing.
An Ugly Attack On Mormons - a pointed denunciation of campaign tactics I think more people should recognize for what they are.

Other sites of interest:
Mormons Stole Our Rights - many people are outraged
L.A. organization making anti-8 donations in Pres. Monson's name - I think people should be aware of this. Let people oppose the vote and keep working for their cause, but this is seriously shady stuff.
YouTube video made from speeches by LDS leaders on "kindness, mutual respect, and civility".
Catholics Appalled at Anti-Mormon Slur - YouTube video
RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio - NPR correspondent in Salt Lake City who has been following the story. This particular show was about the aftermath, protests, etc, after the passage of Prop 8. Good show.

09 November 2008

Prop 8 - Social Ridicule and Storming Mormons

I really strongly find a few comments by people in church-produced Yes-on-8 videos to be distasteful and misleading. Failure to pass the prop could result in decreased tolerance for views on traditional marriage and may lead to supporters of traditional marriage facing "social ridicule"? Did they really just use that as a reason to preemptively limit people's access to marriage? However true that consequence may be (MAY be), what in-your-face, us-or-them politics. What a slap in the face to an entire community that already is ridiculed, beaten, and killed, even to this day, for their sexual orientation and/or choice of lifestyle. We may have some "right" to speak on how to handle intolerance because of our history, but I would hope we'd be a little more sensitive because of our history.

The Yes on 8 campaign is certainly not the only one sending out misleading information. Some No on 8 campaigners have engaged in seriously offensive, over-the-top, outrageous politicking. This ad ran on TV in California right before the election. However hurt people may feel, however outraged, there is no defense for this in my opinion:

No wonder emotions are high and some are having trouble reconciling with their neighbors.

Prop 8 - Discussion With Staunch Supporters

The following is a discussion I had with some staunch supporters of the amendment, just after it passed, regarding a note my friend wrote (we'll call him David).


Why do gays in California want to claim what we hold sacred?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 11:33pm
While making calls for proposition 8 I received a return call from one of the people that I had just left a message to. He was irate because I said that gay couples already had the same rights as married couples. I realized that I had just gotten the information as a talking point so I did a little research and what I found was in the Family Code section 297-297.5. It states:

"Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights,
protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same
responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they
derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules,
government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources
of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."

Indeed gay couples have all the rights of a marriage it is just called a domestic partnership. So why do they want to get "married"?

Whatever the reason it has nothing to do with rights.

You can find the Family Code referenced here:



O-Mo wrote
at 9:14am on November 6th, 2008
Try thinking of it this way if only to understand and increase sensitivity to where many opponents of the prop are coming from: some gay people, too, hold marriage "sacred" in their minds and hearts, so much so that they want to be able to "marry" their sweethearts as they always hoped. As strange as that may sound, it's what many feel.

Reverse the roles: you grew up in a society where homosexuality is the norm, yet you don't swing that way. You want to be with a woman, and she and you have been together for years but not allowed to "marry" because you're heterosexual and "marriage" is a homosexual institution. You are "allowed" domestic partnership with accompanying rights but denied marriage.

Now, you may be fair-minded and accept that when "marriage" was adopted into government and named as a fundamental right, it was a strictly homosexual institution, and therefore, you have every right to enter into a proper marriage with a man like anyone else, but instead chose to follow your heart and be with a woman, and statutes grant you all the same rights but prohibit you from having a valid marriage ceremony.

Or perhaps that's not enough. Perhaps you want to fulfill your dream of making that most important of commitments you can make with another person, and it's not just about having the same financial and contractual "rights" (as if you're supposed to bow in gratitude for that equality despite being denied what everyone else is allowed) but having the same right of entering into a marriage relationship and building a family (never mind the fact that a man and a woman can't procreate but only two members of the same gender--you plan to adopt). To be told you can't because you love a woman seems fundamentally discriminatory and dismissive of you and everyone like you, whether or not you have the same medical and financial rights. And what's to stop those rights from one day being removed if you're not constitutionally protected?

O-Mo wrote
at 9:15am on November 6th, 2008
Ha, it's an imperfect comparison, but hopefully, it at least helps you understand that this isn't just about stubbornly robbing society of its long-established view of marriage. At least, not for most, as far as I can tell.

David wrote
at 10:33am on November 6th, 2008
You are saying that it is an emotional thing that they just want to be able to fit in. The problem is far more than just calling it marriage.

by having gay marriage accepted means that it is going to get taught to our children as being normal. Parents don't have the right to be notified that their children are being taught about it, nor do they have the right to have their children opt out.

Why must they be taught about same sex marriage in the 2nd grade or earlier? What about our right to teach our children our beliefs and not to have them indoctrinated where they are supposed to be learning math and science?

What about the freedom of individuals and private organizations to preform their duties as they deem good and right? In Mass. churches have lost tax exempt status. why? because they refused to marry same sex couples. So are all organizations supposed to embrace the immoral acts? or is there a line that just shouldn't be crossed?

Joe wrote
at 11:09am on November 6th, 2008
Hi David,
I can't help but chime in, especially since I have 3-4 gay family members and have discussed these issues with them.
Why not take John McCain's advice (I believe he stated this in the last debate) and delete the term marriage from the legal description for both gay and straight people. This seems like it would equalize both parties.
Besides...words are man made, why argue over them? Who cares what the word for civil union or marriage is?
I respect the right of a cultural institution to have their own definitions, but I think we do need to provide equal benefits and allow people to be recognized for what their own cultures hold dear.

David wrote
at 11:14am on November 6th, 2008
Hey Joe!!!

Good to here from you.

You kind of hit the nail on the head. Why do gay partners care if they call it marriage? They already have all the rights that are associated with marriage (at least in California. I don't know about other states). Why are they so angry that they can't call it marriage?

O-Mo wrote
at 11:18am on November 6th, 2008
I'll leave discussion of the potential or perceived consequences to others:

Your question was about why gays want to claim a right to marriage.

And your assertion that it's just emotional is partially true. I dare say that proponents of the proposition are generally every bit as emotionally charged and motivated as opponents. And both sides have legal reasoning.

It is very much about rights, for most. Perhaps it's difficult for you to really put yourself in the scenario I proposed, to imagine that you and Jane are not allowed to call your union a marriage and to be OK with that.

As I see it, the crux is this: the debate is not whether gay relationships are right or wrong or neither, it's whether denying marriage to people based on gender or sexual orientation is legal or discriminatory. IF marriage is a government-sanctioned contract distinguishing a type of relationship, then it is discriminatory to deny it based on sexual orientation. But IF marriage is DEFINED as a male-female relationship, then all are allowed equal access and protection because gay people can "marry" someone of the opposite sex just like straight people, if they so choose. Otherwise, they have a relationship that's just called something else. But that REQUIRES marriage to be explicitly defined as such, which it never has been. Hence the push to define marriage constitutionally, so those who have always thought that's what marriage is can legally reject charges of discrimination.

Joe wrote
at 11:18am on November 6th, 2008
I suppose I am most interested in knowing if people who oppose gay "marriage" would accept having their relationships legally defined as civil unions...

ps. good to hear from you too!

Erin wrote
at 2:18pm on November 6th, 2008
So this begs the question was the term marriage defined by the state or by the churches? Because I am pretty sure that marriages outside of the norm of the churches are often called civil unions.

David wrote
at 3:02pm on November 6th, 2008
Good Point Erin!

I love good discussions.

I am less concerned about the semantics than the consequences. Since you are not in California I should shed a little light on what has been happening here.

"Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1437, which would have prohibited teachers, school districts, textbooks and instructional materials from presenting anything that "reflects adversely upon persons" because of their "sexual orientation which included but had to be removed a portion where "gay history" would be taught. Governor Schwarzenegger also vetoed SB 777 and AB 394 that would require all textbooks, instructional materials, school-sponsored activities, all school policies, and all teacher training courses to promote the transsexual, bisexual and [bleep]sexual lifestyles to children as young as kindergarten."

Those are all subjects that have no purpose in school curriculum.

You may not agree with me but this is what we are dealing with in our schools.

Erin wrote
at 3:18pm on November 6th, 2008
I wasn't agreeing or disagreeing... I don't think those things do need to be taught in schools. Keep it to things that are important... Gay history is not a necessary thing.... It is not like we rounded up homosexuals and put them into slavery... if they choose to reveal their orientation that is up to them, but some of this stuff really doesn't belong in schools.

Frank wrote
at 4:54pm on November 6th, 2008
If the state of California or any other state decides to teach feelings of same-gender attraction as the norm, then they would also need to teach other feelings as normal. Feelings such as rage are normal feelings but when acted upon is where the problem lies. I don't think anyone would appreciate their child coming home from school and stating that their teacher told them it was okay to scream and yell and hit as long as they were angry. I would just like someone to explain to me why just because you have feelings that you have to act on those feelings. Homosexuality is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior. Men and women together serve a purpose in this life (procreation). If the norm were same gender attraction the human race would cease to exist. Sorry i got off topic there a little and my purpose is not to offend anyone but I feel that people have gotten a skewed opinion of what is going on in the world, temptations are all around us and come in many forms, including same-gender attraction, pornography, alcohol, and also many other simple everyday things. If we start teaching future generations that just because a few people have decided that its okay means that you have to think its okay, it will be a scary place in a few generations. While considering this also consider that while people who are fighting for gay rights or marriage want to have their freedom of speech they are also extremely quick to regard people who don't agree with them as narrow-minded or homophobic or whatever. Allow all people to have their opinions and then make decisions based on the majority, then live with it, thats what this nation is all about. It may not be perfect but it's the best plan on earth. Sorry this is quick and choppy but only have a few minutes and wanted to get another opinion out there.

David wrote
at 5:52pm on November 6th, 2008
Thank you Frank that was... Well Awesome.

O-Mo wrote
at 6:16pm on November 6th, 2008
I think we have to be careful about insisting the end justifies the means by preemptively limiting the rights of others (the right to "marry", whatever that is defined to be, is a right in and of itself, even if its contingent rights can be gained in other ways) just because NOT doing so might result in something we don't like. People have every right to defend their own interests; I'd just caution against an "us or them" mentality leading to harsh rhetoric, hasty decisions, and beating down pre-perceived enemies. There's too much of that from all sides.

I don't see a reason for "gay history" units for young children. That's just weird. :-) The race/sexual orientation comparison doesn't get far with me. As for teaching homosexuality in schools to young children, I don't remember being taught heterosexuality, so to me, that's a bit of a straw man argument despite the circulating anecdotal stories. Yet analysts seem to believe the schools argument is likely what won the battle for prop 8 in the end. Get people defending their cubs, and emotions run high. :-)

David wrote
at 6:28pm on November 6th, 2008
That is exactly the case (and ultimately what prop 8 was... is about). People want to be able to introduce this stuff to their children when they deem it age appropriate not when the department of education or legislature thinks it is appropriate (which seem to be about birth). Teaching it that young is tantamount to conditioning.

O-Mo wrote
at 6:43pm on November 6th, 2008
I have a logical problem with Frank's statement: if it's simply about legislating morality, why do we not just go ahead and reinstate anti-sodomy laws, incarcerate people for fornication and cohabitation, and fine people for drinking coffee and watching R-rated movies? That's not meant to be inflammatory. I'm just wondering how far you can defend that line of thinking, or where it stops?

As I see it, legislation should be about protecting the most rights, preserving the safety and freedom of the people, even to choose what I don't believe in but which doesn't trample the rights of others. I think many prop 8 supporters believe that's what it was about. They were told their rights would be trampled if it didn't pass. I believe those claims, though valid concerns, were blown way out of proportion. But that's politics.

If you believe people having loving, committed relationships with other people of the same gender (whether that's wicked and contrary to God's plan or not) tramples your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then explain how, and I'll try not to look at you like you're crazy. If you just believe same-sex, romantic relationships are wrong, OK, but that's no defense for legislation in my view.

I wonder if those who defend moral legislation might adopt a slightly more moderated perspective if they spent time in Islamist nations.

Sorry, yes this is all off-track and not really about prop 8, but I had to voice my concern for that kind of reasoning because I think it seduces many kind and good people into dangerous territory in which they feel justified because they're on the "right" side.

O-Mo wrote
at 6:49pm on November 6th, 2008
P.S. -- There are serious logical flaws in comparing anger and same-sex attraction or homosexuality and the expressions thereof. But I'll just voice this much and let it go.

Jared wrote
at 8:52pm on November 6th, 2008
I just wanted to let everyone know that Frank is my brother. :)

Frank wrote
at 9:19pm on November 6th, 2008
I would like to know why people are insisting on redifining the institution of marriage, it has been the basis of civilization for the thousands of years their have been people on this earth. If you take a God given right and try to make it a civil right you will only have God to answer to. To reinterate, who gave man the institution of marriage? Was it the founding fathers? No, it was God, He created man and saw that it was not good that he be alone so he gave unto him a woman, not another man. Now he also gave all of us a right to choose good or evil, so Joe and Joe are free to choose if they would like to be together and if the law allows them to have a civil union, great. That does not give them the right however to change morality, and marriage is a moral issue, a God given right. Changes to God's law have to be made through Him and since He is perfect his laws don't change.
I understand there are logical flaws in any comparison to same gender attraction it was used merely to illustrate a point, not anything more.
I know I am still commenting a little off subject I just feel that the United States as a whole is catering to small groups vs. the majority. We can't stand up for what we believe because we may offend some small group who feels they are being oppressed, and pushed aside. The minority is now the majority becasue the majority is afraid. The founding fathers warned of that but no one wants to listen to those old guys, what did they know anyway?

David wrote
at 9:56pm on November 6th, 2008
O-Mo, you keep talking about rights, but, at least in California, same sex couples have the same rights as married couples. So in the eyes of the government for all intents and purposes there is no difference between a domestic partnership and a marriage. However there is a significant difference to the people.

To the people marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. That union is created not only for the couple to commit to each other it is also to create the best living environment for raising a family (something ss couples can't do on their own).

So this has nothing to do about rights. But it has everything to do with morals.

O-Mo wrote
at 9:59pm on November 6th, 2008
The discussion is starting to feel circular, so I should probably bow out. If we've left the political debate to dispute what God's will is, I'll leave that for another conversation. Not because I uphold godless government and divorce my personal morality from public policy but because I don't think it applies exactly the way y'all seem to.

The funny thing is, I could possibly be swayed to support the amendment, but not because it's the majority's God-given right to tyrannically force the minority to bend to its will, just like it's not the minority's right to force the majority. Abolitionists were once a minority. And not because marriage has always been between man and woman and that's all I need. Voting was only ever a man's right once upon a time. Voting, slavery, and marriage are distinct issues, but the point is that "tradition" is a weak argument for how things should be.

Maybe I've said all I can or more than I should here in my effort to offer a glimpse of the other side's perspective. Maybe we must amicably agree to disagree. It does trouble me to hear friends I love apparently clueless as to why other friends I love would be so worked up over this issue and not just gratefully taking their civil union rights and going quietly on their way. Some do, and I respect them, but if you don't understand why your brothers and sisters are hurting so deeply over this, how can you... Well, maybe not everyone needs to understand.

I've also tried to help my friends who are deeply pained or amazed that our society is choosing to deny rights to understand the "Yes on 8" side a little more rather than only seeing them as a bunch of hate-mongers meanly refusing homosexuals the opportunity for happiness that heterosexuals take for granted and abuse. I suppose my success rate is about equal on both sides. :-)

With that, thanks for the calm, friendly discussion, all.

Frank wrote
at 11:31pm on November 6th, 2008
O-Mo I would like to let you know that your compasion to both sides is admirable and i appreciate hearing both sides of the spectrum because without it the conversation doesn't go far. Sorry that i got everyone off topic but i think to get to understand why some of us feel the way we do you have to look at the whole picture not the singular issue which is what others would want you to do. Church and politics singularly can be hot topics but when you're trying to draw a line between the two, emotions can run high and things can get blown out of proportion, from both sides. Thanks

David wrote
at 5:27pm on November 7th, 2008
Just to close up on my end. Here in California we parents are slowly loosing our rights to the government. Proposition 8 had more to do with the government and educational system constantly inserting itself into my family business, thinking they know what is best for my family.This proposition was a means to an end. It is about protecting the family's right to choose what and when to teach these things.

I really don't care whether you get married or not. I don't have to agree with your behavior, but if you are trying to shove it down my throat you had better expect some backlash.

That is what Prop 8 was about. At least for me.

04 November 2008

Prop 8 - Summary

Summarizing The Debate In Relatively Benign Terms

As I understand it, the legal argument comes down basically to one side saying that SINCE marriage was always culturally understood to be an institution, between a man and a woman, and was (they argue) initially meant to be a foundation for procreation and the rearing of children (regardless of whether that intent has been eroded by excessively casual treatment of the institution), that's what the definition is or should be, vs. the other side saying marriage is a contract granted to two people committing to each other, not a man-woman pairing (because what distinguishes a marriage from shacking up is not who's involved but the legal arrangements and contractual commitment), so the parties are (or should be) irrelevant, aside from being citizens with rights.

My Important Self-Reminder

Among all the harsh and accusatory rhetoric, I see occasional intelligence and real love from people on both sides of this painfully divisive issue. Whether you're struggling to understand how anyone could possibly say they love and support you and simultaneously proclaim that you should not be allowed to call your morally inferior relationship "marriage", or whether you're struggling to understand how an entire society seems so resistant to understand and embrace the nature and sanctity of the divine institution of marriage, or whether you're stuck somewhere in between and terribly uncomfortable with reconciling reason, beliefs, and faith, and the role of the church and the prophets along with what it means to truly sustain them, there's something I think we all would do well to remember. Stemming from what I wrote in a comment on a friend's blog:

An important reminder, on a personal level, is to work it out for ourselves and work to lift each other where we can and forgive one person for disagreeing with a church policy, forgive another for obeying blindly without thought or conviction, forgive another for unfairly slapping their child, forgive another for disobeying the Lord's counsel given through many prophets to avoid R-rated movies or have more than one piercing in an ear, forgive yet another for having a homo-romantic relationship, forgive others for thinking themselves more righteous than others because they don't drink caffeinated beverages...

That's not to say we shouldn't really work through our questions raised by situations like this, but maybe sometimes, while we're upset with others' lack of understanding or in turmoil over our own spiritual angst or cognitive dissonance, it is helpful to step back, be still, and let ourselves refill with love, patience, forebearance, charity, kindness...

03 November 2008

Prop 8 - A Legality Discussion

From a conversation that ensued on someone's status on a popular networking site.
(31 October - 2 November)

Nick loves the new prop 8 ad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj-0xMrsyxE. Yay for Samuel L Jackson and No on 8!!! 12:00pm

Steve at 1:01pm October 31
Except that gays have never had a right to marry, so how could this be a "fundamental" right? And I don't think you want to argue that it's a natural right, do you?

David at 1:15pm October 31
I love that one too. I also love the one with Senator Feinstein. I think I have a crush on her now. :P

Nick at 1:20pm October 31
True... I don't really buy the whole fundamental right argument. I don't really think there is a fundamental right to marriage for heterosexuals or homosexuals. I would argue for same-sex marriage on the basis of equal protection. I think this quote from Brown v. Bd of Education could easily be applied to this debate:

"To separate [children in grade and high schools] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone…. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

So on that note, I prefer the line they used in their older ads: "regardless of how you feel about marriage, it's wrong to treat people differently under the law."

O-Mo J at 1:21pm October 31
So by that logic, when blacks had never had the right to own their own property or vote, it wasn't a fundamental right. And women never should have gained the right to divorce. Or vote. Or receive equal pay. Those are just bonuses we allow them out of the vast magnanimity of our hearts? Or maybe you need to reword your argument? I'm not saying your opinion is necessarily wrong if you don't believe marriage IS a fundamental civil right. Jury's still out on that one for me. It's just that basing that belief on the fact that they've never had it is inconsequential.

Nick at 1:22pm October 31
Aside from that criticism, I really like the ad because it highlights the fact that prop 8 is trying to write discrimination into the constitution.

O-Mo at 1:22pm October 31
Sorry, I started my comment after Steve's, then came back to it and posted after David and Nick.

Steve at 1:54pm October 31
O-Mo, I would say that the right of blacks to own property is a natural (and not necessarily fundamental--it depends on what jurisdiction we're talking about) right, just as it is for everyone else to own property. So no, the right to own property--for anyone--isn't a fundamental right, it's a natural right, or a right you should have just because you are a person, or a god-given right, if you will. And as far as Prop. 8 writing discrimination into the constitution, it's not: I don't have the right to marry a man either. Deciding that marriage is between a man and a woman is no more discriminatory than deciding that kids can't drive until they're 16, or that you must pay a certain percentage in taxes to the government depending on how much money you make. Also, be careful about comparing race and sexual orientation. So what I'm saying, O-Mo, is that gay marriage is neither a fundamental, nor a natural right, but the right of blacks to own property is a natural right.

O-Mo at 2:07pm October 31
Pardon my ignorance on the jargon. Your argument involves more intricate legal semantics than I'm familiar with (fundamental vs. natural rights is new language to me). So I think I underestimated the foundation of your argument. Thanks for the clarification, though. An article on Wikipedia (the fount of all that is true and right *cough*) includes the right to marry as a generally accepted "fundamental" or "natural human" right. Is it more disputable than the author makes it out to be?

Steve at 2:19pm October 31
I would say that the right to marry is a fundamental and a natural right, but that there is no fundamental or natural right for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman. That is why these amendments focus on the definition of marriage, or "to marry." Marriage has, since the dawn of time, been between one man and one woman. That's why marriage between a man and a woman is a fundamental right. There's no history of gay marriage, thus gay marriage is not a fundamental right. So the only argument left for supporters of gay marriage to make is that it is a natural right--a god-given or inherent right. I don't think that argument would fly with a lot of people. I think that if we get right down to it, most people would agree that marriage between a man and a woman is more natural (for obvious physical and reproductive reasons, and for less obvious religious (god-says-so) reasons) than gay marriage. So yes, marriage as a fundamental/natural right turns on the definition of marriage.

Christine at 3:21pm October 31
I shouldn't even get into this argument, both because I don't know you and because I'm sick of arguing about this issue. However...

You say that, since the dawn of time, [marriage has] been between one man and one woman. This premise is fundamentally untrue. Same-sex couplings, whether sanctioned socially or legally, occurred in such diverse groups as the Greeks and Romans in Europe to several Native American tribes here in (what is now) the U.S. Additionally, polygamous marriages are or were common in cultures stretching from the Middle East to Africa and Asia; ancient Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism are but a few of the religions to accept or even condone the practice.

The anti-same-sex-marriage campaign prefers to focus on the Western European tradition of state- and church-sanctioned marriage beginning in the Middle Ages. That, however, is certainly not what has been practiced "since the dawn of time."

Larry at 3:36pm October 31
How do I go about proposing a state constitutional amendment to ban religion? Anyone? Because that's totally not a fundamental right. Allowing people to practice religion is kind of like letting 16 year-olds get a license.

O-Mo at 3:52pm October 31
OK. So the definition argument comes down to one side saying ...sorry, Nick, if I'm totally hijacking your comment for my own education... that SINCE marriage was always culturally understood to be an institution, between a man and a woman, and was (they argue) initially meant to be a foundation for procreation and the rearing of children (regardless of whether that intent has been eroded by excessively casual treatment of the institution), that's what the definition is or should be, vs. the other side saying marriage is a contract granted to two people committing to each other, not a man-woman pairing (because what distinguishes a marriage from shacking up is not who's involved but the legal arrangements and contractual commitment), so the parties are (or should be) irrelevant, aside from being citizens with rights? Is that a fair summary?

Steve at 4:40pm October 31
Christine, in our jursprudential tradition then (from the foundation of our country and British rule of law, which we have adopted a large portion of our jurisprudence from) gay marriage has never been recognized, so it is not a fundamental right. Luke, the US Constitution's First Amendment explicitly gives us a freedom of religion, but says nothing about anyone being allowed to marry someone of the same sex. Of course, it says nothing about marriage at all, but that's precisely why we want the amendments in state constitutions that define marriage: we want to protect our traditional definition of marriage.

Steve at 4:52pm October 31
O-Mo, I'd summarize it this way, but yes you are right too: The supporters of Prop. 8 want to change the California Constitution so that it defines marriage as what it has always been, between a man and a woman, so that the traditional institution of marriage is preserved. The opponents of Prop. 8 think that they already have a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex, even though no one has ever had that right, straight or gay. If gay marriage is legal, what's to stop me from entering into a union with some friend down the street that gives me all the same rights that married people have? What would be the point to government recognizing marriage at all then, if it was just a contract between two parties?

O-Mo at 5:42pm October 31
So someone who rejects religious or social bases for seeing marriage as a necessarily heterosexual union might ask how marriage having always been between a man and a woman defines it anymore than voting having always been exclusively a man's right before women's suffrage. What is your basis for asserting that it's a completely different animal?

As I see it, to most who support prop 8, they're simply clarifying what marriage has always been. But to most who oppose it, they're saying we as a society arbitrarily based it on biases, and those who would amend the constitution are the ones actually changing the definition to defend their views. I don't know whether one argument is more correct than the other, so I think at some point people have to stop treating each other abusively and shrug and say, "because that's what I believe" instead of "you're wrong and a tyrant."

O-Mo at 5:43pm October 31
Incidentally, there's nothing stopping you from entering into a marriage agreement with a female friend down the street. I know people who've done it. And I don't condone it, but I fail to see how gay marriage would change anything on that front.

Jonathan at 9:58am November 2
I'll jump into the fire 3 days later. I actually buy the fundamental right argument (and the equal protection one too...hell, the more claims for the gays the better! jk).

Here is my first problem: "There's no history of gay marriage, thus gay marriage is not a fundamental right." -

What is your legal source for this? With all due respect, this conclusion is completely wrong. The CA Supreme Court was very explicit about the fact that history is not determinative in deciding the scope of a state constitutional guarantee. I agree with you that we do have to be careful with comparisons between race and sexual orientation, but I think that it is completely appropriate to conclude that by solely looking to history to determine fundamental rights that interracial marriages would still be banned in CA - laws prohibiting interracial marriage existed in the United States since colonial times. The CA Supreme Court bought this argument and I think that it's right.

Jonathan at 10:16am November 2
Here is my second problem: I don't think that the state should be embracing any source that justifies rights on "God's" word. I'm not dissing religion (I think that religion is important) - but this is a simple matter of church and state separation.

At the same time, I think that it's okay for states to conclude that there are certain rights that are so central to an individual's liberty that they warrant noninterference by the state. Marriage is one of these rights - the underlying substantive guarantees that come along with marriage (the right to form a family with the protection of the state that is equally recognized by the state) is one of those things. Any two consenting adults have the right to choose to love one another and start a regardless of sexual orientation.

Prop 8 - The Loyalty Question

Another acquaintance posted this, and I've included the discussion on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 2:28am
From a talk entitled "Loyalty," given by President Gordon B. Hinckley during the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference.

"Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, “The Church won’t dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life.”

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, “The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel.”

I have now served in the general councils of this Church for 45 years. I have served as an Assistant to the Twelve, as a member of the Twelve, as a Counselor in the First Presidency, and now for eight years as President. I want to give you my testimony that although I have sat in literally thousands of meetings where Church policies and programs have been discussed, I have never been in one where the guidance of the Lord was not sought nor where there was any desire on the part of anyone present to advocate or do anything which would be injurious or coercive to anyone.

The book of Revelation declares: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).

I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord’s Church.

This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, “They who are not for me are against me” (2 Ne. 10:16).

In 1933 there was a movement in the United States to overturn the law which prohibited commerce in alcoholic beverages. When it came to a vote, Utah was the deciding state.

I was on a mission, working in London, England, when I read the newspaper headlines that screamed, “Utah Kills Prohibition.”

President Heber J. Grant, then President of this Church, had pleaded with our people against voting to nullify Prohibition. It broke his heart when so many members of the Church in this state disregarded his counsel.

On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church.

How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. And I am especially grateful to be able to say that among those who are loyal are men and women of achievement, of accomplishment, of education, of influence, of strength—highly intelligent and capable individuals.

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

Thank you, my dear brethren, you men of great strength and great fidelity and great faith and great loyalty.

Finally, loyalty to God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Every man in this Church is entitled to the knowledge that God is our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son is our Redeemer. The Savior gave the key by which we may have such knowledge. He declared, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and always, under all circumstances, by the very nature of your lives show your loyalty and your love . . .

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
(“Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” Hymns, no. 260)"

In light of recent events, it's definitely something to think about...


Jason wrote
at 8:25am on October 22nd, 2008
The real question is, what do /you/ think about it?

Cleatis wrote
at 9:46am on October 22nd, 2008
what recent events. I'm confused?

Bob wrote
at 3:39pm on October 22nd, 2008
Wow. I really like that. President Hinckley is so good at conveying his message This is sort of what I was trying to communicate to Jason yesterday, that either the church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. But yea, I'm with Jason on wanting to know what you think of this. Do you agree?

Mark wrote
at 12:16am on October 23rd, 2008
Hey Corey. I appreciate your zeal and your conviction reflected in this note.

I'm a little bit disappointed, though, that President Hinckley glazed entirely over the question about whether or not Prohibition was a good thing or not. In light of so many places in the scripture in which we are counseled to study things out for ourselves, I think it is important for us to come to our own conclusions about what to do in circumstances. I feel a personal loss when that exercise of individual conscience is portrayed as rebellion or infidelity. This tidbit from Joseph Smith says it better than I can:

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told do by their presidents they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.” (Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol 14, Number 38, pages 593-595).

Bob wrote
at 12:49am on October 23rd, 2008
Oh, man. I like that one, too. It's hard to tell whether he's talking about ecclesiastical or secular presiding, but it at least FEELS like the former. But then it becomes a question of knowing that something is wrong, and we've been told that the prophet will never lead us astray. With an issue like the current Prop 8 thing in California, I don't know if we can say that we KNOW it's wrong. With the Mountain Meadow Massacre, I think it's a lot more clear cut. Still, that Joseph Smith quote is super important for people who are just blindly following the church leaders without considering the issues for themselves and sorting it out with God.

Mark wrote
at 12:10pm on October 23rd, 2008
Hey Bob. My point isn't to say that Prop 8 is wrong: more generally it's to defend the freedom of conscience I believe is threatened when we start looking at things as overly cut and dry. And worse when we start demonizing anyone who does not agree with a particular political paradigm.

Re: your comment about following the prophet, the reality I read in the scriptures is a lot more nuanced than a sort of sweeping infallibility I'm sensing from your comment. The Doctrine and Covenants has provisions for how the president of the Church's excommunication hearing is to be conducted, for goodness' sake (see D&C 107:81-83). The main point is that nothing excuses us as disciples of Christ from using our God-given brains, consciences, and the unparalleled gift of the Holy Ghost.

Bob wrote
at 1:10pm on October 23rd, 2008
:) I'm with you more than it sounds like, Mark. I posted that Joseph Smith quote you provided, along with the Gordon B. Hinckley talk Corey posted and a bunch of quotes about the inability of the prophet to lead us astray on my blog with some commentary. I said there that I believe that the prophet, as a man, is capable of sinning, but I don't believe he's capable of leading the membership of the church astray. See:

"Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don't need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."
[LDS President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting LDS President (and prophet) Heber J. Grant "Conference Report" Oct. 1960 p. 78 ]

"The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth."
[Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 289, 1862.]

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray."
President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

Bob wrote
at 1:11pm on October 23rd, 2008
Joseph Smith specifically mentioned that it's wrong to obey a leader when one KNOWS that it is wrong. We are also told that we will never be wrong to obey the prophet or the twelve apostles acting as a whole. For that reason, I will always obey, even if I don't understand. I say "understand," and not "agree," for a reason. I will be sure that I feel something is right before I obey it. I need to know it comes from God. But I don't need to know WHY. Any time new direction comes from the Elders of the church, I pray about it. I don't fight it too much, because I'm aware that I'm receiving good counsel. But a decision to follow the prophet when it goes against what I believe already (as is the case with Prop 8) is never easy for me, and definitely comes with a lot of prayer and soul searching. But in the end, I have found I always feel the need to align myself with what the prophet says.

Final quote from me (this one's Harold B. Lee):

"Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, 'as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory.' (D&C 21:6.)" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Mark wrote
at 3:50pm on October 23rd, 2008
Using the logical circuit that you've created, Bob, I guess a starting question would be what counts as being "led astray"? Would the Lord wipe out members of the Quorum of the Twelve or even the President of the Church because they gave lousy political advice? Is that being "led astray"? Joseph Smith gave *really* bad economic leadership. How far astray is astray? I tend to think this principle is talking about something a little more dramatic than encouragement on a state bill.

Does the Lord speak through prophets? Of course. I feel that my role is to study their words, ponder, pray, then go with the Holy Ghost's affect on my mind and conscience. I start getting heebie-jeebies when we try to make people feel that there is no room for this in the gospel and that the sum total of the Restoration is a Stepford wife style of obedience (even if it is wrong). I dunno--it just sounds more like Warren Jeffs than Joseph Smith.

O-Mo wrote
at 5:30pm on October 23rd, 2008
I agree with the quote you close with, Bob, but I question whether it must necessarily (or can possibly logically) apply to any and all counsel given, on a personal level. It's sound and solid counsel all members should remember. But is it possible it doesn't mean a person can never have an honest disagreement in thought and in action and that be OK?

Perhaps there are times when you have to be able to say that you strive for humility to comply with all a Heavenly Father would ever ask of you even while recognizing that at times you may not be required to set aside your conscience to jump to obey a specific counsel of a prophet.

While it's clear we've been assured, by many witnesses, that the prophets will not lead the membership of the church astray, is it true that no decision or policy of the church as an organization can be flawed and therefore not condemning if disobeyed? These are dangerous or edgy concepts, I fully recognize, and perhaps there's spiritual safety in simply following the flow of the church, knowing you will therefore arrive where you intend, even if you briefly flow through questionable places. But I'm willing to take the risk of departing from the flow when I see it going in a direction that troubles me and which might be dishonest or wrong for me personally to go, given what I know and believe. Maybe the problem is when I try to get everyone to act according to my knowledge and perspective in defiance of the prophet's counsel?

It's not a comfortable place to be in: at odds with the church in a policy decision. But years from now, when I look back on my life, I think I'd rather say, "I did what I believe was right and good" than "I 'obeyed' against my better judgment," even while I'd rather say, "I followed true counsel even when it was hard to understand" than "I made a decision I later regretted in hindsight due to my own limited perspective." Both are important perspectives.

And I think making those decisions spurs growth.

Bob wrote
at 12:42am on October 24th, 2008
I'm tired and I just typed up a whole giant eyesore of a response to both of you, but then I had an internet problem and lost it. Bed time for now, but I respect you both and really enjoy the things you say and the challenges you present to my too comfortable way of thinking. More tomorrow, maybe....