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....

Prop 8 - Email With A Staunch Opponent

An email conversation about an image many find puzzling:

(Late October)


I'm not seeing it. How do "Yes on Prop 8" and "Equality for All" live together without kicking the crap out of each other?


I don't know if I have a lot to say on the subject except that on one side, you have people viewing marriage as a basic civil right that all people should have equal access to regardless of orientation and on the other, you have people viewing marriage as a morality issue and an issue of rights for children to have a fair shot at being raised by a man and a woman. Never mind the arguments on either side. Never mind the damage done to marriage by heterosexuals. That's irrelevant, in a way. Politics are not always relative. Sometimes, one issue becomes a "stand", and this is obviously one of those.

I know Jim fairly well (for example), and while [...] I do believe that he loves his fellow [queer] folk and respects their rights to choose their relationships without harrassment, he also believes the mere term "marriage" is one reserved for heterosexual relationships of a certain legal and institutional nature.

In short, yeah, it seems conflicting, but I just hope people can get past the knee-jerk gut reaction thing and recognize that there are broader ways of thinking of things than "us against them".


Actually that's exactly what I want: for people to think. When they do, I'm not sure how they can reasonably explain those two coexisting. [...] When people want to pretend it's reasonable it gets frustrating. Of course ultimately it's people that matter, so I'm not eager to alienate by pointing out the flaws in their position, but at the same time: it's people that matter, and real people (as well as the church itself) are being profoundly affected by what other people are doing without thinking.


It is reasonable, Ben, but only if you're coming at it from a certain angle: e.g. you believe children's right to have a mother and father is more important than adults' right to call their relationship a "marriage" OR if you really believe religions will lose tax exempt status or be prohibited from preaching their beliefs if same-sex marriage becomes a civil rights issue...

I don't have a problem with people who honestly believe defining marriage as being between a man and a woman is necessary and right if they honestly believe it's the right thing to do. I don't think it makes them hateful, demeaning, or petty, and I think the gay community needs to strap on a pair and stop crying about that.

Where I really have trouble is with people who say, "Well I have major problems with the proposition and don't support it, but when the prophet asks you to do something, it's not your place to question that or debate it--you just do it and trust you will be blessed for your obedience." It frightens me a little how many people have that mentality because I don't know where that kind of "faith" stops or how much they're willing to hurt others to affirm their own "faithfulness".

I also think many proponents of prop 8 are acting out of fear and a misguided notion that legislating morality is what we've always done and that's just what democracy and majority rule is all about. It conjures disgusting visions of a "conform or get out" mentality seen in what I consider to be terrifying examples of Islamist rule in the Middle East, and the libertarian in me comes out fighting.

Nevertheless, no matter which way the vote goes, I have confidence in the people to make it fair and to come to an agreement. I think the alarmist pro-8 propaganda is mostly blatantly manipulative and unfounded, yet for those who honestly believe the prop is necessary, I don't automatically ascribe terrible motives. [...]

So all I meant, I guess, is that I hope people can realize that there are fair-minded people who don't feel compelled to be boxed by one camp or another but are doing what they believe to be right and refuse to be beholden to the exclusive agendas of one side or the other. Y'know? :-)



Let me say at the outset, I am SOOOO with you on the "just because the Prophet said so" argument (read Moroni 10:3-5). That's when we truly deserve "cult" status...

The argument about kids being guaranteed both a mother and father is completely moot. There are already families out there with one mommy no daddy, two mommies, two daddies, etc. without even being married at all. So while you may object to that morally, it has absolutely nothing to do with what Prop 8 would or would not accomplish.

On the point of tax-exempt status and temple marriage: All you have to do is point to the huge number of straight Mormon couples who don't even qualify for temple marriage and legally you're bulletproof. There are civil weddings and church weddings. Just because you're straight and the govt. gives you a marriage license it doesn't mean you can force a Baptist minister or a catholic bishop or a Mormon temple president to bless your union with their particular religious ceremony. Many people from any number of religions, on moral grounds are not granted church weddings. No one's ever lost tax exempt status on those grounds. The specific case Pro 8 cites was an issue of public land use (owned by a church but made public as a park).

We may believe that you have to marry a woman to get to heaven. We may also believe you have to have a Mormon baptism to get to heaven. Does that mean we should next pass Prop 9 legally disallowing any other definition of 'religion' other than Mormon? Sounds like “someone else's” plan. Plus, why now? When gay marriage was becoming law in Canada the church didn't bother to yawn. And somehow Canada, Canadian church members and all, has managed to dodge the apocalypse in all the years since.

People are just repeating history. When it was first proposed that women should be given the right to vote and own property, people were horrified, saying it flew in the face of God's laws. Opponents argued that if women were treated equally they would see no reason to marry, marriage would be ruined and society's very fabric would dissolve. Those women who had married, they feared, would divorce their husbands and leave their children, armed with this newly granted independence.

The fact is, since women have been granted "people" status, divorce rates have increased over time: maybe as a direct result and maybe for many other reasons. So like pretty much every other choice, there's a potential upside and a potential downside. I'd say that acknowledging women as people was probably worth it, ultimately.

In their precedent-poisoned, clinging-to-tradition minds, many people also believed that "separate but equal" was totally reasonable: blacks get to go to school and whites get to go to school. Everybody's equal, right? But when you say blacks have to stay out of your white schools, use only their own black drinking fountains, sit in their own black section of the bus regardless of whether there were no empty seats there but plenty in the white section (not to mention the discrepancies between the quality of schools, facilities, etc.) there is an implication that blacks are somehow inferior. Many people in white society were just so used to taking it for granted that blacks were inferior that they couldn’t even recognize any flaw in thinking you could completely set-aside an entire segment of God’s family. Ultimately the courts recognized that "separate is inherently not equal."

When interracial couples were finally allowed to legally wed, there were no special lessons in school about marital options. They didn't teach kids that 'one day you can grow up and marry a black man.' Just because something is legal, it doesn't automatically become part of the curriculum. Teachers teach all sorts of things already which not everyone agrees with. And if a kid is straight it's not likely he's gonna go out and marry someone of his same sex, just because his 7th grade teacher once said it's legally an option.

So maybe the biggest point I'm making: People often say "Hindsight is 20/20." But to take advantage of that vision, you still have to be willing to open your eyes and turn around.

We have so many lessons from history which answer the fears of Prop 8 advocates, the question is whether you seek truth or prefer the safety of just doing as you're told.


Ha, can I just post your comments on my blog, along with a conversation I had with [another friend]? :-)

I don't buy most of the arguments made by the pro-Prop 8 campaign, as I said, so in most of your points, you're preaching to the choir. The point that's left dangling is that IF gay marriage IS a civil right, then enemies of churches who oppose it then COULD (if they so chose) raise hell for the churches. But I have to ask: are those who are pushing the passage of Prop 8 preemptively saying, "It's them or us, its their protection or ours, so we're going to make sure it's ours"? If so, they are in a morally precarious position, if you ask me.

And I think the schools and relationships are going to forge on ahead with or without some constitutional amendment. And I agree that people are sensationalizing the aftermath of NOT stomping out gay marriages with this prop. People actually sound a bit foolish to me, but hey, the wicked see wisdom as foolishness, so the "faithful" can discount me on those grounds if they so desire.

I disagree that the effect gay marriage will have on marriage in general is a moot point. _IF_ gay marriage is morally indefensible and just another perversion of the sacred institution of marriage, then saying, "Well we've already perverted it 50 other ways, let's just add one more" is no kind of argument. But since most people who support gay marriage DON'T believe it's detrimental, that's a point they don't consider relevant, much like you stated that it's a moot point.

I got an e-mail today from a girl who apparently reads my blog who expressed a desire for me to write something about prop 8... Maybe I will, but I'm just so worn out by it all, y'know? Bleh.


yeah I know, it's exhausting. Prop 8 claims to want to protect future families, but Prop 8 is tearing apart real families today. Consider how people now think about and address their "brothers and sisters" (whether blood relatives, friends or strangers) on the other side of the issue vs. before the battle began. Anyway, yeah, you can post if you want, but maybe attribute it to 'a friend' since not everyone can be counted on like you can, not to firebomb my house if they disagree. ;)

Thanks for your listening to what I have to say, and still being friendly. ;)

Addendum (2008-11-04) - A commentor pointed out that she feels there's a difference between voting intelligently in support of the prophet because she trusts his perspective and understanding and inspiration as opposed to just doing it because someone said so. I acknowledge a distinction between just stupidly saying "he said so" and saying "I may not understand all the reasons now, but I feel the need to support the church in this and have studied it out and choose to vote with the church's recommendation even though I am not sure which way I'd vote otherwise". I've made that point, myself.

Of course, keep in mind that that's easy to say for people who are wishy washy or already support it. It's a different animal when you oppose it and feel you are being asked to defy all reason and conscience. I hate that such people are met with accusations of faithlessness and apostasy and statements that they should relinquish their temple recommend. I'm disgusted to see people pointing fingers of disdain, from either side, when they don't understand how someone can possibly either "discriminate" or "hate" by supporting the prop or "mock the prophets" and "embrace wickedness" by opposing it.

Prop 8 - Chats On Faithfulness And Apostasy

16 Sept

2:07 PM Friend: What's your major beef about Prop 8? After all, it only adds a clause to the state's constitution that says only marriage between a man and a woman is valid- it can't be applied retroactively, and it does not take away the existing rights of same-sex partnerships. (This is me playing Devil's- er, Angel's?- advocate)

2:08 PM me: Why legislate it?
That's my beef. :-)

Friend: Good question.
2:09 PM I got into a heated debate with a conservative friend last night, gay marriage was one of the hot topics, of course.
2:10 PM It seems, in his mind, we shouldn't allow legislation to be so accepting of what conflicts with, as he claims, the "truth" - it's a shaky foundation for an argument though, IMO

2:17 PM me: Very

2:20 PM Friend: But the way I see it, it's unfair to impose our religious convictions on people who don't know or share those same views- we have to find a common solution that doesn't discriminate or take away others' ability to choose for themselves... Why should this be viewed as apostate or heretical though? I'm a bit chagrined at those implications.

2:44 PM me: Because the First Presidency specifically sent a letter to be read in California during sacrament meeting urging members to commit their time and means to passing the proposition.
2:45 PM Defying that "invitation" is going against the brethren. This was NOT a case of "this is the church's position on gay marriage, and we urge you to vote your conscience and make your voice heard." It was "we urge you to act in this particular way."
2:46 PM And whichever way the vote goes, you can bet this will become national, and we will all be asked to do the same.

2:50 PM Friend: It should come as no surprise... haven't we been forewarned that as members of the church, we'd be asked to do hard things?

2:51 PM me: But wrong things?
2:52 PM And whether or not it's "right" or "wrong" to support the proposition, where's the free agency in forcing a block vote?
I don't like it. It seems wrong to me.
2:53 PM (demanding the membership vote a certain way)
2:54 PM I wouldn't even mind as much if the letter had said, "The church has joined a coalition, and we invite those members who wish to support the coalition to do so..." then outlining the means by which they can, followed by a statement reaffirming the free agency and right of political conscience to each member. Apparently, this is a grave enough issue that they purposefully did not do so.

Friend: "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.... Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow.... Let's keep our eye on the President of the Church." - [in Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153)

2:55 PM me: Asking PERSONAL action against your political or social views is one thing. Turning and forcing that on the nation is quite another.

30 Sept

3:10 PM Friend: What's so offensive about [a church spokeswoman's] statements?

3:17 PM me: I don't know if they're offensive. Just marginalizing.
Something like "yeah, well, we know some people will disagree, but the majority understand and support it whole-heartedly, and if those who disagree are too vocal, their local leaders will handle them with disciplinary action.
3:18 PM Nice.
That is, assuming the AP quoted remotely correctly.
Which is, I admit, a stretch.
3:19 PM That's why I've looked for anything official from the church besides their "Divine Institution of Marriage" release, but no luck yet.

3:22 PM Friend: Yeah, I wouldn't trust AP blindly... and even IF that's a direct quote, it doesn't necessarily reflect the opinion of church leaders, does it? I mean, the woman may speak on behalf of the church, but even her commentary is liable to misrepresent or be mistaken.
3:23 PM What about this statement that was read last Sunday in sacrament:
"...in this election year, we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government. The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues."

3:24 PM me: Means nothing in regards to Prop 8.
In fact, that last line is a very clear insistence that church involvement is official. I don't remember seeing such a statement in similar past letters on election years.

3:25 PM Friend: No, look- how can the leaders encourage members to use their own discretion when voting, yet make any statement that seems to penalize them for following said counsel?
3:26 PM That last line caught me by surprise too, I'll admit. But the way I see it, the church is affirming its own right to express opinions on issues- members should by no means be forced to vote one way or the other...
3:30 PM The more I study this, the less I understand why this issue has become so divisive. This amendment in no way removes the civil rights of same-sex partnerships. It merely prevents these couples from using a name that's traditionally reserved for unions between men and women.
3:36 PM This may also be worth noting: http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/political-neutrality

3:37 PM Are the gays trying to wrest the term from heteros who "own" it?
Or are heteros trying to block gays from an inalienable right to have the same labels applied to them as other people?
Is it really a matter of civil rights?
Is it really a morality issue?
3:38 PM Is it church and state separation?
What are the legal grounds for monopolizing the word "marriage"?

3:43 PM me: Additionally, they URGED members in California to SUPPORT the prop, not to "vote their conscience".

3:44 PM Friend: I admit, I'm a bit chagrined by the fact that they couldn't merely ask members to vote their conscience.


3:46 PM Friend: You could also, quite easily, argue that the adversary is placing fear in the hearts of many members, which compels them to URGE instead of trust...
or to vote blindly
3:47 PM I take it this issue strikes deeper than mere semantics or separation of church and state with you... ?

3:54 PM me: Oh, definitely. I can't dismiss it that easily.

3:57 PM Friend: [...] you do pose some thought-provoking questions... as usual.
As much as I respect your views, I'm really more concerned with the current economic crises than with Prop 8.

4:15 PM me: It's not political for me, it's religious and the implications within church membership and the marginalization of church members who don't see it the way the majority do. It's a toxic environment. This is far more than some political tiff. Then again, maybe it will be healing and lead to growth in the long-run. Or maybe it will cleanse the church to some extent. Who knows? But I don't like it and am trying to deal with it. I keep trying to let go, but it keeps getting thrown back in my face, so I deal with it as I have the energy to do so.

4:28 PM Friend: It could very well be one of many events that are, in effect "sifting the wheat and tares" - not only among people, but among ideals within each of us. My greatest fear is the very real possibility that issues such as this will lead to a greater danger- that is, forsaking the testimonies you do have because you're allowing the resentment you may feel take greater priority- in effect, selling your birthright for a mess of pottage.

4:38 PM me: It's not that simple to me, but I'm not interested in going into that here.
4:41 PM Some things can be shrugged off, others cannot. Those are different for each of us, I guess, and reasonably so. We each have to grow in different ways at different times. And we each may adhere more strictly to different truths at different times. I'm not interested in defending which truths I hold most steady and immovable or what "faith" entails or the merit of "blind steps" in specific application.

4:48 PM Friend: I don't mean to put you on the defensive.

4:55 PM me: Incidentally, the link you included is regarding party platforms/politics, not specific political issues.

4:57 PM Friend: There were two bullets within that link that I thought were pertinent, though:
Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
AND... "Reserves the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church."
5 minutes

5:02 PM me: AND insist the membership join that battle AND not vocally disagree.

5:03 PM Friend: What?! Where did it say that?

me: It doesn't have to Friend, it's WHAT'S HAPPENING.
5:04 PM That's the point. Official statements only go so far.

5:07 PM Friend: I think, by urging members to support Prop 8, they are reserving the right to address issues that they believe directly affects the interests of the church- that is their intention, anyway. I think it's easy to get on the defensive and take this "urging" and assume that leaders are telling us what to do. Our free agency is a vital part of the plan- taking that away is in direct opposition to that... isn't it? Or am I confusing the issue even further?

5:15 PM me: Most of the stories about excommunications are from people who have long histories of strife with the church. They're not about this issue, though they've culminated because of it.
And I think open defiance of the prop in defense of personal freedom MAY be different in their eyes from open defiance because of support for gay marriage as a principle.
5:17 PM But that's not being made clear at all, and meanwhile, those of us who are more on the personal freedom side of the debate are left in the uncomfortable position of wondering what our open defiance over a matter of semantics might mean for our standing in the church.
5:18 PM But apparently, winning the political war is more important than clarifying that point.
Or it will just take time. But meanwhile...y'know.