Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Why My Facebook Profile Picture is a Red Equal Sign, in 3000 words
And I thought I'd take a moment to explain my reasons why.
I recognize that gay marriage is an extremely complicated, personal and sensitive topic, so I've done my best to keep that in mind as I wrote this. THIS IS NOT A DISCUSSION OF WHETHER OR NOT HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY IS RIGHT. This is a discussion on whether or not homosexual couples have the right to be civilly married.
It’s been a long journey for me, and I actually suspect it’s far from over. Remember how I lived in the Bay Area during Prop 8 and how it was really stressful and emotionally taxing? Back then, I did a lot of research and came to some conclusions and blogged about it here.
But my views and thoughts have evolved and changed since then. I still want to be obedient to the Lord’s counsel, and I have a testimony that the prophet leads this Church by revelation. But I also think there’s room for human error in Church leadership. I’m not outright saying, “The prophet was wrong and not led by God.” And I am striving to be a good Latter-day Saint. I know Mormons have historically been anti-gay marriage. But I’ve done lots more research, had a few more personal experiences, and been exposed to many more arguments. And here’s how my views have changed. I’ll list some common arguments against gay marriage, and give my responses to them.
Being gay is unnatural
MY RESPONSE: Homosexual behavior has continued to be common, if a minority, among human beings for centuries, throughout various cultures and social norms. So if human beings have been doing it for centuries, it could technically be seen as “normal” if not as common.
Related to this argument is the idea that it doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom. Which is totally false. Homosexual behavior has been observed in over 1500 species (Bruce Bagemihl, Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, 1999). Birds, especially penguins (who mate for life), have been known to form homosexual partnerships. Roughly 60% of all sexual activity of bonobo apes is between females. Still uncertain? Still think homosexual activity is unique to humans? Want the uncomfortable details? Dolphins have been observed penetrating one another’s blowholes with their penises and each other’s vaginas with their noses, occasionally during sex “orgies” between multiple dolphins. American Bison have anal sex. Giraffes mount and climax with other giraffes of the same gender way more often than with the opposite gender. All of this behavior is present whether animals of the opposite gender are available or not.
I guess if you wanted to be cruel, you could say, “See? It’s so depraved, even animals do it.” But animals also have heterosexual sex too, so your argument kind of falls apart there.
Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay
MY RESPONSE: I’m actually never quite sure how to respond to this. It seems to be based on two assumptions: guilt by association, and that being gay is bad. I reject both of those things. Maybe what people mean is that accepting gay marriage is a signal that being gay is acceptable, to the ultimate harm of society? I disagree that being gay harms society—gay people are no more likely to steal, murder, rape, or otherwise disturb the peace than straight people. They are just as diverse a group as straight people. If you’re worried that your son or daughter will see a gay couple and assume that it’s okay, which you don’t want them to think, then number one, I suggest you examine your own prejudices, and number two, you have the power as a parent to teach your kids whatever you want. Don’t let society teach your kids for you…take things into your own hands.
Legalizing gay marriage will lead to legal polygamy, incest, and people marrying objects/pets
MY RESPONSE: Regarding the objects/pets thing, objects and pets can’t sign marriage licenses. So I don’t think that will be a problem. Furthermore, there’s an implied comparison here that I dislike…homosexuality : bestiality? Not okay. Regarding incest, there’s clear biological evidence that marrying your brother or sister wreaks havoc on the gene pool. The science that supports a brother-sister marriage ban is much more strong than any regarding a same-sex marriage ban. Regarding polygamy…I don’t really know what to say. I suppose it’s possible that legalizing gay marriage will lead down a slippery slope to polygamy, but there’s actually a fallacy called the “slippery slope” fallacy, so I’m not so keen to accept the idea of a slippery slope at all. I don’t have a straight answer (forgive the pun) regarding polygamy, but I do think that there is a big difference between two people in a loving relationship and three or four or five people in a loving relationship. Everything I know about psychology and sociology and relationships tells me that there are too many differences to realistically put polygamy and gay marriage into the same category, and that’s what it seems this argument is trying to do.
Straight marriage is traditional
MY RESPONSE: And thank goodness it’s remained unchanged, right?! Women are still property, interracial marriages are still illegal, and so is divorce.
If marriage has CHANGED enormously over the years, then there really is no “traditional” marriage to speak of. And if it’s been unfair and discriminatory in the past, we probably should move away from it.
There’s also the un-ignorable fact that straight people haven’t exactly been holding marriage sacred themselves…divorce rates are high and co-habitation is common. It seems unfair to call for traditional marriage without also calling for stricter divorce laws or laws prohibiting co-habitation.
Gay marriage threatens the sanctity of marriage…straight marriages will be less meaningful if it’s shared with gay people
MY RESPONSE: The existence of Ellen and Portia di Rossi has no effect on what I feel with my own husband. I’m going to call people out on this one a little bit, but I think this argument actually stems from a complete misunderstanding of the LGBT community. If you think your straight marriage’s sanctity is threatened, ask yourself why? I suspect that sometimes the ultimate reason why is “Well, if they can get married, then what does marriage even mean?” Think about that thought for a while, and ask yourself if it’s fair. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to say it to someone’s face. You may find that you think of homosexuals as perverts, as pedophiles, as promiscuous radicals who have sex with strangers in public parks. While there ARE homosexual people who fit in those categories, there are also plenty of STRAIGHT people who do too. Sexual orientation isn’t related to criminal or promiscuous behavior. There are many same-sex couples who live in committed monogamous relationships that are just like straight people’s. Except they can’t visit one another in the hospital, file taxes jointly, or receive employment benefits.
Also, think about Britney Spears and Jason Alexander’s Vegas 55-hour marriage, Liz Taylor’s eight husbands, and the Hollywood norm of multiple marriages, and take that into account, if you’re measuring your own marriage’s meaning by how other people treat marriage. Like I said, straight people have already been threatening the sanctity of marriage on their own.
This argument seems to be clinging to the past, without realizing how far away we’ve already come from it.
Gay marriages are not valid because they don’t produce children
MY RESPONSE: I’ve heard arguments about overpopulation, but I don’t think those are quite as valid because I believe in the Plan of Salvation. However, I will say this. Old people and infertile couples don’t produce children either. And THEY still get to be married. And although there is an evolutionary imperative towards heterosexuality—it perpetuates genes—there are plenty of examples throughout the animal kingdom—and especially among humans—to point to the fact that sexuality isn’t always used to perpetuate genes.
Gay marriage is not supported by religion, and threatens to undermine the religious principles America was founded on
MY RESPONSE: If we lived in a theocracy, this would be valid. But we don’t. The people giving out marriage licenses are civil leaders, not religious ones. We live in a democracy with freedom of religion (or even freedom FROM religion, if you choose), and it’s unfair to force religion-specific doctrine in the civil sector. For many years, people cited religious reasons for denying women the right to vote, for denying blacks personhood. While I do think that freedom of religion should be protected, where it clashes with civil rights, civil rights should be upheld simply because they are more universal. (This is a complex and totally sticky subject, and I’m still figuring a lot of it out. Cut me a little slack while I do that…these are just my feelings now.) I also worry that we sometimes “myth-ify” our founding fathers…I do believe that part of the reason America was established was so that the Gospel can be restored. But sometimes we as a Mormon culture put them on pedestals next to the prophets, and take all of their words as revelation, when in fact, they were just men. Often inspired, but just men—flawed, imperfect, and if you believe they were all very religious, then hypocritical men. (Remember how the evidence is strong that Thomas Jefferson had several children with one of his slaves?)
Gay people already have civil unions
MY RESPONSE: The problem is that civil unions don’t grant all the same rights. Also, only a handful of states provide or recognize civil unions, and they aren’t recognized by the federal government at all. For example, on your federal taxes, you get a tax break if you get married. But you don’t get a tax break if you got “civilly unioned.” If you have a civil union in Hawai’i, and you get in an accident on vacation in Montana, you could be denied hospital visitation, because your union isn’t recognized in that state. So, until civil unions grant all the same rights and privileges as marriages, they will be unfair. And if they grant all the same rights and privileges as a marriage, legally speaking, you could just call it a marriage.
It will be more difficult, both emotionally and practically, for married gay couples to accept the Gospel and be baptized
MY RESPONSE: So far, this is the only argument I’ve heard that holds much water for me. I love the Gospel with my whole soul, and I want everyone on earth to have the opportunity to hear and become a part of it. It would be so much more difficult to join the Church if you’re married to a same-sex partner. If you’re just living with a same-sex partner, it’s STILL difficult—to sacrifice that committed relationship. But if a divorce had to take place, it would be even more taxing.
But I still feel uneasy about denying the right to marry to thousands of couples based on the possibility that a handful of them will one day join the Church.
You should just be obedient to the prophet, if you truly believe he’s a prophet, and trust him when it comes to gay marriage.
MY RESPONSE: This is a tough one. This was a huge part of my experience with Prop 8 back in 2008—I voted the way I did because ultimately, I wanted to show my faith in the prophet. But just as I did then, I again take Hugh B. Brown’s advice to "exercise your God-given right to think through on every proposition that is submitted to you and be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk, and proper acknowledgment of your shortcomings." I still don’t know how exactly all of this fits together. I still don’t have all the answers. Right now, in my heart of hearts and in my head of heads, I cannot bring myself to deny same-sex couples the same rights I have, or to support those denials.
I also know that the leaders of the Church are also imperfect men and women. Back in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the Church was very open about being very anti-communist. And while it’s hard to find documentation, it seems that some Church leaders were overly zealous in fighting communism in their wards, getting all “McCarthyistic.” And there were Church members back then who refused to join in on the witch hunts because of their own consciences. Maybe this is something similar…the doctrine is one thing, but the opinions of men and women are another.
And the Church has come a long way since 2008—just in these 5 years, a lot has changed within the Church in its attitude towards the gay/lesbian community. Policies are clearer regarding what warrants Church discipline, and the Church recently launched a new website, focusing on Mormons and homosexuality.
Again, I still don’t have all the answers. But I trust that I will someday. I’ll just keep learning and loving and praying and studying. And maybe someday it will all make sense.
The Family Proclamation to the World teaches that family is the fundamental unit of society and that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. Gay marriage just doesn’t fit in with that.
MY RESPONSE: I know. And I believe that. And I understand that Heavenly Father has asked us not to act upon homosexual feelings, even though I don’t yet know why. But I also believe that my job is to love people for who they are, without conditions. And I do believe that the family is the fundamental unit of society. I do believe it’s good for children to be raised in a home with a role model of both genders present. But I also don’t think it’s fair to deny gay people family units because of who they are. With gay marriage legalized, I think there will be MORE “family units” in the world, even if they look different from the typical “nuclear family.” But the typical “nuclear family” is becoming uncommon anyway.
This one is a tough one to respond to, and I’m not at a point when I know my feelings well enough to articulate them clearly.
Maybe one of my main thoughts is that if homosexual activity is a sin, it seems to be a sin of love…not of hate. It doesn’t destroy lives the way that drug use or pornography or theft does. And, not everyone believes it is a sin. I don’t know if I can bring myself to support outlawing something that’s not universally accepted as wrong. I saw once a sign that said, “Don’t support gay marriage? Then don’t get gay married.” Part of me appreciates the “Live and let live” attitude of this statement.
I dunno…I believe in the principles of the Gospel and the family proclamation. But I recognize that not everyone does. And it’s only fair to let them live according to their own beliefs.
Gay marriage infringes on other people’s religious freedom
MY RESPONSE: I don’t really see how this is true. If gay marriage is legal, you can still go to church. You can still pray. You can still live your life according to the dictates of your own conscience. Unless you’re talking about the possibility that:
If gay marriage is legal, then churches can be sued for refusing to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples
MY RESPONSE: Here it is. Here’s where I reveal The Ultimate Solution.
Currently, the separation of Church and State is a fundamental part of the United States. But that separation blurs when it comes to marriage. You go down to City Hall to get your marriage license, but you can have it signed by the guy at your church, and then it’s recognized civilly. I think we should separate church and state more fully. Here’s my vision: You can go to your church and have any kind of sealing ordinance or commitment ceremony you would like to. But it’s not civilly a marriage unless you go down to City Hall and fill out a marriage license THERE. Religious institutions can deny people ordinances or ceremonies according to their own consciences, but they’re not denying someone a civil right. City Hall can’t deny couples marriage licenses based on their consciences because they’re civil institutions and don’t have a right to make subjective decisions without due process. Latter-day Saint temples currently do this in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. And I think it would solve a lot of problems if we did the same here in the United States.
I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have all of the answers yet…I can’t see the whole tapestry. But I do know that I want Nathan and Beckah and David and Rachel and Kevin and Curtis and any other gay friends and family members I have to enjoy the same economic and civil rights and protections I have. And maybe this is the wrong choice and maybe I’m totally wrong and maybe God is displeased with me for it. But the God that I believe in is a loving God and a merciful God. I have thought and prayed for a long time about this, and I feel in my heart that civil gay marriage should be legal. You may disagree with me. You may say that God can’t possibly smile on my decision. But I think He knows that I’m making this decision as best I can, with what knowledge I have. And to clarify, I currently don’t think there should be gay temple sealings. I think those are ordinances that require obedience to principles of abstention from homosexual activity. But we’re talking about civil marriages here. And until civil marriage ceases to give civil and economic benefits, it’s only fair that loving, committed couples of any gender have access to those rights and privileges.
NOTE: I'm leaving the comments on this entry open for now, because I'm a fan of respectful discussion and debate. But please note that hateful speech WILL NOT be tolerated. If inflammatory language, personal attacks, or otherwise unkind words are used in the comments, I will disable comments for this entry. And I will be really sad about doing so.