Friday, November 21, 2008

Politics and Religion

Oh man. Politics and Religion. The two things you should never ever talk about with people you hardly know. And yet here I am, ready to spill some thoughts on both together. Right now I barely have any contact with US News at just about anything less than the presidential election level. So unless I go looking for it (I don't), I end up hearing most of what's going on in America from friends' blogs, Facebook statuses, Google Reader Shared Items, and the like. And so it is with some trepidation and not a little ignorance that I take an outsider's perspective on the recent events surrounding Proposition 8 in California, and the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the passing of that proposition during this last electoral cycle. In case you don't know me that well, I pertain to that Church.

First a logical exercise:
- The Proposition passed because a majority of California voters passed for it
- Mormons in California do not make up a majority. Or even 5% of the population
- Therefore "The Mormons" didn't make up the deciding vote to make this resolution pass. It was passed by the electorate.

So there's that. However I do gather that the Church was part of a coalition of churches whose public relations campaign may have changed the minds of many other voters. This has, again I gather, caused considerable ire on the part of those who would have preferred that the Proposition go the other way. I have heard tales of people spitting on old ladies on their way to worship, mailing white powder to temples, and have heard about protest signs with slogans like "Help! There's a Mormon in my bedroom!". Of course this kind of negative attention is hurtful, and of course those providing the attention feel that they have been hurt by the Church's stance on the matter. Many had hoped to have their relationships recognized legally as marriages, and those hopes have been at a minimum postponed indefinitely, and at maximum dashed entirely. The way a particular sign makes me cringe simply does not compare. Much has already been said about who is being 'tolerable' and who is not, with accusations flying from both sides, and I see no need to rehash that here (nor will I 'tolerate' it in the comments, should there be any). Like it or not, both sides of the discussion are 'persecuted minorities', the one being denied rights and the other being a scapegoat for the electorate and a 'legal' target for any amount of mockery.

In fact, the whole business is a little surreal, as far from it as I am. The weekend before Election Day, I was at the wedding of a friend, where after the ceremony was finished I spent most of the evening catching up with and having ponderous conversations with a woman who I consider a dear friend, and who happens to be gay. The same weekend I made the acquaintance of a man who I knew immediately that I valued both for his calming Quaker ways and for his quick wit. He happens to be gay, which I suspected but was never mentioned, but he knew almost from the start about my religious convictions. I wonder what subtext there may have been in our interaction that weekend that I was entirely oblivious to. None, I hope. Anyway, that's by way of saying that on my last visit to America, far more time was spent in conversation with gay friends than was spent at church. So part of the internal discussion I've been having as I hear bits and pieces related to this Proposition and its effects has to do with them, and I must admit the possibility that our friendship may be affected, though I hope not.

I do not represent the Church and do not speak for it except as an individual. But from what I percieve, the Church's stance on the issue has nothing at all to do with trying to ruin people's lives or even tell them how to live them. The Church's position has nothing to do with trying to establish laws that govern people's sexual lives, as I see it. It has everything to do with self-preservation, by which I mean that it looks to me as though the Church's concern is that if the State's definition of marriage includes homosexual relationships, there will be a legal precedent for forcing the Church to perform or recognize these marriages, which would be counter to its principles. The doctrine of the Church holds that "the man is not without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord", and the freedom to act according to this belief (for example, by refusing to perform marriages in the Church or in the Temple for homosexual couples) would be threatened if the State were to recognize and then require religions to recognize an expanded definition of marriage. As I say, I haven't been reading news reports about this, so I don't know how well-covered or how neglected this idea is. I don't even really have any idea as to its truth. But putting myself in the position of the Church, there aren't many reasons to get heavily involved in a potentially unpopular political campaign unless you have something to gain or something to defend from it. I can see nothing at all that the Church stands to gain from its vocalness on the subject. Therefore, in my incomplete logic, it must be defending something. While "the institution of marriage" or "the definition of marriage" are fine things, what the Church has to defend in the matter are its own rights to practice religion as it sees fit. Whether or not you agree that such a thing needs defending in such a manner, my analysis is that is what those who govern Church policy think is at stake.

In many ways I'm glad to be far from the issue. It is a complicated issue, one I can see both sides of and feel empathy for both. I do believe I will stay here while I see how it all plays out. Comment if you will (in fact, please do), but respect those whose convictions do not match your own.

22 comments:

Josh said...

Being less far away than you luckily are, I certainly have dealt with it on a daily basis.

I've had coworkers ask about it, and I've had many long, arduous, passionate discussions about it with friends and family.

Regardless of one's opinion, what I do know is that I am now thrust into a position I never asked for, and that is one where I am being asked to account for the actions of my Church.

That makes me sad. I don't like being in that position, and I don't like wondering if those around me now are forming opinions about me based on the stances of the Church.

I'm not worried about those close to me. I'm not worried about you, or my close friends, or my family. I'm worried about those people who know of my affiliation but have little interaction with me.

I can't blame them if they look upon me and think that I'm a bigot. They have every reason to believe from past interaction with Church members that Mormons tend to follow their faith more closely.

And that is unfortunate. Because I, as a normal member of the Church, did not ask for any of this. And whether I agree with the Church or not, I have to deal with that uncomfortable position.

I won't lie. I have laid awake at night over this issue and seriously considered whether I could live with my tithing going to such endeavors (either directly or indirectly).

I've skipped a Sunday of Church because I needed some time to think about things. It was only one Sunday, but the Sunday immediately after had those who were still talking about it; in less than mature ways.

The whole thing just makes me sad for not only those people who *thought* they were married, but for me who has to question my whole belief structure.

Trying times indeed.

Rob said...

I'm deeply confused by your assertion:

"...the freedom to act according to this belief [the doctrine of the Church] (for example, by refusing to perform marriages in the Church or in the Temple for homosexual couples) would be threatened if the State were to recognize and then require religions to recognize an expanded definition of marriage."

Where did you get the idea that religious organizations would be required to recognize an expanded definition of marriage? I believe that would certainly be a violation of the First Amendment.

The passing of Prop 8 added the following text to the State constitution: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." I fail to see how the Church would have been forced to recognize an expanded definition of marriage had that text not been added.

One may try to argue that the California Supreme Court decision that gave gays the right to marry may have been written in such a manner as to threaten the freedom of religious organizations in the way you describe. However, if you read the decision, you will see that it states the following... "[U]nder this state's Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual's liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process." Emphasis mine. The court decision was narrow, in that it said specifically that the legislature could not deny that right. It did not say that religious organizations couldn't deny that right, as that would clearly be in violation of the US constitution.

This is the first time I have heard that argument raised in support of Prop 8. I do not find it to be a credible one, and I wonder if that is why I have never heard it before. I genuinely would like to hear your rebuttal to my argument. I believe the free practice of religion to be one of the cornerstones of this country, and would be very wary of anything that had the potential to impinge on that right.

So much for going to bed early tonight...

Rob said...

A quick analogy, using another controversial issue.

The constitution (as it's been interpreted) gives women the right to have an abortion. Roe v. Wade did not make it so doctors are required to perform them. In fact, some women have to travel out of state to find an abortion doctor.

And a doctor has no special protection in the constitution, as a religious organization does.

OK, now I really have to go to bed.

dave said...

@ Josh: I feel your sentiments keenly.

@ Rob: I will have to spend a little more time replying to this one; and don't have time to write that now. The short version is: you're probably right, but I think your analogy is flawed and I don't think the Church's leaders are willing to risk that you may be wrong. So I'm sticking by my analysis, for now.

Josh said...

I don't know if it's a better analog, but another is this:

In most churches, women aren't allowed to hold religious positions.

In the LDS church, no priesthood. In the Catholic Church, they can't be priests.

Women have had equality for many many years now, and as far as I know, no one has moved to force any Church to extend these positions to them.

I'm with Rob in that I don't personally believe it would infringe on the Church's right to marry whom it will; and I would be against in measure to do so.

The Church *already* picks and chooses who it will marry. You have to be temple worthy and you have to go through a marriage interview.

As members we already accept that there are thresholds that have to be met in order to be married in the temple.

I think a lot of this issue is mincing words. There are two types of marriage in this country:

1) A religious marriage, ordained by God
2) A legal marriage, ordained by the state

They are not the same. I happen to have obtained both of those at the same time, but there is no requirement that one has to accompany the other.

I also had to meet different requirements for each. One was a set of spiritual requirements, while another was a set of secular requirements.

I feel quite certain that God doesn't put a lot of stock in the (admittedly) over-sized piece of paper signed by a Court Clerk in Waller Count, Texas.

And I doubt that a court of law would care much how eternal I think my marriage is in the eyes of God.

They are two different things. I would rather see 'legal' marriage abolished than to see it restricted in this way.

Gabe said...

Dave-
I have to agree with Josh & Rob on this one (I'm sure it will shock you that my Jewish ways would come to this argument...um, maybe not). The notion that a church (any one) would have ti recognize the actions of a state is not valid, and there are many current and historical examples. However, the very notion highlights the point in the gay marriage debate.

The point being...this is a symantical argument. At the end of the day, under US law the States nor the Federal Government can mandate how a church operates, nor be mandated (directly at least in theory) to operate based on any specific church. What the State (here I am using the term generally to mean governing body rather than State v. Federal) has to concern itself with it is welfare of the citizens. What the gay 'marriage' debate highlights are rights to access to health and welfare rights (visitation, health insurance, etc) that are denied based on sexual preference. Personally, I dont care if it is called 'civil union' or 'waffle house' (yes, I am still random as hell) but to have the State denying these rights based on such a discrete factor as sexuality is an obvious violation of the 14th Amendment (speaking of which, if you need a good analogy to understand the BASICS of 14th A., think of Ralph Wiggum, sometimes someone (the State) just has to jump in and give him some help, because he is still a member of the community and needs it)(sorry for the tangent, Im still on coffee #1).

That being said, what a church or religious community chooses to recognize is purely their own business. The notion of a universal when it comes to human interactions in the eyes of G-d (or W-ffle, if you have a prediliction to not considering the word g-o-d) is beyond the pale. If there were no questions and there were aboslutes, we woudnt have to chose to lead moral lives, we wouldnt have to teach children the benefits of morality. And we certainly wouldnt have to think about it at all. (Full disclsoure: it is obvious that I accept the notion of free-will, I have reconciled this with the notion of omnipotence in my own head, but will save that for a separate discussion).

As a side note, often the argument is made that gay relationships, if recognized as "marriage" somehow lessen the experience of traditional man-woman marriages. I couldnt agree less, and would love to denote my ridicule of the thought without being insensative (but cannot). What cheapens the institute of marriage is ANYONE who doesnt respect it, not the gender make-up of the individuals that are a part of it. I believe that strong relationships inform others who observe them no matter the orientation. Blessings are blessings, and so long as people are treating each other well, and lovingly, and being good people in the eyes of anyone (mortal or diety) the notion of the sexual preference shouldnt matter one iota.

It has been pointed out to me recently when discussing this, and I unfortunately agree more than my optimist self would like to, that the collective 'we' are in search of a group to hate. It is no longer acceptable to hate blacks, or irish, or jews. Catholics are no longer derrided in society. Right now the tides of ire are crashing on the gays and 'immigrants' (and who are we kidding we all know that means anywhere south of the Rio Grande). It is a sad state of affairs if you ask me. But back to the point, if it is the sanctity of marriage one is concerned with, then be damn sure to sanctify it...but do so in a way that makes moral sense (insert tirade about people who hate each other but 'stay together for the kids, here, reserved for another random tirade).

/rant

-snowman (no, no one calls me that, but I thought after the above a brief glimmer of humor woudl go over well)

Jeff Wills said...

I should start out by mentioning that I'm the friend whose wedding Dave flew across the Atlantic to attend. He's my friend, as are the two guests of the wedding he mentions. We don't agree on everything. He's still one of my dearest friends. I'd jump in front of things moving at life-threatening velocities for him. Also: I'm a Unitarian Universalist. So there are my pertinent influences.

Dave, thanks for writing this. We can only guess at what exactly motivated it, but I'm grateful to have you address it. Your ability and willingness to reason through a question has always been one of your best qualities. I doubt anyone could accuse you of being in anyway narrow- or closed-minded, and if they did, I'd have to jump in front of that accusation, too.

Coming from a religion that also places a lot of importance on its American origins, I can relate to the philosophical difficulties of being an individual who doesn't feel respresented by the society at large. Do I relinquish my status as a UU, or an American, because the larger group does something I disagree with? Thus far, no. I'm not much of a rebel, really. (Although, just you try "rebeling" against UUism -- pretty difficult to do.) And frankly, both statuses are based in faith for me. I believe in the concepts of Unitarian Universalism. I believe in America.

Change can be difficult in any context; in a national (and international) one, the consequences are especially myriad and far-reaching. Drop all morality, ethics, religion and opinion out of it, and that remains true. And the change is constant. How do we make the right choices? How much choice do we ultimately have? The best we can do is only ever going to be the best we can do, both as individuals and as citizens in a democracy. I see all parties in this particular change as people essentially defending themselves. I'd like to see more outreach and discussion, but I understand why we all feel a need for defense.

To sum up: I'd like everyone to be able to make the choices they'd like to make, so long as those choices don't harm anyone else. (I speak here of love and marriage, but not sexuality, as a choices.) Personally, I feel that anyone who is going to spread love and nurture community ought not to be prohibited from doing so. Personally, I think gay marriage would be good for our communities and our nation at large. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion. Responsibility for Proposition 8 lies with all of us though--even those vehemently opposed to it--as citizens. When changes come that we don't like, we must work for another change; when we do like them, we must do what we can to uphold them.

What we must not do, is hate. Anyone. Maybe that's easier said, but that just means it's that much more worthwhile work.

Karen said...

Going to have to agree with all the comments here (Gabe? Gabe from Robinson? How you doing buddy?).

So if the Church’s stake in this issue isn’t defending its right not to perform gay marriages what is it doing?

Personally I think it is trying to impose its belief system on the community at large. But at the end of the day I feel that much of organized religion is trying to do just that.

And what is wrong with that? By having these discussions aren’t we all trying to impose our personal belief systems on each other? My problem is that one of the cornerstones this country was built upon is freedom of religion. When a religious group starts to use its sway in the community to campaign for specific issues it looks a lot like a political party to me.

While I don’t think that all Mormons or Catholics or Jews hold the same exact beliefs, it does stand to reason that large groups of people who accept the same tenets of faith also agree on many issues governed by secular law. So we have groups of people who band together and work in a lawful way to change the law of the land.

But it isn’t lawful because of the separation of church and state.

While I do not partake in organized religion I’m grateful that I have the option. In our society almost every option has strings attached. I’m comfortable with this set of strings: Religion stays out of state affairs. And vise versa.

The example of women in religious life vs. secular life used above is a great one that speaks to this. I’m glad that the Catholic Church or Islam or the Church of Latter day Saints isn’t legislating the role I can play in society. But if members of those organizations want to go to the polls and vote to restrict what I as a woman can do I’ll respect it. I won’t agree with it, I will fight it, but I will respect it. I just ask that those people step away from their religious organizations to do it. And if they all want to form a separate political union to fight for their cause more power to them. They just need to keep it out of the sphere of religion.

Maybe stepping out from under the umbrella of religious beliefs to fight for those beliefs seems like splitting hairs, but it is the only way I see to keep our freedom to believe whatever we want intact.

I believe that the Mormon Church should face sanctions in California for interfering in the matters of the state.

Shells said...

Interesting discussions from all. There is obviously something larger at play in the State of California than the Mormon Church. How can 5% of a population, of which I am sure a much smaller proportion was politically active, get the majority of a State like California to vote in a direction that they didn't believe in? The short answer is that they didn't, they probably got more conservative people out to vote than would normally go. I won't voice my opinions for or against the Proposition, but do think that there should be less ire at one particular organization and more analysis on the thought processes of all the voters that led to the outcome. Even if the entire Mormon Population voted against the proposition, which I am sure a fair number didn't, they couldn't have swayed the vote. A large portion of California got up, got dressed, went to the polls, and voted a certain way. A smaller portion voted a different way. There are probably a thousand different reasons that people voted the ways they did. So the take home for me, is why did people vote the way they did? In many ways we are still a very "conservative" country.

Josh said...

It's a little more than just 'oh the church is only 5% of the population; their influence didn't matter.'

They did spend *millions* trying to convince people to go out and vote. That's worth something. For better or worse, many a law is passed in this country because of the lobbying of the few.

You can't marginalize the LDS Church's role in the proposition because of its relatively low population.

That being said, certainly many a person voted for prop 8 who had no ties to the Church and had not been encouraged by them.

Ironically, part of the reason for this may well have been Barack Obama. He got people out to the polls in record numbers; especially from segments of the population that don't normally vote.

Those segments may well be mostly made up of socially conservative people, who are deeply religious.

It is fair to say that the LDS Church is not the only entity responsible in this situation. There were indeed other factors at play.

For me personally, though, it doesn't really matter because at the end of the day the LDS Church is an organization that matters to me.

And their choices affect me. And I have to deal with the problems I face when I disagree with its agenda.

They probably don't deserve quite as much ire as they are getting from the population at large; but I do believe they owe more to their members.

The actions of the LDS Church affect more than just those members living in California -- they affect every member. And I don't really feel like that has been acknowledged as fully as I would like.

Josh said...

Just some numbers:

52.1% Voted Yes (6,434,312 people)
47.9% Voted No (5,920,859 people)

That's only a difference of 513,453 people.

Is it not conceivable that millions of dollars spent encouraging people to vote over the entire state of California could have made that difference?

If the vote had been 80% to 20%, that would be one thing. But this was a close vote that could have statistically been swayed by the lobbying of the Coalition of Churches of which the LDS Church was part.

Stephanie said...

I do no fully understand the role of the church in Proposition 8, as I do not live in CA and have not personally seen the ads or protests on a personal level, but as a member of the church I have researched it a bit.

In my research I have found that many members of the church donated millions to promote support for Propostion 8, but the only news ad I read that said that the actual church donated money in support of Proposition 8 was to say the "church donated $2708.97 in their first financial contribution to a Nov. 4 ballot proposition", and it was spent "to cover travel expenses for several church leaders to meet with a coalition of faith organizations and conservative groups supporting Proposition 8."

Although I do not doubt that millions were spent by the church, I believe it was spent by church members on their own free will and not by direction of the church itself. As far as I can tell, tithing money was not spent on Prop 8, although I may be incorrect on that.

My actual point is that often a church will tell its members to vote for the values they believe in, and our church leaders do that often. They do not tell us what way to vote, but instead tell us to know the issues and vote for those you believe in. It is an expression of beliefs, and many leaders of other churches- Catholic, Christian, and others- have said that they also told their members to do the same in support of Proposition 8.

Although I do not believe all members of the church voted for Proposition 8, I think the same amount that voted for it would have done so regardless of the ads because of the values they were taught regarding marriage. And there have been surveys showing that the Mormon votes did not drive Proposition 8 over, it was the conservative first time voters coming out in support of Obama that had a greater pull.

Luckily, in CA gay couples get the same benefits in regards insurance and taxes that married men and women do. I don't think Proposition 8 was meant to take rights away from anyone, we definitely would not want that.

What happened happened and it did not effect me much, but I understand where Dave is coming from. They are trying to get Pharmacist's who refuse the "morning after pill" because of their religion to by law not be allowed to do so, and the same with doctor's refusing abortion because of their religious beliefs. I do not think the leaders of the church want to risk it, as Dave said. Who knows what will happen years down the road?

I have many gay and lesbian friends who I talk openly to about these things. I know that they can and do have happy homes and happy marriages, and many are great parents as well. Nobody thinks that I am a "bigot", but they understand that I believe, as does my religion, that marriage is between a man and a wife. I think the Mormon church is just getting a lot of heat for that belief and for wanting their members to stand for that belief, when other church groups were doing the same. I understand why individuals may be upset; it was a close vote, but I think the Mormon church is getting a little too much press coverage right now.

Josh said...

Valid points about where the money came from. As far as I understand it, Stephanie is correct in that the money spent on this measure mostly came from members who donated for that cause specifically.

They did not (insofar as I know) use tithing money to fund this lobbying.

That is a distinction that merits some attention, but I'm left with these questions as a member:

1) Who executed the expenditure of those funds?
2) How involved were Church leaders in encouraging members to vote for Prop 8?
3) How much money did Church leaders donate towards the cause out of their own pockets?

As I said in an earlier post, I seriously considered where I should be paying tithing to an organization who was spending its resources on things I so strongly disagree with.

Not because they are necessarily spending my tithing on it, but because they are an organization in staunch support of (what I consider to be) taking away the rights of individuals.

If I gave money to a terrorist organization but they only spent *my* money on fried chicken, that doesn't make my donation any less responsible than the one that bought the bombs.

I realize that is an extreme example, but I think it clearly describes the way I feel.

The church may not have directly paid for this lobbying, but the fact that they so strongly support the effort is enough for me to worry.

I don't think anyone (on this post at least) wants to take away anyone's rights to believe in marriage the way they want.

Though I may believe that spiritual marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that has no bearing on legal marriage. Legal marriage is a secular right that should be denied to no one.

America has been down these roads before and they never ended well. Civil Unions do not equal marriage. There was a time when African Americans got their own restrooms and water fountains; but we all agree that was silly.

Separate but equal is not equal. It wasn't for the African Americans and it is not for the homosexual community.

Gabe said...

Karen-
Hey pal...(I think, I knew a few Karen's, a couple of which may refer to me as buddy, and a couple others may not have enough to remember of me to even get that far)...but yes, I did attend Robinson. I'd love to try to guess which Karen you are (and I have my bets); but I'd be thoroughly embarassed if I asked something based on my high school memory (odd tangent: but if Dave hadn't blogged about not returning a book of mine in 11th grade, I might have forgotten about said book...) and you were to tell that I am thinking about someone else. In general terms I doing well and am happy. Anyway...gdsoll07 at g-mizzail, unless you prefer to catch up before the readers of this fine blog.

jeans said...

I read a LOT of discussion about this during the runup to the election on various LDS blogs and I've got to say that the quality of conversation here is tops. I guess that's because Dave being Dave, he's got thoughtful and intelligent friends in all quarters and his genius is getting them to talk to one another. I'm going to jump in once I've read them all in detail.

We live in MA - where of course gay marriage is already legal and it didn't come through the legislature, so it didn't involve a messy and divisive election-year battle, and it largely didn't enter our church building one way or the other since ordinary citizens weren't asked on it. Had we been, I suppose I would have had to decide whether to vote with my heart and my conviction that free agency is the heart of God's plan for his children, or vote with the vast majority of my coreligionists, who in all sincerity believe that Mormon Christians have the responsibility to uphold heterosexual marriage (despite our history of challenging the traditional legal marriage practices of a previous century). And that would have been a hard choice, and I respect those who live in CA who had to do just that, whichever way they voted. I look forward to saying more as this conversation continues.

cookingsherri said...

Dave,
A few thoughts on what the church is defending.

I agree with Josh that I don't think the threat to the church's ability to determine whom they will and won't marry is a strong threat. I also agree with Dave that the church and the rest of the coalition must be defending something. I also am not representing the church in any way, just throwing out one idea as to a possible reason why the church so strongly encouraged it's members to participate in this campaign. I grew up in Ca. My family still lives there, but I have not been a resident of the state for a long time.

From the commercials I have seen and from looking at their arguments on their website, I think the Yes on 8 folks seem strongly concerned with protecting children.

From their website:
"For example, because public schools are already required to teach the role of marriage in society as part of the curriculum, schools will now be required to teach students that gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage, starting with kindergarteners."

I understand Karen's frustration at feeling that this measure forced someone else's belief system on her, but ironically, I think that may be exactly the biggest fear of people who voted for Prop 8. I know it would be one of my biggest concerns of how legalizing gay marriage would affect me. I speak as a mother of children who have been taught classes on sexuality in the school system and resent the intrusion into my raising my children and choosing when and how to teach my children about sexuality. Frankly, it has been done with insensitivity to the naivete of some of the children in the classroom. There is the assumption that all children these days are streetwise and teachers who have presented this material have been cavalier without even knowing it. The example is given in one of the ads for Prop 8 of a couple in Mass whose kindergartner was taught about gay marriage. The couple complained and were told that this would be taught at any time without notice and he got jailed for protesting and well, you can look it up on youtube. Seems rather isolated, I don't know about other experiences. I do have in my state the benefit of opting out of these family life education classes, but they are taught for one week, one hour a day. If it were done on one day of the week, we could just miss that day, but 5 is not possible. And kids at school talk about this with each other outside the classroom and we preferred they got their information direct from the teacher rather than diluted through another friend. So, opting out is not so viable an option. I would not appreciate my children being presented material regarding gay marriage before they are emotionally mature enough, and I wouldn't want it presented to them as equivalent to traditional marriage as that would contradict our religious beliefs and therefore promote the views of the gay community onto my children.

But, I also don't feel it is my right to force others to live by what I consider to be my God's commandments. By keeping gay marriage a separate entity from traditional marriage it seems it may protect children from being taught in government required family life education classes that gay marriage has equal moral status as traditional marriage and that would contradict the religious teaching of many people's households. I think it's possible that many parents are concerned that their right to teach children their religious values would be undermined by the state teaching about gay marriage with equal status.

If the prop 8 defenders were all about denying rights to gay couples, it seems their wording would have been more like North Dakota's gay marriage ban which just passed -
"Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage, or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect."

Instead, Prop 8 wording is:
“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

This does not deny gay couples the ability to work towards having the same rights as married couples under a different name than marriage. That word seems to be the key.

And, finally, a few words about the right of any religious groups right to participate in politcal forums.

The phrase separation of church and state is not in the constitution or any other legal document in the United States. The phrase is in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and others (James Madison, I believe), and the Supreme Court have referenced this phrase from Thomas Jefferson's writings
in interpreting the constitution.

It seems to me that the meaning of this wall of separation is that neither the government should control religion, nor should any religion control government. But, not that they should not have any interaction or influence on each other. Obviously government has interaction/influence on religion by granting tax exempt status. Marriages performed as religious ceremonies are recognized as legally binding by our government. Our coinage carries the phrase "In God We Trust". It was not intended that the two be mutually exclusive, but rather in order to promote freedom, neither would control the other. As the laws of any society are reflection of its morals and values, religious organizations should have the same right as any organization to promote their ideals through the political process as it sees fit. To say that all secular organizations have that right and then say religions can't, seems not right to me. And campaigning doesn't force anyone. In fact, it gives society a choice that going through the courts doesn't.

I have gay friends that I love, respect and admire. I am friends with lots of people whose views are different than mine. I ventured to share some ideas because this discussion has been so respectful and hope that I have maintained that tone. It was my intention to do so.

dave said...

For those of you following this, please visit the new post on the issue.

Anonymous said...

I actually can't tell where you stand on this issue. I think you are trying to be a mediator in a way for both sides of the issue which is fine by me. I tend to do that. In a way, this issue is two fold: what is the legal state marriage and what is marriage in the eyes of God?

But, well, back the truck up. Who is God? Which religion is the correct religion and what is the most correct interpretation of my religion of choice? That is where I am at with religion so frankly I don't see gay marriage from the religious point of view because I don't think any of us will agree on religious interpretation of God's will.

So, if you take religion out of the picture, is there still a debate about the legal, civic definition of marriage? Sure. Let's all have that debate. Let's take religion out of the debate for awhile, and talk about what is marriage. I think that debate will be complicated enough without having to blame or credit religion for proposition 8.

ok. that is my two cents.

dave said...

@Anonymous: You say "So, if you take religion out of the picture, is there still a debate about the legal, civic definition of marriage? Sure. Let's all have that debate. Let's take religion out of the debate for awhile, and talk about what is marriage. I think that debate will be complicated enough without having to blame or credit religion for proposition 8."

I'd love for that to be possible, but it simply cannot be. You can not take away the motivating factor for one side and then just go from there. You may as well ask that someone who is gay not consider their sexuality when confronted with the question of what defines marriage. In order to have a 'pure' debate about the legal, civic definition of marriage, you have to remove both religious motivators on the one side and lifestyle motivators on the other. Both sides are passionate about their motivators, and an argument without them would be fascinating I think. But you already knew it was a dreamworld, I think.

higbeem said...

My apologies. I have one more idea to throw out that is utterly secular. As a 37 year old LDS woman who has never been married, I see life a little differently than married folk. Here’s a hypothetical but totally plausible situation for you.

Mary and Linda have been best friends and roommates for 20 years. Linda pays a bigger share of their rent because she has a kid, Peter, from her former marriage who also lives with them. Both Mary and Linda have worked full time for the past 20 years. They and Peter function as any traditional , loving family does - sharing chores, responsibilities, every day fun, and vacations. This month Mary got laid off. She’s not optimistic about finding an equivalent job in the near future due to tough economic times. Mary has a health condition that requires medication that is prohibitively expensive without health insurance.

Both Mary and Linda are “single”, heterosexual and practice sexual abstinence for religious reasons.

Should Mary and Linda

a. Lobby that the definition of “marriage” in their state include their relationship type so that Mary can be covered under Linda’s health insurance?

b. Sue somebody. Anybody.

c. Start a movement for health care reform.

d. ?

Are Mary's rights being violated because the law doesn't recognize her relationship with Linda as a marriage? Are Mary's rights being violated because she has no health insurance?

Josh said...

That's a fun hypothetical question, hig. And at first I got tripped up on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it's actually pretty clear.

The legal definition of marriage says nothing of love or sexual practices. And if homosexual marriage were legal, then it would also say nothing of gender combinations.

It is merely a contractually binding relationship which confers certain benefits under the law.

Gender doesn't really matter in this hypothetical because whatever laws currently exist would cover it.

In most states (if not all), it is illegal to get married solely for insurance benefits. It's insurance fraud, and gender makes no difference.

You can marry heterosexually to commit fraud, or homosexually.

That being said, people marry for reasons of convenience everyday heterosexually. There is no reason that same 'right' shouldn't be extended to homosexual couples.

It creates no more problems than we already have.

Josh said...

I mean to also add -- men & women get married all the time without love being involved; platonically as it were.

No reason two people of the same gender shouldn't be able to get into the same quagmire.