Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goodbye, DOMA and Prop 8

Gay marriage is already legal in 13 countries, and not one of them has burned to the ground or begun persecuting straight couples. Two more countries will allow same-sex marriages starting in August, and an additional 11 are working towards it (12 if you count Wales) besides the US.

This is the world we live in.

When I was teaching US History to 5th graders last semester, the volatile topic of gun control came up. Nearly all of these kids have been raised in very conservative homes. When one little girl announced proudly that she was OK with gun control, the entire room was whipped into a frenzy, and one very sweet boy asked me, "Well, why don't all the people who believe the same things move to the same place? Like if you like guns you can move here and if you don't you can move to California."

I thought this was a brilliant response, but I've been thinking about that simple suggestion for months now. At the time, my co-teacher and I made some good points about diversity being a good thing, and he agreed that it's probably hard to move so far and not know anybody. But the real answer is so much more complicated.

Disclaimer: I'm not really about to compare LGBTQ issues to slavery, just discussing what issues do to a home. Read on.

In the Civil War, houses were divided on the issue of slavery. I remember in my own US History classes learning about brother fighting against brother and father against son. The issue was so much a part of everyone's lives all over the United States of America at the time that lines had to be drawn. People left their homes to get away from family members. Escaping the opposite point of view could mean moving hundreds of miles away.

Today, issues still hit close to home, and this particular issue causes arguments and divisions in families. Mother fights against son. Brother fights against sister. When a gay sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend comes out, there is shock, confusion, and anger, hopefully, but not always, followed by acceptance. Children come out to their parents and in their most emotionally vulnerable moment, are kicked out of their homes for their honesty.

Steinbeck said, "Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love."

I have noticed that those who tend to be most adamantly against gay marriage are those who have never had an LGBTQ sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend.

If you find yourself confused or upset by the Supreme Court decisions this morning, I would challenge you to get to know an LGBTQ in your community. Realize what they have been up against and how much the decisions announced this morning mean to them. Remember that even though you believe their relationships to be immoral, they probably don't.

Above all, empathize. Even if you can't bring yourself to love them, just try to imagine what they are going through. I'll give you a hint: their lives are hard, too. You have problems and so do they. Find common ground. Realize that your opinions are not always different.

Legislating morality didn't work in the 1920s, and it won't work today. Every person is entitled to make their own decisions, so as long as you are not hurt by them, let it go.

Welcome to the new world.


  1. A thought: Utah was born when all the people who believed the same thing moved to the same place. It was only diversified when the gold rush rocked the west.
    The church that you are a member of believes in "legislating" the behavior of its members and their moral standards. Would you say that it doesn't work? Why?
    I know gays, I believe in equal rights; I know what marriage is, and I believe in upholding it. Why can't I believe both without being a bigot?

    1. You misunderstand me; I never said anyone was a bigot here, and I'm definitely not accusing you of being one. I know and understand that both sides have a lot to hold on to, but I don't think that government legislating morality is ever a good idea.

      The church that we are both members of doesn't legislate anything. There are commandments and there are suggestions and doing something contrary to those beliefs and morals is ever so different from breaking the law. If a member breaks a commandment, there are no spiritual police to come arrest him or her. It is up to that member to recognize the mistake and fix it as best as he or she can and ask for forgiveness. That is nothing like the legislative system in the US (or anywhere else). No lawyers will come into your Bishop with you and negotiate settlements after a Mormon messes up.

      Aside, I feel like a lot of people misunderstand some things. I don't think any church that believes marriage should be between a man and a woman should be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Separate church and state, says I.

      You are free to believe what you will how you will. What I have written are suggestions that I believe in 100%, because that's where I am. If you are somewhere else, I don't mind, but I am trying to help people see where society is so we can keep moving forward, hopefully in the same direction.

  2. AM Wright,

    You say you know what marriage is, but give no definition of it. Without one, I have to assume you mean the legal sanction of a relationship, by the government, and is legally binding in any other state you move to. In the US, the government, at a Federal level, bestows over a thousand rights or privileges to those who have a legally sanctioned relationship, and withholds those rights from everyone who does not have one.

    Currently, with this decision, we have 13 states, that as long as you live within one of those 13 states for the rest of your life, you can have a legally sanctioned relationship and the federal benefits that come with them, whether your relationship is heterosexual or homosexual.

    In the other 37 states, only heterosexual couples can have their relationships formaly sanctioned by the government and receive the federal benefits that come with that sanction. In those 37 states, a homosexual couple who had a government sanctioning of their relationship in one of the 13 states that sanctions homosexual relationships, is stripped of those federal benefits at the border to that state.

    This doesn't even begin to address the discriminatory practices that impact the lives of children of gay couples, that happen because both parents of that child don't have the same legal standing in that child's life.

    I see no way that someone can seriously say that they are for limiting government sanctioned relationships to heterosexuals and their children, and say that they believe in equal rights. You either believe in marriage equality, or you don't, but there is no middle ground here. Whether you "feel" like you are for equal rights, or you "feel" you are not a bigot, is immaterial to the fact that by acting in ways that limit the rights and opportunities of a class of people, your actions do not back up the way you feel.

    1. Julie, I think you're on to something here: as long as the government acknowledges marriage and grants it certain rights and privileges, then denying those rights from others because of some people's personal or religious beliefs is wrong. There's a more libertarian argument that the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all, and while I'm sympathetic to that in principle it's not really relevant to the political world we're living in. Still, while I suspect the marriage equality debate might go on for another few decades the tide has already turned and it's only a matter of time before marriage equality becomes standard everywhere. People will be free to believe that it's morally wrong, just as I believe smoking, not vaccinating children, and driving below the speed limit in the fast lane are morally wrong--and the flip side is, people will be free to think some others are bigots for disagreeing, whether that's fair or not. Luckily, a pluralistic civil society demands a better standard than personal belief in establishing its laws.

  3. Brooke Walrath said: "I don't think that government legislating morality is ever a good idea."

    Are you willing to entertain an opposing point of view regarding legislating morality?

    Dallin H. Oaks said: "'Don't legislate morality.' I suppose persons who mouth that familiar slogan think they are saying something profound. In fact, if that is an argument at all, it is so superficial that an educated person should be ashamed to use it. As should be evident to every thinking person, a high proportion of all legislation has a moral base. That is true of all of the criminal law, most of the laws regulating family relations, businesses, and commercial transactions, many of the laws governing property, and a host of others.

    "So what does it mean when a person says, 'Don't try to legislate morality?' There is ample room for debate on the wisdom of most legislation, whether it has a moral base or not. Some legislation is unwise or undesirable because it is an excessive interference with liberty or because it will be impossible or expensive to enforce. But the mere statement that we should not legislate morality contributes nothing to reasoned public discourse." (Ensign, June 1987.)

    I'm think Oaks makes a point.