For whatever reason, I have always placed a lot of importance on being able to define myself, rather than being defined by others. Although I would like to think that other people's opinion of me means very little--and for the most part that is true--I have a pretty strong internal need to feel justified in what I'm doing.
I've been going through somewhat of an existential crisis lately with my opinion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I still feel passionately about trying to live a good life, and I still believe that the Church holds a uniquely important role in distributing critical ordinances, I take serious issue with its recent official stance in favor of California's Proposition 8. I didn't really want to have to do my dirty laundry in public, but I don't think it would be enough to simply say that I disagree; there are some fundamental untruths being told that I want to distance myself from.
First, the Church reports that it "has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony." Although I do not take issue with this standard, it does not necessarily follow that this standard need necessarily lead to supporting a law against sexual immorality. Furthermore, the Church does not, as far as I am aware, support legal bans on other violations of its sexual code (although I personally think that adultery should be tried as a breach of contract). And lastly, how does banning same-sex unions prevent any violation of this sexual standard? Are we to believe that there are droves of celibate homosexuals who are waiting to have sex until after they get married? For those who have married since the CA Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, are they going to return to their celibate lifestyle if Prop 8 passes?
I would really like to know who wrote this "The Divine Institution of Marriage" document. Here are just a few of the things which are fallacious, disrespectful, and extremely poorly written about the treatise.
"The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation"
It is true that the sacred, religiously valuable part of marriage has to do with procreation. The societally beneficial part of marriage (monogamy as a tool to curb STDs, a public health problem, just to name one), however--something this document often conflates with Mormon dogma--has absolutely nothing to do with procreation.
"Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations."
The writers of this cannot even bring themselves to use the word "love"; it would be totally unacceptable to believe that homosexuals could feel the same way about others as they might feel about their spouses. Moreover, even if I buy that marriage is "primarily" about raising children in a Christian-friendly manner, the very wording here implies that there are other reasons for marrying. Surely, ratification of "affections" or mutual benefits are at least marginally important, are they not? Am I to believe that a union based on these motives is intrinsically bad, just because no biological children can come from it? If so, let’s unmarry anyone who either cannot or will not reproduce naturally, reserving this sacred title for those people who create and then raise their own progeny.
"throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself"
Either the writers are being willfully deceptive about marriage's history (examples of marriage as a political tool, for example, are not hard to find) or they are dangerously naive. In any case, historical examples, especially those which are so vague as to details or consequences, seem to me to be disingenuous. After all, governments of all types have also recognized and affirmed slavery, brutality, corporal and capital punishment, needless wars, and demagoguery as essential institutions and practices to preserve social stability. If the Roman Empire jumped off a cliff would you?
"It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation"
This makes sense because it makes sense. Hey look over there! If I use the word "nevertheless" it will make it sound like I have a rational, well-thought out position without actually having to have one. Genius!
"This is not only because of the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child, but because of the differing strengths that a father and a mother, by virtue of their gender, bring to the task"
I do not believe that all males or all females have certain characteristics simply because of their gender. Even if there were magical characteristic inherent in every man or every woman that is unique to people of that gender, surely there are indices that are infinitely more important in deciding who would make the best parent. Also, it is a difficult argument to make that a woman’s talents cannot be at least partially (and probably tolerably) reproduced by a man. Furthermore, since all people are different, chances are good that neither partner in a marriage will have all of the “personal resources” that these writers would need necessary to raising good children.
"Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: ... Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners"
No action or belief is automatically altruistic. A heterosexual marriage is not fundamentally unselfish (even when children are involved, as this document is implying), nor is a homosexual marriage automatically a merely selfish desire for self-fulfillment.
"the all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation?"
Is it really our right to define what the best environment for children should be? If I teach my children incorrect things, is the CA constitution going to step in and decide that another family might provide a better environment for my children to learn, and take them away?
"Traditional marriage provides a solid and well-established social identity to children. It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation."
Wow. I don't even know where to start.
"These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality."
My telling you something does not take away your right to tell your children something else.
I’m realizing now that writing this post has only agitated me further. Although I would love to continue, picking apart wanton lies from the pro-prop 8 campaign, expounding on the history of marriage, homosexuality, or the politics of marriage, I don’t want to spew any more venom here than I already have, lest I isolate anyone still reading (my family reads this blog too). My purpose in writing this was to distance myself from what I feel to be an unacceptable politicization of my religion, not attack or defend the Proposition 8 movement. I suppose that I should probably define what I still do believe in another post, for those who are interested, but for now I want to leave it at this.
By the way, for those of you who are interested, I actually do not support gay marriage, per se. I personally believe that marriage is a religious sacrament, not a political designation. As such, the government should, in my opinion, not recognize any marriages, my own included, but should instead give everyone equal civil unions. If I want to go to a church and designate my union as a marriage in a religious ceremony, that’s my right. If homosexuals want to either find a denomination that will call their unions “marriages”, or if they want to start a new church that will do so, their being married takes nothing away from my being married any more than your being baptized takes anything away from my being baptized. For you Catholics out there, you probably believe that my baptism is moot before God; I’m OK with that. The reason for all of these culture wars is that religion insists on claiming special rights for itself, even at the expense of trying to legislate religious definitions, and those shafted by the religious establishments are trying to gain redress through the power of the government. If anyone wants to try and explain to me how defining marriage isn’t a violation of the establishment clause, I’d love to hear it. Also, I would be willing to post any rebuttals any of you might want to write, if you would prefer to write something longer than will fit in the comments section.