Sunday, June 26, 2011

I DO - and I don't

Talks and lessons the past two Sunday's have focused on the family, its significance and centrality to the Gospel plan, and the eternal nature of the family. During these talks and discussions the issue of Same Sex Marriage naturally came up, and I quietly noted the comments that were made and the reactions of various individuals in class. What struck me this time around is that there are really two completely separate issues at play here.

The first issue is marriage as defined by religion - specifically Mormonism. We believe marriage is divinely mandated and instituted for the creation of eternal family units. We are taught that Adam and Eve were the first married couple, and were commanded to be faithful to one another, worship God in righteousness, and multiply and replenish the earth (raise a family). This early example and definition of marriage has been further expanded on and clarified over the centuries to become what we have today. In our doctrine, marriage is defined as exclusively between a man and woman (currently just one woman, but that has not always been so). Gender has also been declared to be of divine nature and our spirits themselves existed as male and female before birth. I understand the scriptural basis for these doctrines, and I can accept it. It makes sense .

Same Sex unions are obviously not included in this doctrine. They are not, according to the doctrine, "ordained of God", nor are Same Sex relationships believed to last beyond this life. End of story? Not really. As a gay person I have to believe that all the doctrine on this subject has not yet been revealed . Quite frankly, I think there may be a LOT more to come, because I think the current LDS leadership has not really asked the right questions yet. Sadly this is, perhaps, a matter of their own personal prejudice and priority. Until some of the "old guard" move on, or until more revelation comes, I can live with what we have. I can be patient.

The second issue is marriage as defined by law. We live in a country where Church and State are separate. Essentially, the mandates or doctrines of religion do not necessarily translate over into the law of the land. There are many laws with foundations or roots in religious practice, but the opinions and doctrines of any religion have no guarantee to be expressed in law. Religious institutions are free to declare their doctrines and opinions in the public forums along side everyone else. But ultimately the legislators and judges of the land, elected and appointed by the people, decide what is and is not law.

It is in this secular, legal setting where opponents of Same Sex Marriage find themselves on thin ice. The legal concept of equal rights trumps any religious doctrine or opinion to the contrary. In the eyes of the government, marriage is not a religious contract - it is a civil one. I don't have to even believe in God to get married - the government has appointed public officers who can perform a marriage ceremony for anyone that desires it, and which creates the legal contract the government recognizes as "marriage". The government is gracious enough to extend legal status to marriages performed by religious authorities, but religion is not a prerequisite for the contract.

So in this context Same Sex Marriage makes perfect sense.  There is no logical or legal reason to deny two people who want a marriage contract the privilege to have one - no matter what their genders might be. To do so is to deny the parties invoved equity and parity under the law.

So, I DO believe in the Church and support the principles and doctrines they teach. I understand what the religious definition of marriage is and why its important to the Church. I understand why they have taken a stand on this issue. But I DON'T believe the argument has any merit when it comes to civil law. I want my gay friends to have happy relationships and families, with all the legal privileges and protections any other married couple has. I think it is their right. And I think religious institutions  - Mormon, Catholic, or any other denomination - will ultimately fail in their attempts to stop Same Sex Marriage. They simply have no legal high ground in this matter.

6 comments:

Kim Nordyke said...

Very much agreed here.

CJ said...

Excellent post. Thanks for your clarity of thought about the limitations of religious belief in impeding equal treatment under the law.

K the second said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neal said...

Kim, CJ and K2 - thanks for the comments. Nice to hear from all of you.

FindingMyWay said...

Oops. Wrong account. I'm not K2, today I'm FMW. Let's try this again...

Great post, RN! Nice to hear from you.

Good to be Free said...

Wonderfully said.