Sunday, June 04, 2006

On the Gay Marriage Amendment

I am torn on this issue. Bush, under Karl Rove's direction, is using a wedge issue in an election year, to rally his base, Christian Conservatives, and to divert attention from the failure in Iraq. He is proposing a sure-to-fail constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. On the other hand, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has come out to ask its members to talk to their Senators on this issue. Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God, and the Proclamation to the World on the Family is divinely inspired. It states the following:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally. The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Satan is attacking the family right now with all the strength that he has. He wants to destroy this sacred institution and is using every means at his disposal. His gloves are off. Are ours? On the other hand, Republicans are most certainly using this to divide America, to drive a wedge into the heart of America, to score political points. Should Republicans be rewarded? I want to see Republicans out of office. They have failed my country. They need to be removed. They are cynically and immorally using issues of great import to score political points when they fail at more substantive issues, such as winning wars overseas, creating a balanced budget, and unifying a country too long splintered. They do not deserve any points, including this one. Oh the cruelty of this world that an issue of such great import as the defense of family must rest in the hands of corrupt, inept, and ineffecient politicians. So what am I going to do? I am going to call my Senators and tell them to vote for this amendment. Why? Because homosexual activity should not be state sanctioned. (Saying this, I also believe heterosexuality should not be state-sanctioned either). I believe every human being is free to do whatever he or she desires. If someone wants to watch pornography and destroy their soul, hey, be my guest. Gays say that their lives are being restricted and that they are treated as second-class citizens right now without gay marriage. That's a load of crock. They can live their lives exactly as they want. They can sleep with whomever they want. What gays are insiduously wanting is to feel "normal" in a not-normal situation. I'm not going to get into the issue of homosexuality (how people become gay, whether born or learned). If someone wants to get some good insight, I recommend Elder Oak's talk called Same Gender Attraction which he gave in October 1995. I have two reasons for this decision. 1. President Hinckley is a prophet of God. I believe that with all my heart. He is inspired of God. I do not know all of God's reasons for his actions, but I trust in Him. He has not led me wrong yet. The church has only rarely come out to ask members to vote one way or the other on an issue, nationally. The other was for the Equal Rights Amendment, which at the time was opposed by conservatives, yet the church asked its members to vote for it. This relieves some doubt I've had about the church being strictly conservative on issues. It shows that they stand for what is right, and not for what is "Right Wing." 2. There is only one instance in recorded history of God Himself destroying a civilization, and that is Sodom and Gomorrah. The issue? Abraham could not find but five righteous people in the city. Their sins were many, but their most henious were those of the desires of the flesh, of sexual perversions, of homosexuality. This unnatural lust for all flesh was enough for God Himself to destroy that civilization. God has been very consistent on the issue of homosexuality. There is no reference anywhere to it being anything but evil. So why should our state sanction it? If the judiciary thinks the Constitution as currently written allows for gay marriage, legally speaking, the simple answer is to amend the Constitution. This of course will fail, because of the amount of Senators and States needed to vote yes for this. And the proponents of this amendment know this. They are not pushing for this amendment sincerely. They are not pushing for this to succeed; they are pushing for this to fail. They want to drive the wedge into America and divide it further. And it is too bad that Republicans have become so corrupt and power-hungry that this is their method for passing important laws. How shameful of them. But they will answer for their corrupt-natures one day, if not this November. I will still stand with my church, even with a sour taste in my mouth. UPDATED:I've been corrected by a friend. The church in fact asked members to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s. Well that doesn't help, and makes me think more and more that this world just simply sucks sometimes. So what's my new justification? I'm still sticking with President Hinckley being the Lord's spokesman. in regards to the ERA, the Lord saw ahead to the problems that this would bring, as is evident today with the family being degraded even further.


At 6/09/2006 12:46:00 PM, Anonymous seth wilder said...

A constitutional amendment specifically intended to prohibit gay marriage is much more than simply ill conceived. It is a politically cynical move, yes, but it is also hateful, unfortunately moralistic, and more than a little problematic in a pluralistic, accepting society such as the US.

That the measure only gains force in federal election years certainly offers a compelling correlative argument that it is being used as a wedge issue specifically to energize the fundamentalist conservative base – a base which has, unfortunately, become disproportionately significant to the Republican party in the time of Dobson, Bauer, et al. In saner times, this would be enough to torpedo the whole endeavor. Of course, we do not live in especially sane times, and the force of rhetoric has now all but eclipsed reason and wisdom in the political, social and cultural landscape of the US.

When I say that a constitutionally enshrined ban on same sex marriage is hateful, I mean this in the most generous sense of the word. It is an amendment aimed at prohibiting a narrow class of Americans from enjoying the same level of freedom of choice and respect relative to their lifestyle choices as are enjoyed by heterosexual couples. A denial of rights is among the most pernicious of hates, as it allows the hater to pretend as if he is costing the hated nothing. In this respect, the expansion that gay marriage would represent is now turned on its head, and the argument is inverted to present gay marriage as a threat to straight marriages.

Do not kid yourself that the entire “bundle of rights” that comes along with marriage (rights that are automatic with marriage) are insignificant in this light. Without disputing that the main reason for same sex marriage rights is a sense of mainstreaming, or normalcy of homosexual relations within the broader cultural landscape, there are also these many and varied rights that attach at marriage, some of which are of limited availability to those who are not legally married, even under the so-called civil unions.

The biggest problem with the anti-gay marriage movement is that proponents have yet to offer a single, compelling argument against recognizing the love and sanctity of same sex relationships. Instead, they offer, unfortunately, Judeo-Christian based pseudo-morality, or, at best, mere tautology in place of rationality. There is a great deal of energy related to the notion that gay marriage threatens the sanctity of marriage, in other words, that allowing gay couples to marry somehow places heterosexual unions in a more precarious position than they were before, but there is little or no explanation as to how or why gay marriage threatens this institution.

The easiest counterargument is to simply offer up the statistics indicating that more than half of all heterosexual marriages in the US will end in divorce. It seems painfully obvious that divorce presents more of a threat to the family and traditional values, etcetera than gay marriage ever could. This seems true especially when one considers that the percentage of the population that is gay is relatively small compared to the number of “breeders” that permeate America. In this respect, it seems unlikely that the small group of homosexuals that would opt for marriage, which is necessarily a subset of the already small homosexual population, could pose a threat to the institution of marriage as a whole. And this accepts, arguendo, that gay marriage presents a threat at all.

Instead, we are presented with only the empty statement that marriage needs to be defended from the “incursion” of homosexuals into the equation. But while there is indeed a certain rhetorical force gained through repetition, repeating tautology only reinforces reductionist, tautological nothingness. As Abbie Hoffman would say, this argument is “all light and no heat.”

The other big argument that is being fostered of late concerns the percentage of the general population that polls or votes as opposed to gay marriage. This is a favorite chestnut of Bush under the direction of the Rove machine. Of course, almost the same percentage of Americans is opposed to the constitutional amendment movement, but even this is unnecessary to assault the force of this statement. That a majority of Americans are opposed to something or in favor of it should be simply irrelevant in this context. If issues of either equal protection or due process are involved, and that is what we are hearing from the judges ruling on gay marriage, then the will of the majority is not supposed to factor into the equation at all.

If majority rule were meant to hold sway in this arena that would lead to conclusions inconsistent with the history of America and also with the separation of powers in the three coordinate branches of government. To use the simplest example, a clear majority of Americans were opposed to miscegenation and also the civil rights movement in general. Had we allowed the “will of the people” to hold sway in this regard, at best we would still have Jim Crow, no interracial marriage between blacks and whites, or whites and other races, at least in the Southern states, and fundamental disenfranchisement of blacks in most of America. We would also still have de jure segregation in schools in many states and locales.

Were you so inclined, you would find that the arguments against gay marriage, right down to the unfortunate biblical quotations used, are fundamentally indistinguishable from those used against the civil rights movement, and also against equality for blacks and women in general. Surely, it is not a positive step for America to single out homosexual Americans for the kind of second class treatment enshrined in this poorly worded constitutional amendment, any more so that it has ever been good to reduce members of society to a second tier.

The separation of powers argument comes into play upon the consideration of all the empty rhetoric concerning so-called activist judges making decisions that go counter to the majority will. At least since the era of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary have been the final word on constitutional interpretation. As a practical matter, it is only through its counter-majoritarian posture that the Court becomes an equal coordinate branch. While it is tempting, albeit reductionist, to bleat and cry that America is a “democracy” and that “majority rules”, this again is simply not born out through the history of the nation. The reason that the political Right is pushing so hard for constitutional amendment is because in their heart of hearts they know this to be true. They see the writing on the wall, and recognize that judges are likely to see the unconstitutionality of the denial of legal rights to this group, and that judges are also less likely to succumb to the political will of the majority.

Again, the many and varied examples of the civil rights movement offer pointed examples of counter-majoritarian positions informed by the courts pushing and leading America in a progressive, rights expansive direction that ran against the will of most Americans. And, let me reemphasize that the same wrongheaded rhetoric was used against integration and interracial marriage as is being used against same sex unions.

The next tack often used by proponents of the amendment is the slippery slope argument that suggests that once gay couples can marry there will be no natural stopping point. Under this argument, the country will have to accept polygamy, incest, bestiality, and the like. The answer to this argument is that, as usual with a slippery slope argument, it is pure rubbish. The most significant difference between homosexuality and the other “minority” interests included above is that homosexuality is the only one that does not come with a history of observable destruction and injury to the participants.

Interestingly, the opposite is true; the damage and destruction of gay Americans is observable related to their repression in the culture at large. The suicidality of gay teens is a function of their lack of comfort with their own sexual identity. The morality that pushes people to decide that they are somehow “wrong” causes the injury. Those who embrace their sexuality and find a community likewise embracing it do quite well in the world, develop healthy psychological make-ups, forge loving bonds and friendships, and live as (almost) complete citizens in America. Their desire to be allowed to celebrate their desire for permanent union within the bonds of legal marriage represents nothing so much as just how comfortable and healthy they are. I am not suggesting that all forms of sexual expression are potentially healthy, many forms of paraphilia are destructive; I am merely offering that homosexuality, which is not a fetish or a maladaptive choice, is an expression of legitimate sexual identity, and does not belong among the other examples used.

The other examples, polygamy, incest, and the like, not only bring into play genuine issues of consent in many instances, they also come with scores and scores of studies that demonstrate profoundly destructive psychological injury inflicted by the practices themselves. There does not seem to be any good news concerning even polygamists. In practice, polygamy in America is universally destructive. It is also significant that polygamy allows for less marriage than the law as it would stand with gay marriage.

After all, homosexuals are unlikely to marry into heterosexual unions, so without legal same sex marriage they would not be married at all. Plural unions, on the other hand, involve multiple wives and one husband, and this leads to fewer total marriages, while also preventing some men from finding mates at all. Incest, bestiality, and other tragic sexual dysfunctions offer such a parade of observable horrors that even their invocation within this argument reveals the hollowness of the appeal to fear.

The only arguments of any force that this leaves are those related to history and morality. Unlike some of the liberal community, I would not go so far as to say that these arguments are completely without force. America has always used something for a moral compass, and even the Court, when examining fundamental rights, looks to the history and tradition of the nation to inform its judgment. However, while this means that these arguments cannot be dismissed out of hand, it does not lead inexorably to their victory. Historical arguments and moral arguments alike do not necessarily coincide with logic, and also very rarely point in the kind of progressive direction necessary to a society that prides itself on inclusion.

The simplest example of the failure of history as an adequate guide concerns the historical enshrinement of slavery on the one hand, and the genocidal treatment towards the indigenous population of America on the other. With the clear vision of hindsight, each of these once lauded or at least accepted practices are now seen for the corrosive evil that they represent. Still, they were practices supported by the great men who founded the nation, including even the authors of the Constitution itself. In other words, to lean too hard on history is to reveal nothing so much as its fragility.

Morality is even more fraught with peril. After all, morality offers no fixed point, as different people and different faith systems will present often conflicting views as to what the moral position is. This is why using morals without more to decide legal questions is so problematic. Whose morality gets to decide? Again, it is significant that, historically, homosexuality was not actively criminalized in the US until around the 20th Century. Before this period, sodomy laws were more often aimed at heterosexuals, whether fornicators, adulterers, hedonists, or merely sexually creative individuals.

Speaking of sodomy, the invocation of this ancient myth within the context of this political amendment reveals a fundamental misapprehension of the tale’s biblical import that cannot stand unchallenged. It was not the particular sexual practices of the cities that led to their destruction. It was the base and wicked hearts of those who dwelled therein. In the tale homosexuality is nothing more than a collateral issue. And America is sufficiently base and wicked at its core that allowing gay marriage is hardly a credible threat, even if you are as unimaginative as to believe that the angry old Testament God is likely to rain destruction from heaven; if God was going to smite America for its evil ways, he would likely have done so a long time ago.

And this does not even consider the radical biblical transformation intended with Jesus and his fulfillment of the Aaronic prophecy and his salvific grace. When asked by the scholars of his era to define the law, Jesus replied that to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself were the whole of the law. Another way of seeing this is that gone was the old, legalistic and ultimately futile attempt to conform to the Commandments, and to follow the kosher laws of Leviticus and the Pentateuch. In their place was the necessity of the salvation that only Jesus could bring. Remember that Jesus lived and ministered with the least popular groups of his day, the prostitutes, the lepers, even the tax collectors. Surely this faith system is uncomfortably juxtaposed against this recent move to amend the Constitution.

Finally, consider that those times when we have used the Constitution as an individual rights limiting document are the instances where it has been most problematic. The obvious example is prohibition, and we can all observe just how well that worked. Prohibition is a significant example of the misapplication of the amendment process, but it is important also to recognize some of the language within the document itself; when the Constitution defined blacks as less than complete persons for census purposes, this helped to foster notions of their status as property, rather than people. And this position allowed the perpetuation of slavery and systematic mistreatment for too long. The Constitution, as a framing document of our ordered and secular society, works best when it places limits on the government, rather than on individuals. And while the language of the amendment presents itself as a mere definition, do not be misled. It is not aimed at defining marriage as an institution; its purpose is to say who can and who cannot get married.

If you are going to stand in opposition to legal same sex marriage, know your heart on the issue. If the reasons are purely rooted in personal morality and your understanding of history, at least consider if it is appropriate or necessary for you to force your understanding on others. No one is going to force you are anyone you love to marry a homosexual, any more than you would be forced to marry outside of your race if you found this problematic for some reason. At the very least, put some time and thought into considering if there is any real damage done to anyone by allowing this entire class of American citizens to fulfill a right that heterosexuals take so fully for granted in our society. Recognize that the denial of these rights is simply that; do not pretend that it is not a denial of a fundamental right. To do so is disingenuous at worst and simply wrong-headed at best. It is to buy in to empty rhetoric at the expense of reason and good judgment.


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