Would This Gay Marriage Compromise Work?

Raychristianity, Culture, Discrimination, diversity, families, First Amendment, gay, Government, homosexuality, LDS, marriage, Mormon, politics, religion, sexuality 47 Comments

David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch co-wrote an article recently in the New York Times called, “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage”.  I have linked the full article above and excerpted the first three paragraphs word-for-word below:

IN politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage has reached such a point now. 

We take very different positions on gay marriage. We have had heated debates on the subject. Nonetheless, we agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

Please take the time to read the entire article, since it provides their justification for this proposal – and because I think it is very well written, regardless of agreement or disagreement with particular points in it.

My question is very simple:

Would this compromise work – for both “sides” of the issue?  Could you personally accept it?  Do you think those with whom you disagree would be able to accept it?  Why or why not?  Which group would have a harder time accepting it – and why?

If you think this would not work, is there a different compromise that you think would work?

Comments 47

  1. A simpler solution would be for the government to get out of the marriage business altogether, and leave relationships to those involved in them, and the communities they choose to be part of. Then people could define marriage however they wish, without anyone else having to accept their definition.

  2. Mahonri – I understand part of your point but i dont think that would work
    If the government of any country got out of the marriage business then there would be no legal definition of a marriage

    This would cause a lot of problems

    I live in the UK so parts of this issue is a little over my head as I dont understand all the legal ramifications in the USA
    BUT here in the UK they have made same sex civil partnerships recognised
    It isnt quite a marriage – and the vows are very plain and not that nice sounding BUT it allows for the legal aspects we have here

    HOWEVER this loophole allows for religous groups to not perform them
    TCoJCoLDS doesnt get involved with “civil partnerships” nor do the RC church JW
    or CoE

    how does this sound?

  3. Boy, it sure wouldn’t work with the gay people who have conversed with me at length on this subject. Anything that could be construed–in any light (or state!)–as something other than full equality simply serves to accentuate the “second class” status of their relationship.

    I do not subscribe to that opinion; I am just the messenger. Personally, I am with Mahonri–just get out of the business altogether.

  4. What would be wrong with there being no legal definition of marriage? Doesn’t having a legal definition of marriage potentially give the government authority over private religious beliefs, ceremonies and commitments? With civil marriage doesn’t a covenant between two people before God become a contract between two people and the state?

    The problem with legal marriage and employment and social benefits based on it is that it potentially obliges religious institutions to recognize, cater for and financially support those who they do consider to be legitimately married.

    There is nothing to prevent the law changing (as it inevitably will) so that a civil partnership will become a full marriage tomorrow, or to stop a government expecting a religious institution or employer from accepting such unions in various ways.

    This is something Catholic adoption agencies have faced in North America and Europe. Many of them have shut down rather than abide by the legislation that says they must give children in their care to gay couples.

    The Catholics and Latter-day Saints have also faced challenges with how to deal with civil divorces that are not recognized as religious ‘releases’ or annulments. In some South American countries legal marriages are less common and the Church has come to accept ‘common law’ marriages, in other countries were divorce is non-existent (such as the Philippines) then separations (for good reason) have been respected and non-legal remarriages (and sealings) allowed.

    It seems that letting Churches define their own definition of marriage then it is a win-win situation for everyone – the Catholics don’t have to accept Mormons as married, a liberal religious or social organization can consider its members married if it likes, and no one is obliged to uphold or support any one elses partners or spouses if they consider it in conflict with their beliefs.

  5. The problem, Mahonri, is that the (big) purpose of marriage are legal tax benefits. Legal tax benefits require legal recognition, which requires the govt to be in the marriage/civil unionizing business.

    Addressing the topic in general, personally, I think this is a good first step. Because regardless of any ideological position, it’s just really sad (for me, one of the top embarrassments for the country and the world. I don’t get a lot of faith in humanity for this one) that most states have banned *even* civil unions for gay people. It’s really sad that the church is not opposed to some rights, but then the Common Ground Initiative fails so completely in Utah (I know, senators =/= the church, but still).

    However, the issue becomes…like it was in Prop 8…when you do recognize that gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples…then it makes no sense to call the relationships different things, and that’s why this could only be a first step before more people start whining. That’s what reeks of separate but equal. It is an implication of second-class status. However, if you make the legal bundle of rights for gay couples less than that for straight couples (so civil unions have less rights then marriage), then of course, that is explicit designation of second-class status.

    But like I said, it’s a first step which I can recognize because it’s pragmatic. Second class citizenship is way better than complete bans on marriage-or-anything-looking-like-them. And really, most people don’t really want to force churches into bankruptcy and losing tax exemption status over not marrying someone or another…so that’s not even an issue to have a conscience provision. The problem is that why gay marriage bans claim to be preserving religious freedom, they also step all over the freedoms of those who would gladly perform gay civil unions or gay marriages, or of nonreligious groups who don’t have any qualms with such. Personally, I think that some people, if they so disagree with religions that are against them, should not deal with those religions, instead of trying to force them to change (striking fear and worry into the members of those congregations)

  6. Here is part of the text of a letter sent out of the 3rd ward in Nauvoo regarding proposed enabling legislation for civil unions in IL. It appears that, whatever is said publicly, the church will countenance *nothing* for gay civil rights.

    “This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church.
    The Civil Union Bill (HB 2234) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Youth and Family Committee this week on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield. If the bill is voted out of committee, it becomes eligible for a vote before the full Illinois House of Representatives. This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

    To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email.

    Also, please take a moment and call the following members of the Youth and Family Committee to encourage them to vote no on this bill. We need 4 votes to keep it from passing out of the committee. And – as always, please pass this on to all who believe in protecting our families and our children. If you are interested in attending the hearing, it will be held on Thursday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield in Room 122B of the Capitol Building (I can give you directions to the Capitol Building if needed). “

  7. Andrew S

    Problems with tax coding regarding marriage are trivial. We (the “people” (picture me saying that with lots of smug on my face)) created the code, and we can alter it. Change every instance of the word “marriage” to “legal union” or whatever non-marriage word you want, and Voila!: problem solved.

  8. Scott,

    but Mahonri is advocating the government stay out of the entire thing. As he says, “With civil marriage doesn’t a covenant between two people before God become a contract between two people and the state?”

    the problem is…we make the contract be between two people and the state for a reason. God doesn’t really give tax benefits to whatever you want to call it.

  9. Andrew S,

    I also am advocating that the government pull out of this altogether, though I don’t know if I am advocating it for the same reasons that Mahonri is (I confess that I haven’t read the comments entirely…I have a very short attention span).

    If the government pulls out of “marriage” it has two other options available to it. One is to create a “civil” counterpart, not called marriage, which functions as essentially the same thing–all laws, tax codes, etc…are reworded with civil union replacing marriage. The other option is to do nothing–the tax coding for married people simply disappear (this does not mean that other family-related tax codes, such as child tax credits/deductions, day care expense deductions, etc…need to be removed). While certainly some people would object to removing the option of “married, filing jointly”, this is, in the big picture, a very trivial thing that can be dealt with through compensating legislation and tax code.

  10. I should have indicated which I prefer. I prefer a situation in which the only distinction that the government grants is called “Household”. In such a scenario, each adult constitutes a “Household” unless they obtain a piece of paper from the government certifying that they share a residence–note that this could work for roommates, too–share income, etc…and wish to be treated similarly. While the transitory nature of possible households–roommates in college, for example–may render certain exclusions necessary, such a situation allows for the formation of the “ideal” households, as well as less-than-ideal (no matter what your concept of “ideal” is) without trampling on the rights or beliefs of anyone.

  11. OK, yeah, I think I’ve been completely misreading things.

    In the case that the govt pulls out of marriage and instead only uses a civil counterpart, I can agree with that. In fact, yes, if there can’t be any point made about marriage, that’s really what I would prefer (if marriage is a religious institution, for example, and people conclude that is how it is, then there’s no reason for government to be participating in it and sullying it. Instead, it can create its own nondiscriminatory institution that it *can* change and adjust). I’m a bit more skeptical about pulling out of marriage but leaving family-related benefits inside…I haven’t read up too much on it, but I was kinda thinking that some of the rights that marriage/civil unions afford aren’t covered in simple family-related deductions/credits.

    The Household idea sounds particularly interesting. I’d have to think about that one as well.

  12. Alice:

    I don’t buy that letter. It directly contradicts the statements “Divine Institution of Marriage” and Elder Lance Wickman’s interview as found on the newsroom website.

    The primary problem I see is with adoption…otherwise, I would support those who want the gov’t to get out of marriage. Adoption *must* have some kind of regulatory oversight. So if the gov’t gets out of marriage, then we are giving tacit endorsement of a homosexual union’s equal ability to raise a child. We are suggesting that a father can be a good (or better) mother than a mother can be.

    Before anyone tells me about how many dysfunctional heterosexual couples there are, please note that adopted children are not given to dysfunctional couples now (or at least, that’s the idea…obviously it doesn’t work). So doing an apples to apples comparison–the best homosexual couple to the best heterosexual couple–all the research I’ve seen and know indicates that it is best for both genders to be represented in home life. Allowing adoption rights to homosexual couples would put homosexual couples in a position to where they might actually be seen as superior to heterosexuals. Then we can kiss any idea of inherency in gender goodbye.

  13. #13. “Allowing adoption rights to homosexual couples would put homosexual couples in a position to where they might actually be seen as superior to heterosexuals. Then we can kiss any idea of inherency in gender goodbye.”

    Yeah, we can’t let gays raise kids, because they might do a good job! Then we’d look stupid, wouldn’t we?

    Sorry, Russ, had to take that one.

  14. Post

    “This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church.”

    Um, huh?

    alice, the entire flow and language of that letter makes it obvious that it didn’t originate from SLC – and I doubt very seriously it is legit in that way. We don’t use this site to forward mass distribution e-mail hoaxes, and this reads exactly like one. We won’t delete your comment, but I might add a disclaimer to it – since this is my post.

    [Since writing this comment, I have searched further and found that it probably is an actual e-mail sent by a sister in a ward in Nauvoo.]

  15. Post

    We are suggesting that a father can be a good (or better) mother than a mother can be.

    Even given your disclaimer, Russell, I can’t see the fallacy in that quote. Setting aside issues of “equality” for a moment and dealing ONLY with issues of practicality, if we are dealing with normative patterns and not extremes, I would have no problem with adoptions being considered individually (as they should be, even according to your own admission) and ending up with children who otherwise would be left in the HIGHLY dysfunctional foster care systems of this country or in an orphanage without any parents being raised by a loving, stable gay couple. I also have no problem allowing a divorced gay parent to raise his or her children with a homosexual partner rather than placing those children with a dysfunctional parent or in the local foster care system – or forcing them to be adopted by a heterosexual couple. Of those options, the gay couple is preferable, imo.

  16. Post
  17. In short, I don’t think the compromise will work for the reasons outlined in the NYT Op Ed piece. It doesn’t effectively address the attendant discrimination issues that come with the allowance of civil unions. IOW, it doesn’t clearly protect the churches’ “right” to discriminate against SSM or to put it nicer, it is the first step toward acknowledging SSM as equivalent to OSM (my new acronym for hetero marriage).

    Religionists would never agree to this compromise because it will land them in court over discrimination, and the courts are unlikely to side with religion. All the Op-Ed piece does is point out that pitfall without a clear roadmap to avoid it. There are plenty of judges who will set precedent unfavorable to religion (or at least religions don’t trust the courts). The issue is that it takes it out of the hands of the mob and puts it in the hands of the liberal elite (the courts), right where SSM proponents want it. So, it’s a great compromise in that it looks like one, but it isn’t really; proponents of SSM will get what they want faster and will look like they were willing to play the game to boot.

    Basically, I think this is probably inevitable anyway, but I wouldn’t expect religions to accept this as a compromise unless they are ambivalent about their cause or too stupid to see the eventual outcome.

  18. I think the settling of the civil union matter in Utah illustrates how interested the religious are in compromises. The church could have thrown a bone into the conversation to help, but didn’t. Their previous statement regarding various minimal rights being given to gays, imo, was politically expedient. The church will never formally support civil unions. “Gays can and should change for the benefit of mankind” clearly states their position.

    Compromise will not work on this issue. To one side it is a civil rights issue, the other a moral one. No doubt we would all like to avoid the confrontations that are to come. Some issues in life only come with difficult solutions. This is one of them.

    Re: alice’s Nauvoo 3rd ward post—it obviously is not from SLC but I don’t think it is being presented that way. Various internet postings say it came from the ward’s website administrator, authorized by Bishop Chris Church. Don’t know if that is true or not but makes sense to me.

    Thanks for the post Ray. Never would have seen the original story if you hadn’t posted it.

  19. I appreciate your letting the post stand, Ray.

    I didn’t represent it as a statement from SLC. I clearly identified it as a letter initiating in the 3rd ward of Nauvoo. But, more to the point, it does appear to have the endorsement of a local bishop in IL and the intent is, unmistakably, to prevent the protection of the law of IL to apply to gay citizens of the state.

    ABC news is following the story and we may learn more about it in days to come. http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/New-LDS-ward-email-about-gay-civil-unions/Xb7iyR4cGk2wfPvSCUvSqw.cspx

    A second interesting thing, after the seeming contradiction of the church’s statement that it doesn’t intend any malice toward gay people, is how many Mormons are just not able to countenance the church’s behavior in this regard and are sharing things that no one previously would have.

  20. Post

    Alice, I apologize. I went to a link over on T&S, and the article and comments made it sound like it was being presented as coming from SLC and “The Church”. When you said,

    “It appears that, whatever is said publicly, the church will countenance *nothing* for gay civil rights,”

    I took that to mean that you were saying it came from The Church, not a local Bishop.

  21. Post

    Btw, the actual e-mail might have been authorized by the Bishop, but I also can see the following conversation:

    Sister Combs: “Bishop, can I send an e-mail to everyone about this bill?”
    Bishop Church, sighing inside: “Sister, you can send whatever e-mail you want to send.”
    Bishop Church, under his breath as he hangs up: “Why do these people call me with questions like this?”
    Sister Combs, after Bishop hangs up: “Bishop Church authorized my message!!”

    Obviously, this is fiction and totally ignorant of the actual situation, but, believe me, that basic conversation flow has occurred thousands of times in thousands of locations around the world. It drives Bishops and Stake Presidents and GA’s bonkers.

  22. The way I look at it, marriage is inherently two separate things. First, it is a legal contract between people. Affording them tax benefits, legal rights, etc. Second, it is a religious or personal commitment between people. The religious or personal commitment between people may be different depending on what religion marries you or if you went through a religious authority at all.
    Why not separate the two obligations, let the government deal with the legal aspect. I like Scott’s term in #9 & 10 calling it a ‘household’. That way people living together, sharing expenses, etc. can get the legal benefits of doing so. Then allow religions to define marriage in any way they want to. If there is a Gay church, let them perform Gay marriages, an LDS church can perform temple sealings and so on. To me this is the most appropriate way to handle the matter and provides a truer separation of Church and State.
    The only difficulty I can see is the adoption issue and the only solution I have is to let the government enforce whether a ‘household’ is a good environment for the child while at the same time also allow adoption agency’s the freedom to allow adoptions according to their definition of marriage. A Catholic adoption may not place a child with an LDS couple because by their definition of marriage the LDS couple are not married. I’m sure there are holes in this and it needs to be fleshed out but the truth of the matter is that people will not tolerate being discriminated against and while to one group it may be obvious why another group is not fit for raising a child the other group does not and will not agree with that.
    Just to throw this out there… Why are people (and the church) so afraid of a stable same sex couple adopting a child? Are they afraid the child will be influenced to be gay as well? Children all over the world grow up in what I would term worse environments, why is a loving, stable same sex household so much worse than other environments? I’m divorced and while I split custody with the ex, I know my children will not get the nurture of a loving mother until or if I remarry. Are they going to be disadvantaged for life because of that?

  23. Ray and Alice, Concerning the Email from Bishop Church and Sister Combs I have written the following:


    “The church “does not oppose civil unions or domestic partnerships,” that involve benefits like health insurance and property rights. That stand was outlined in a statement the church posted on its Web site earlier in the campaign. ” How does this stack up with what is happening in Illinois right now?

    Looking at these two statements I have to come to some conclusions. Either 1. Elder L. Whitney Clayton (head of Same-Gender Attraction issues in the Church) was not authorized to make the statement concerning the apathy towards civil unions that is now the Church’s reported position that was not only clear in the Press release statement from Elder Clayton, but also by their clear demonstration that they do take an apathetic statement towards civil unions and equal rights as seen in their silence on the Common Ground Initiative.

    Or 2. The bishop of the Nauvoo 3rd ward is following the precedent set by the Church’s actions during the Prop. 8 campaign and taking upon him a stewardship that is not his own?

    So is this a call from the Church Headquarters disguised to appear as coming form an individual ward? Or is it the actions of a bishop who has fallen into the trap of all men who “as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

    What will church Headquarters do? Will they stand by and let this bishop take unrighteous dominion over the people? Or will they come out with an official statement saying that this order came from them? Or will they stay silent yet again? And if they stay silent what does it mean? To me it means that they support the actions of Bishop Church and Susan Combs of the Nauvoo 3rd ward to 1. Use the Church ward as a political powerhouse and 2. the political message can be counter to the official church statement with no repercussions. IF that is so, what is to stop a bishop in Vermont to call for support of Civil Union legislation? Would that not cause great division within the church?

    So Elder Clayton, and President Monson, I urge you to take a stand on this issue, do not sit on the fence take a stand if the actions of Bishop Church are from you then say so please. If it is not please make a statement and rebuke his attempt to turn his ward into a political machine but rather focus on Christ and his message of Love. But whatever you do, please do not sit back and do nothing.



  24. I am really unconcerned with letting gay couples adopt. So I am at ends with Russell’s comment in 12.

    Unless Russell wants to provide a system by which EVERY child that’s currently in an orphanage or in the subpar foster care system is adopted by loving straight parents (it starts when people themselves adopt, but anecdotal evidence is one thing — every child should have a home before people start disallowing gay couples the opportunity)…well, UNLESS and UNTIL he can provide such a situation, I think anyone who wants to adopt and is committed to the task and has not been shown to be an inferior parent (he questions the equality of gay parents to straight ones…but the studies are still out on whether over the long term, gay parents are “worse.” And compared to an alternative of sticking in foster care or an orphanage, I think adoption would be a better solution) should be allowed to.

    I ask some of the same things Jenkins asks in his final paragraph in 23. Why be afraid, ESPECIALLY when the alternative is a doubtlessly worse environment? Why be afraid of a stable, caring household that just happens to be same-sex. Why be afraid of a stable, caring single parent? And why be afraid of THESE things when, however they differ from your ideal, they are much better than an unstable, uncaring home.

  25. Sorry to interupt this thread, but I would really like to see the topic “Favorite quotes/statements you’ll never hear in sacrament meeting”…..don’t know how else to contact those in charge…..

  26. While I agree that adoption by stable gay couples would be preferable to living in foster care (possibly the epitome of instability) or orphanages, there is an implied assumption embedded in this statement that I’m not sure is warranted. The assumption is that gay couples will happily adopt the children currently living in foster care. However, people generally have shown a strong preference for adopting infants. And infants (particularly white ones, unfortunately) do not lack for potential adoptive parents. Today there are waiting lists full of childless couples hoping to receive a baby to adopt, while older children sit in orphanages and foster care. What makes you think that gay couples would be any different than heterosexual couples in this regard?

    And if they are not different, then perhaps with regards to infants, or “children likely to be adopted”, aren’t we back in the place Russell started in, choosing the best types of couples to raise the child, among all the applicants?

  27. ^that’s also a good point, Rob. But I would also have thought that in such cases, people who have traditionally been unable to adopt with any real chance would not be so picky. I guess I can’t really account that people in general have their ideals and biases

  28. “The jury is out, of course, on whether gay parents are suboptimal”

    IMO, even considering the notion of gay parents being suboptimal is simply an indication of the prejudices of the “jury members”.

  29. I agree with you as well Holden.
    Is one of the reasons for that prejudice at least in the church because it is looked upon as a choice and if children are exposed to that they will make that ‘choice’ in their lives as well?

    I would also add that with a separation of legal household and marriage an adopting agency would be able to put children up for adoption according to their standards of marriage. So a Catholic adoption agency would most likely go through Catholic parents. While another agency may not have any problem viewing Gay couples as fit parents. I’d imagine this would be challenged as discrimination but there have to some caveats.

  30. Yes, the conclusion as to who the optimal/suboptimal parents would be is a question that can only be answered by empirical data and, more realistically, people’s biases to one side or the other. I just wanted to point out that the argument of, “Same sex parents would do a much better job raising a kid than orphanages and foster care” smells like a straw man argument.

  31. Heavens, now I have to be the perfunctory jerk who spouts the hateful rhetoric and who has been blinded by right-wing propaganda…but alas…someone has to do it 🙂

    If the evidence indicated to me that fatherhood and motherhood were indeed fluid concepts that anyone can do equally well, I wouldn’t like it, but I would accept it. It would be a major concession to the postmodern ideology, but c’est la vie, right?

    That said, the evidence simply isn’t borne out by it. And I’m not referring to FRC, to Focus on the Family, or to think tanks. We’re talking about Yale academics. And while there’s a debate to be had, we can’t just silence the debate by saying the jury is prejudiced. I just dealt with this today in my grad. seminar where an obviously and explicitly biased book was given a free pass b/c the “jury” happened to like her biases, b/c the author was one of them.

    Yes, there is evidence suggesting that gay parents are just as competent. But there is *definite* evidence suggesting that children need both genders in the home to have the best shot at success. As Kyle Pruett of Yale suggests: “Gender plays a large role. … We may not think these [gender] differences are politically correct but…they’re developmentally correct.”

    Just a sampling of the works which indicate the importance of having both gender roles represented:

    David Popenoe, Life Without Father (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996)
    Sarah Tippit, “Kids of Gay Parents Don’t Stick to Gender Roles,” Los Angeles Times
    Marilyn Elias, “Growing Up With Gay Parents,” USA Today

    Now if we want to give up gender roles as being something worth taking seriously, then that’s one thing that society can decide upon. But let’s not try to proclaim support for separate gender identity and support for gay adoption concurrently.

  32. Russell, I’m not sure anyone is arguing about the available evidence. Personally, I’m just saying that arguing against gay couples adopting by using the “both sexes in the home is optimal” argument is a losing proposition from the start – simply because that standard isn’t enforced to stop single-parent adoptions – or to take away kids in single-parent situations and place them in traditional families – etc. Iow, it’s not consistent to use one standard to deny one group the right to adopt while NOT using that same standard to deny another group the right to adopt – or, more generically, the right to raise kids, which is the more fundamental practice in question.

    We allow “sub-optimal” situations for the raising of children all the time in this country, so it’s hard to make a case that gay couples can’t adopt simply because it is “sub-optimal”. (and I think it is very EASY to make the argument that it actually is sub-optimal)

  33. It seems to me that most progressive/thoughtful/open minded yet faithful Mormons can trace their attitudes towards gay marriage to one of two belief systems:

    1-a belief that God has said that “homosexuality is wrong”, and further that “widespread acceptance of homosexuality as a good and noble lifestyle will result in a degradation of the importance of family in society, which will cause all sorts of societal maleffects which I can foresee even if you can’t yet, therefore you should try to keep this from happening.” These people therefore conclude that, while prejudice towards homosexuals or anyone is not desirable, they must make an exception in this case, for the good of future society, because they trust this wisdom revealed from God more than they trust their own reasoning abilities. This trumps all the rest.

    2-a belief that the second revealed point above did not in fact come from God, but from man. They might further believe that homosexuality is an inherent quality, and as a result it would be inconceivable for God to discriminate against such people. Consequently, any “revelation” condoning political stances opposed to gay rights must be born from the imaginations of man, not from God. But either way, they conclude that it is absolutely wrong for the government to take a prejudiced stance against homosexuals. And this belief trumps the faith that they would normally have in their church leaders / positions taken by the church.

    But who am I to belittle either of these two viewpoints? Don’t I trust my own reasoning more in some instances, and trust in my religion more in others? While I admit to a degree of uncertainty as to the true nature of things in this area, I find it disappointing to hear the condescending tone that members from each camp tend to use towards the other. The first camp can’t conceive of how a temple recommend-holding member could possibly be so proud and nigh-apostate as to oppose stances taken by the church, and the second camp can’t believe how a truly Christ-centered person can be so small-minded, mean, and prejudiced. But for each, it tends to come down to a question of faith – faith in my own reasoning, or faith in my church leaders, or faith in an answer I may have received about it. Why is it so hard to see where the other side is coming from? (Note: I am not calling out people on this thread, so much as speaking of what I have heard generally. Other than a couple mild “you’re just prejudiced” comments, the tone on this thread has been fairly respectful.)

    [footnote 1: Yes, there are many other reasons for arriving at a viewpoint (including outright prejudice for some), but I find that for most of the people described in the first line of this comment, 1 of the above 2 arguments is the true foundation of their viewpoints, and impacts their selective consideration of other evidence/reasons.]

    [footnote 2: Before anyone drags out a list of historical prejudices that have been erroneously enacted in the name of God, please don’t. Yes, we are all familiar with these, but they don’t constitute evidence for the merits of either side of this question.]

  34. Ray,

    It sounds as if you’re equating “letting parents raise their own kids” with “choosing them as adoptive parents”. Surely you don’t mean that? Naturally the courts (or the “system”) would be extremely reluctant to remove a child from the care of his own parent, even under suboptimal circumstances, but would impose a much higher bar when it comes to the selection of potential parents to adopt a child, especially for infants that won’t lack adoptive options.

  35. Having humans as parents is quite “sub-optimal”, I imagine, but we are all there is. If my son ever adopts it would be interesting watching the rearing process. He has so many feminine traits. He is the stereotypical gay interior designer, something that he did around the home starting at about age 4. He was constantly arranging our furniture, etc. In dealing with his partner he prepares the meals, etc. As a person, he is so attentive to people and feelings. He visits my mom (a recent widow) once a week even though he lives about 75 miles away.

    What the think tanks consider in the “best parenting” concept is beyond me, but my son would certainly raise a child differently than any “standard man”. In the end, it seems like love conquers all anyway.

  36. Hmm, my comment from earlier got eaten (spam filter maybe? it had links…) but I guess I wanted to challenge the idea that gay parents are suboptimal based on findings by the American Psychological Association, among others. I also am interested in what you mean, Russell, when you say ‘gender identity.’ To me, gender roles and gender identity are two separate (albeit perhaps related) concepts. Society in general seems to be moving away from caring about gender roles (parents nurture equally versus moms’ nurture and dads’ bread-win), and I’m not sure what argument there is that children or adults are hurt by this lack of gender roles. I could see gender roles being less pronounced in children raised by same-sex parents, but I’ve never seen a study showing kids raised by same-sex parents are more likely to have gender *identity* issues (e.g., be transgender).

  37. #37 – Rob, all I’m saying is that when someone makes a philosophical argument, it needs to be examined for philosophical inconsistencies – to ensure that it’s not just an illogical argument cloaked in philosophical language. “Legality” has absolutely nothing to do with my core argument – which is that (even if we accept being raised by two same-sex partners as “sub-optimal”) we allow “sub-optimal” situations all the time in the raising and adopting of children, so the argument that a gay couple shouldn’t be allowed to adopt or raise children specifically because it is a “sub-optimal” situation simply is not consistent and logical unless we ban ALL situations that we deem to be “sub-optimal”.

    Iow, if we are going to ban such adoption or raising of children and make a philosophical argument as to why we are doing so, it needs to be for a different reason. It has to be because it actually is more harmful than the alternatives we allow in some way to warrant such restriction, from a philosophical standpoint – and I don’t see anything being proposed by opponents that fits that criteria.

    From a legal standpoint, all it has to do is resonate enough with either the majority of the voting public or a group of judges. That’s a totally different standard.

  38. #40 – Ray, thanks for the clarification. However, I also did not mean to argue on a legal standpoint. By “naturally”, I meant that courts/bureaucrats would and *should* have a higher bar for allowing an adoption than for allowing a parent to raise their child. I don’t think anyone here would be happy if the government took away a child from a gay or lesbian parent and placed them in foster care. But I do hear people expressing the notion that “traditionally married” couples might properly be viewed more favorably by adoption agencies than same sex couples. This does not seem to be philosophically inconsistent, since these are two very different circumstances (one of which does not involve ripping a child from his home and family in favor of an unstable [at best] life in foster care). Consequently I don’t see how allowing suboptimal parents to raise their kids is philosophically at odds with preferring that kids are adopted by a mother and father. As for suboptimal adoptions that we “allow”, while exceptions exist, for the most part you are out of luck trying to adopt a baby if you are a single parent or dysfunctional couple, unless the baby’s mother chooses you. (And for that matter, I don’t believe there is anything prohibiting a baby’s mother from choosing to give her child to you if you are gay.)

    [personally, I am all in favor of letting gay couples adopt any child in orphanages or foster care. Do I think the government should compel adoption agencies to be completely blind to the gay/hetero/married status of prospective parents when deciding which couple to give a baby to? That I am not so sure about.]

    More to the point, I don’t hear people saying that the reason gay marriage should be outlawed is because gays would make suboptimal parents. Rather I hear them opposing gay marriage because they fear their church’s freedom of religion will be compromised, or they don’t want their kids’ public school to appoint itself to preach on such questions of religion, or other such reasons.

    Rather, it is the other side that I hear saying, “same sex parents on average do just as good a job as traditional parents, therefore your discrimination is baseless and cruel,” and I hear the other side replying, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure about that.”

  39. Post

    Thanks, Rob. I agree with everything you said.

    I guess the difference is that I HAVE heard quite a few people argue that gay couples should not be allowed to adopt explicitly because they are “sub-optimal parents”. I also have heard people argue that gay couples should not be allowed to raise the children of one of the partners – for quite a few reasons I find illogical and patently offensive. Therefore, my response often is to what I actually have heard.

  40. #38 – Holden, despite my demonstrated willingness to stand up for any side of a philosophical debate that I feel is being mistreated or misrepresented, I personally agree with your comment here (especially the last part) and suspect that your son would make a good dad based on your description.

  41. Rob, I hope that my comments haven’t been seen as condescending toward either side (though that is possible). I live in California and took an active role in support of Prop 8 and would still do so because of the possibility of forcing churches to do things against their religion (very simplistic explanation of why I supported the Proposition). I do however question whether the churches response to the Gay marriage question is purely a protection of the freedom of religion or if there is an ingrained feeling that gay couples are inferior to traditional marriages. I also am a staunch advocate of the government staying out of my life as much as possible which is why I would advocate a situation that separated the legal aspects (government) from the social aspects (religion). I don’t agree with the government tinkering in social engineering and deciding for the people how their lives should be run. I can’t tell you where to work and what to do with your money or who you should marry and more and more the government is trying to do this. I don’t support that stance.
    Holden, I think your son would make an exceptional father as long as he loves his children, in the end that’s what we all crave.
    I must say that the reasons that we, as members, were given for support of Prop 8 were nothing I would disagree with. iow, they stated that it was for defense of religious freedom.

  42. Let’s first examine the historical development of civil marriage. The ururpation of marriage by the secular state was one of the various methods employed by anti-religious governments in the 18th and 19th centuries to weaken the influence of the Church in society. This was a move from the times when govenrment viewed religion as an adversary (not to say that tey do not so view it as present but that question is beyond the subject of this discussion).

    Why does religion oppose the legalizing of homosexual unons? One in orthodox Christianity, homosexual acts are deemed objectively sinful. There is no way that an orthodox Christian church can approve of such acts. This does not in any way lead automatically or logically to a denigration of homosexuals or those with homosexual tendencies. We do not physically attach liars or other sinners simply on the basis of the rule “Love the sinner but hate the sin.” that principle distinguishes between sinner and sin.

    Also, the Church teaches that marriage and the family are the basis of the social order. This truth is taught and announced by both the LDS Church and the Roman Catholic Church without to my knowledge any equivocation or compromise. Therefore, both churches must defend marriage in order to defend the social order of human society. Their objections to civil unions or homosexual marriages is not primarily targetting the homosexual person or marking them as inferior but rather a defense of marriage itself as a pasic constituent of human society as defined as a union of a man and a woman in a sacramental union as well as physical union whose object is procreation of humanity and the growing unity of two persons into one in imitation of Christ and His Church. Any corruption or impairment of marriage will impair society as a whole and likely lead to its continued and unavoidable disintegration. Any re-definition of marriage is a direct assault on what is meant to to be a Christian sacramental union (even civil marriage attempts at an imitation of the religious sacrament in various ways)and a blocking of a direct channel of grace as instituted by Christ.

    In light of these stances, I do not see how any Christian Church can sanction civil unions or homosexual marriages due to their constant teachings. None of this has to do with who would be a good or bad father or mother but what is marriage as a Christian sacrament, as a natural union governed by the law of natures, i.e., natural law.

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