“We conclude that retention of the traditional definition of marriage does not constitute a state interest sufficiently compelling, under the strict scrutiny equal protection standard, to justify withholding that status from same-sex couples. Accordingly, insofar as the provisions of sections 300 and 308.5 draw a distinction between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples and exclude the latter from access to the designation of marriage, we conclude these statutes are unconstitutional.”
California Supreme Court decision, In re Marriage cases.
How should we feel about this?
On the one hand, it’s undeniably true that the church opposes legalized same-sex marriage. The Proclamation on the Family clearly designates marriage as between a man and a woman. The church has consistently joined political opposition to same-sex marriage. There’s little doubt that it will do the same here. A ballot initiative is all but certain.
To what extent do church statements about political issues bind us? That, I’m not sure about. I know that church leaders have made past statements on politics, some of which I disagree with. (For instance, Ezra Taft Benson’s statements about the Civil Rights movement.) I respect the church as a religious community, but it is not my political party.
What does my own judgment tell me about the court’s decision?
Well, I know that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has not caused the end of all civilization. It’s unlikely that legalized same-sex marriage in California will have that effect, either.
I also know that legalized same-sex marriage hasn’t resulted in changes in church policies (despite the efforts of Buck and Mike to have their legal marriage recognized by church leaders). I don’t think the California decision will force the church to give ecclesiastical endorsement to gay couples.
The decision doesn’t actually change the system of rights a whole lot in California, either. Same-sex couples were already protected to a great degree under state law — they could enter a registered domestic partnership, which gave them the same rights under state law as a married couple.
I think many of the effects will be felt more on a personal level. One friend of mine is in a long-term, registered, same-sex relationship. She carries a packet with her, everywhere she goes. It’s thick and unwieldy, and it cost her thousands of dollars. It contains wills, and life insurance, and medical permission forms — everything that I take for granted. If I’m in a car accident, I’m sure that my wife will be able to visit me in the hospital. My gay friend has no such guarantee — and so she carries a book-sized packet of documents around, everywhere she goes.
My gay friends want to be able to raise kids, to have stable, long-term, legally-recognized relationships with people they love. And really, that’s not any different than what I want. Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters already face substantial challenges in living their lives.
So on a personal level, I’m very much in favor of the decision. On a legal policy level, I tend to think it’s a good idea.
What should I think about it, as a church member? To what extent do I subsume my own personal, legal, or policy decisions, if the church says, “put a sign on your lawn”? To what extent can I rely on statements about the church’s official political neutrality?
I know that going Sonia Johnson (“you shouldn’t allow missionaries into your home”) is the fast track to excommunication. But if I disagree with the church’s political stance, can I refuse to put the sign on my lawn? Can I talk to friends or ward members about disagreements? Could I say that it seems problematic for a church with our history of marriage persecution to be so intolerant? What are the options for a church members who disagrees with a church political stance?
Could I even — gasp! — blog about it?