Gay marriage comes to the UK

I lived in America during the debate about the proposed federal marriage amendment in 2004, something which inspired one of my first posts in the Mormon blogosphere. By the time of Prop 8 I was safely ensconced back in England. Until now I have been able to maintain a relatively dispassionate distance, as the problem was an American one. No more. Gay marriage is coming to my corner of Zion’s vineyard.

This will not be a post detailing all the tired arguments for and against gay marriage. I simply want to share with our American readers what this debate looks like in foreign climes. Gay marriage has already been ruled as an unnecessary furthering of civil rights in the UK, unnecessary in the sense that the courts have decreed that gay civil partnerships — legal since 2004 — accord the same rights as marriage. A lesbian couple who married in Vancouver had their marriage recognised only as a civil partnership in the UK. Their appeal for full marriage recognition was rejected on the grounds that, “Abiding single sex relationships are in no way inferior, nor does English Law suggest that they are by according them recognition under the name of civil partnership.” In other words, civil partnerships are considered sufficient in ensuring the civil rights of gays.

As a legal matter, then, it would seem that gay marriage is not necessary in the UK. However, it has now become a political issue, with the ruling Conservative-Liberal coalition setting out their aim to pass gay marriage legislation. The government has embarked on a public consultation and clearly believes it will prove sufficiently popular. All the main parties support the legislation and it will almost certainly pass.

How should groups opposed to gay marriage respond? My advice — and of course nobody is asking me — would be to consider the main argument lost. The public will grow to instinctively accept that civil partnership is inferior to marriage and that attempts to bar gays from marriage is discriminatory. Any religious organisation which shouts loudly on this issue — as the Catholic church has already done — will ultimately look bigoted, a stigma bad enough to bear in 2012 let alone in the near future when homosexuality will almost completely be socially accepted and what will be seen as their bigotry remembered. Calls to oppose gay marriage, however civilised, will also further entrench elements of homophobia which already exist in some religions, further separating them from the mainstream and alienating their own gay members.

Temptations to be a lone voice of righteousness crying in the wilderness should therefore be avoided. They will fail. They will fail because they will not produce an argument that will work. The British are not interested in Leviticus, they are not inclined to see gays as the enemies of marriage, and they are already, by and large, happy with gay adoption, thus making illogical the “marriage is best for children” anti-gay marriage argument.

Please note: I am not claiming that gay marriage is right only that it is inevitable. And thus to my final point: religions should be focussing instead on their right to opt out of gay marriage, an argument that has a chance of succeeding. The government claims that this right will be enshrined in law and I am inclined to believe them as religious freedom laws are pretty robust in these isles. However, the European Court of Human Rights looms over most things these days and so religions can justifiably push for any guarantees to be robust and, preferably, already tested in law.

In doing this a different argument might come from the churches, one which will not further marginalise them from public life. Indeed, it might provide an opportunity to be positive and persuasive about traditional marriage rather than simply negative about gay marriage. They might, for example, state that they are in favour of gay rights and civil partnerships, and that if there is a democratic call for gay civil marriage they will not oppose it, but that they want to feel sure that their right to reserve the religious sacrament of marriage to a man and a woman will remain.

The public will admire that view because traditional marriage is still viewed fondly — witness William and Kate’s very Anglican wedding and the recent rise in marriage rates — but they will not admire the kind of rhetoric that calls gay marriage “grotesque”, a rather inevitable characterisation if churches fight desperately to win an unwinnable war. I know that many people of faith will be averse to the making of the kind of calculation I suggest here. I hope that Mormons in the UK will apply some of their Mormon pragmatism and make their voice heard in a way that, whilst true to their beliefs, will also be listened to both now and in the future.

Oh be wise.

Comments

  1. While I agree that we in the UK should prepare ourselves for the (probably) inevitable, it should be recognised that among the voices in opposition to gay marriage are those gay couples who feel it is an unnecessary move and one that is certain to be provocative. It should not be assumed that there are universal calls for this. Agreed, Cardinal O’Brien was unwise in his use of language, but we understand his impulse to assert the centrality of traditional marriage in British culture. Should we be so concerned with how it appears to defend marriage, with maintaining admiration for our rhetoric, and with sounding socially acceptable? A bad argument is embarrassing on all sides, but what if a good argument can be put forward? Should we remain silent for fear of seeming bigoted?

  2. The collapse of modern civilization is also inevitable but that doesn’t mean I should give up on seeking to persuade others to choose the correct civil course.

    I’m not suggesting that gay marriage will cause a collapse only that arguments for inevitability should not be used to avoid “fighting the good fight” to preserve what we value.

    I think its worth remembering that as long as a people are not past feeling the spirit will strive with the majority of them but we have to trust god first and not believe in what would otherwise be inevitable without his divine hand. When the time does come that the people are beyond feeling of the spirit and the majority choose inquiry then comes what the prophets have spoken and the scriptures have testified.

    I do not believe in strategically hiding our light under a bushel unless we have reached that point of being beyond feeling on this issue but I understand and respect your pragmatic desire to do so.

  3. Errr.. iniquity
    Curse those inquirious types

  4. John,

    As a Tory and as someone who often forms his own conservative opinions with the help of the Torygraph, I would be happy to see robust arguments put forward by conservative thinkers on this issue, ones that take into account the situation in Britain. Alas, beyond the talk of the collapse of civilisation (cf. the comment above) and the nastiness emanating from some catholic quarters, I have not really seen it. For example, one could point to the High Court verdict I mentioned in my post and to which I am sympathetic — civil partnership is equal.

    Please note that this is not to call for inaction, however. As I said, religions could now take the opportunity to herald the sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman in the religious sphere, whilst having patience with the civil gay marriage position. If it turns out that there is public support and enough votes in the Commons, that will be that. Either the churches accept that gracefully and instead work to ensure their own polite opt-out, or fight tooth and nail in a nasty name-calling campaign that has never succeeded in the past. I see no merit in the latter.

  5. It’s strange that there should a regular prolonged lamentation on these blogs about the church conforming to popular culture. And yet here we seem to be overly concerned with being viewed as bigoted by the masses. I understand the desire to be pragmatic but lets not forget that the saints in all ages have taken a few lumps on the head when they must cross the line from pragmatism to a measured radicalism.

  6. heh, the collapse of modern civilization….certainly not caused by us going around the world and killing everyone. Nope, it’s because two people of the same sex wanna live together for the rest of their lives.

  7. Jack,
    Please read the post before typing a comment please. This is not about conforming to popular culture. Religions should confidently proclaim their belief in the sacrament of heterosexual marriage. I believe that my marriage, and the family we have created, is “ordained of God” and I would happily share that belief with anyone, damn the consequences. So, you misunderstand me. I support the majority Christian-Mormon view on this one. I also think (most of the time, although I am open to be persuaded), that civil partnership in England is sufficient.

    However, given the rampant homophobia which is often masked by “pro-marrriage” campaigns and the likelihood of failure in this case, I would simply urge caution before churches (and mosques and temples) wade into the debate. What can be achieved? Surely that is a question worth asking. I believe they can work to secure a robust opt-out and explain their view of the sacrament of marriage. I do not believe they can stop gay civil marriage just as they failed to stop the de-criminalisation of homosexuality, civil partnerships, and gay adoption.

  8. Daniel,
    Reading comprehension should be assumed — I specifically stated I was not suggestion gay marriage would cause the collapse of civilization. But charity would be every better. Who said I’m in favor of going around the world killing everyone? (or even as the shadow behind your strawman assumes, that I’m in favor of “killing our enemies”)

  9. Ronan, if I may plagiarize from my comment on your FB page:

    My thoughts on this have evolved a bit over time. From a strictly legal perspective I have absolutely no objection to legislatures (or parliaments for that matter) legislating the definition of marriage and changing or even maintaining a man/woman marriage definition.

    What I found intriguing about the UK case was their strict adherence to the Common Law as well as the later statutory embodiment of the Common Law definition of marriage, i.e., man/woman.

    My biggest objection is judicially imposed same sex marriage, because I have very strong feelings about the people as the ultimate sovereigns (more so than even legislatures and/or parliaments).

    Where I part with many is the acceptance that same sex marriage is a fundamental right (as we call it here in CA) or a civil right, at least in the same sense that voting, or speech, religion, association, privacy, or other times of basic civil rights are protected here by our Constitution and in the UK by their Common Law and statutory laws. I reject the argument that gay marriage is the same right. The movement in my view is not the same or even similar to our racial civil rights movement here in the States back in the 50′s and 60′s and to some degree even today. The two movements have very different histories including the histories of abuse, and the legislative and constitutional efforts to remedy those abuses and the discrimination.

    This is why I was intrigued by your comment that you believed in full civil rights. I likewise believe in full civil rights–but the question then becomes what is a civil, or over here a “fundamental right” that merits judicial protection.

    Since I reject that gay marriage is a fundamental right requiring judicial protection, I am not at all troubled by civil unions which afford the same legal rights of marriage. The problem over here in the States is that the majority of courts (mostly individual state appellate courts) have rejected the fundamental rights argument for gay marriage; however some have accepted and implemented the arguments requiring gay marriage at times against the will of the people or the legislative bodies.

    Ideally this is a question that should be resolved by legislatures/parliaments and not by courts. And, I concede that as time progresses it appears popular sentiment now favors gay marriage. If the majority of CA voters had approved gay marriage, I would have accepted it as the law of our land, because the people (as the ultimate sovereigns would have spoken.

    In CA thing are a mess because for a period of time same sex marriage was legal, then it was not. Now, again the issue is back into the purview of our Federal Courts, this time. Our courts were not as consistent and judicially responsible as I believe the UK high court was.

    I don’t have a clue how the federal legal issue currently in litigation will ultimately turn out over here in the States. I know that if the SCOTUS takes up the issue ultimately they will have to decide whether to invalidate laws in the vast majority of states that define marriage as between a man/woman, and in some cases will have to invalidate state constitutional amendments which so construe several state constitutions. There are many:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_constitutional_amendments_banning_same-sex_unions_by_type

    The social repercussions would be great, particularly in light of the fact I don’t believe there is a federal statutory or constitutional framework to allow striking down all these amendments and laws.

    I will add that I think the Brits have gone about this far better than we Yanks–though given our make up of a Federal Government with corresponding separate 50 state governments I suppose it was foreseeable some states would go their own way and be different than some others. It strains the argument that gay marriage can be considered a fundamental right in one state but not another. Can you imagine the idea voting or speech are fundamental rights in one state but not another? Doesn’t work well. And, like you I think ultimately gay marriage is inevitable here in the States. I just hope it comes via legislative and/or direct voter enactments rather than judicial mandate.

    I also like your emphasis on religions arguing more persuasively from a positive view point of the sacrament of marriage rather than the negatives of gay marriage. Religions still maintain an important voice in the public square, and can do so without implying homophobia in their discourse.

    It absolutely will be and has been interesting to watch, especially the legal arguments advanced etc. Nice post.

  10. RJH,
    According to the words in your post, “This will not be a post detailing all the tired arguments for and against gay marriage.” I am assuming that is a suggestion that this topic should be limited to the discussion of how the church and members should proceed and not to rehash the pros and cons of gay marriage.

    It’s a fine line to talk, because obviously the strategy of how to act is related to why we should act. But I understand this post to be about how the church should navigate the waters of social discourse and civil laws with regard to this issue.

    That being the case, there is scriptural precedent for a variety of actions of how to act with our knowledge (based on revelation):
    - Let the world & the church go it’s own way, as the prophet, apostles, scriptures, and holy ghost have spoken and testified repeatedly
    - Withhold/withdraw “higher” teachings because the world and/or church is not ready or willing to receive them
    - Continue to plead with and persuade others to bring their actions in conformity with God’s plan of happiness with regard to marriage

    As long as there are people open to persuasion and willing to listen I think the last option is preferable. I’m approaching this question of “what should the church (or myself as a member) do as a result of the light and knowledge I have received” and not based on a civil & secular law perspective because the viewpoint of this post is specifically from a church perspective.

  11. Ronan, these are such insightful, pragmatic, fruitful conservative considerations. Thank you for this post! For those who oppose gay marriage, devoting effort and energy to protecting religions’ right to define marriage as they see fit is a much better approach. In fact, this is an approach that has every chance of being successful given the robust protections of religious freedom and rights of conscience here in the UK and in the European Convention, as enforced by the European Court of Human Rights.

  12. Jeremiah says:

    RJH: I think this is a fantastic strategy, for a number of reasons:

    1-The growth of the Kingdom of God is dependent somewhat on political expediency.
    2-How we treat others and how we treat our own is an important factor in how we are viewed by potential converts, and how the disenfranchised among us feel about staying in the church.
    3-In our zeal to protect chastity, we can become quite strident, harsh, and rejecting. The current position of the Church is that we do not know what causes same-sex attraction, but it is clear that many people have deep emotional, social, and physical attractions to the same sex which they did not choose (Elder Oaks, Elder Holland). How do we treat them? Will we bash them into submission with the club of chastity until they come to Christ? Or will they leave us, or refuse to associate themselves with us because they can find a more loving place elsewhere?

    I assert that we must become more loving, accepting, and forgiving, and that this starts with our public policy. If gay marriage is an inevitability, we still have the power to love and teach people to make the right choices. If we make the Church a place that is loving and welcoming, we can build relationships of trust with people that can lead them to make good choices based on gospel principles. Otherwise, they’re going to go where they will be treated more kindly, if by those who do not have the fulness of the gospel.

    Let’s avoid pursuing an anti-gay marriage public policy–it puts up barriers between us and causes even good people to treat others uncharitably. We’ll never win the war against immorality through legislation, but through charity and truth.

  13. I have said for a long time that if churches want to protect the sanctity of marriage, the first thing they should do is be more focused on raising the sanctity of marriage among their own congregants – significantly. Mormons do that quite well with our temple sealing theology, and other churches can find their own way to do it. Until the divorce and domestic abuse rates decline sharply among the religious heterosexual population, targeting gay marriage as the great evil in society relative to marriage is disingenuous, at best, and flat-out hypocritical, at worst.

    I also agree that “the battle” (and I really dislike that phrasing) is lost. It was lost primarily because, frankly, the arguments against it were hypocritical and, therefore, incredibly weak. Good arguments were ignored or never constructed, and lousy ones were put forward. Gay marriage in the US is inevitable.

    Therefore, I really like Ronan’s suggestion in this post. It’s pragmatic, but it also stays true to our ideology and theology.

  14. Chris,
    In the spirit of your list, let me suggest another. I am no prophet, but I see the following as very likely:

    1. Gay marriage will pass.
    2. In their zeal to oppose gay marriage, homophobia will surface in some of the churches’ arguments and the churches will also find themselves internally divided.
    3. Given #1 and #2, the religious voice will be further rejected in the UK.

    That’s 0-3.

    The strategy outlined in my post has the chance of the following outcomes:

    1. Gay marriage will pass.
    2. The religious opt-out will be strengthened as lawmakers will respond positively to the churches’ moderate approach.
    3. The religious voice supporting the sacrament of heterosexual marriage will be heard.

    That’s 2-1.

  15. re # 14, well said Ronan.

  16. It seems to me as well that it is inevitable that it will pass here. What I do wonder is if we are going to see a letter sent to Members here in the UK encouraging us all to stand up against the proposal, will we see the what remains of church offices in Solihull being used to help out in the cause as we did in California?

    If not, then it seems to say that either they have learned from the mistake that they made in California by not becoming involved, or that we have preferential treatment and a national favoritism as resources can be poured into the US but English homosexual souls are not worth trying to save so we don’t get the same effort.

  17. My fear is all we will have is as this debate moves forward it will just disintegrate into more nasty homophobia and gay-bashing. (See your first #2 in comment #14).
    Unfortunately, in my experience, most church members are not skilled in civil discourse in these matters. I’ve already had a couple of forwarded mass emails from UK church members which don’t exactly make me hopeful that this will be a civil debate. Oh to have a few more Ronans!
    So far, I haven’t seen an official response from LDS Church leaders in the UK. If one must come, I just pray it won’t do anything inflame any more hatred.

  18. Oh and to proof-read my posts!
    The first sentence should have read “My fear is as this debate moves forward it will just disintegrate into more nasty homophobia and gay-bashing. (See your first #2 in comment #14).

  19. “If not, then it seems to say that either they have learned from the mistake that they made in California by not becoming involved…”

    While that could be a possibility, I think it’s more likely the church acted in areas where it not only had influence (Western USA, particuarly CA) but acted in a specific area where the question was put to a direct vote by the people. I don’t think we can conclude the brethren view CA as a mistake even if we can assume that they think mistakes were made along the way.

    There appears to be a lot of folklore by some about what kinds of “mistakes” the brethren make (and even attributing specific instances of a mistake to general actions that have not been declared such by them). We might as well just have someone start saying that the Brethren are doomed to make these kinds of mistakes because of an inherent flaw found in all members of the house of Ephraim dating back to the pre-existence :)

  20. It is a good thing that you Brits have the Prop 8 experience to look at. It did indeed become divisive and continues to yield consequences, as the Church is often perceived as violating Church/State lines. It would be good to NOT have a follow-up documentary on the LDS Church and SSM in England, coming after the one made about Mormons on this side of the pond.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Ronan, I like your proposal. If churches want to argue against gay marriage on the substance, they’re going to need to come up with more than “Leviticus, Won’t someone please think of the children?!, and oooh, it’s just plain icky.” (I kid for effect.) I haven’t seen such compelling arguments forthcoming. So it makes sense to focus on a robust opt out, which gay marriage advocates should be happy to favor. What they want is the capacity to be married, not specifically to be sealed as a Mormon sacrament in a Mormon temple.

  22. It calls to mind aluminum chaff. During World War II, British and Germans both invented it as a means of hiding airplanes from radar, but neither of them deployed it because if they did, then the enemy would figure out what they had done and use it against them and disable their own radar.

    So, religious entities that oppose homosexual unions should not voice that opposition so that they may continue to have a voice?

  23. Peter LLC says:

    So, religious entities that oppose homosexual unions should not voice that opposition so that they may continue to have a voice?

    If you will allow a mixed metaphor, they should break an Enigma cipher, eavesdrop on the conversation and get out in front of the debate instead of worrying about the best way to close the barn door after the horse has fled.

  24. >It calls to mind aluminum chaff.

    No, it doesn’t and I’ll explain why later.

  25. Love # 23, thanks Peter.

  26. The term “marriage” was in the bible, and other religious texts, long before this and most other countries ever existed.

    We could take a lesson from Mexico. They have true “separation of church and state” in this matter. The churches do not recognize civil marriages, and the government does not recognize church unions. So, many couples have two ceremonies, one civil, one church.

    Why don’t we just take the word “marriage” completely out of all the laws? Then all the rights can be joined to a substitute term like “civil union” or “domestic partnership” or “partnership contract” or something like that, and leave “marriage” to the religions where it belongs? That would be equality! Marriage originated as a religious term, not a legal one anyway.

  27. Yes, it really did. I read your words, and then I thought of WWII aluminum chaff. Putting aside the particulars of my neurons, though, . . .

    I’m left unclear what you want to reserve voice for. To have the idea of heterosexual union as taught by churches as something out there that people hear about? To protect churches ability to give special religious sanction exclusively to heterosexual marriages? Is the situation so bad that either of those is at risk?

  28. As secular enlightenment moves toward equality and respect for all the church continues to soften it’s stand against homosexuals ignoring the much of the folklore of the past including boyd. This will be a replay of the ban on blacks and your well thought out “cut their losses” strategy will probably help delay the inevitable.

  29. “What they want is the capacity to be married, not specifically to be sealed as a Mormon sacrament in a Mormon temple.”

    Having an LDS gay brother myself, I know that this is what he would ultimately prefer. I don’t think it is too far fetched to think it could possibly go there.

  30. Completely off topic, but absolutely fascinating nonetheless is Freeman Dyson’s recollection of the first time chaff was used during Hamburg:

  31. Marcus Inglis says:

    The Church had no qualms about giving the holy ordinance of Polygamy to satisfy social norms and establish statehood, same with black people holding the priesthood. It is only a matter of time when “The God who remains constant and never changes major doctrine” tells the prophet that this needs changing in the face of public expediency.

  32. The idea that SSM is “inevitable” is based on extrapolations of past trends, which can be misleading. It doesn’t take into account the fact that much of the growth in the UK and other developed countries are coming from more conservative, often religious, immigrants. David Coleman at Oxford and Eric Kaufmann have already made this argument in much more detail than I can rehash here, suffice it to say that it’s a difficult to say, since we have no idea what the “de-conversion” rates of the up-and-coming second generation immigrants are going to be, the future of their differential fertility, etc.

    So while yes, it does appear that in the short run SSM will pass, the idea that we’re headed for some sort of a long-term pro-SSM equilibrium is based more on a teleological “end of history” ideology than any sort of rigorous empirics.

  33. >it does appear that in the short run SSM will pass

    Indeed. The government has signalled its intent and it has the votes which would make it “inevitable”, non? And whatever demographic trends you are envisioning for the UK, it is unthinkable that SSM would pass and then be repealed. Furthermore, you seem to be suggesting that conservative Christians will find ideological support among conservative Muslims. I’m not sure the homophobic wing of Islam is something one would want to befriend.

  34. Mansfield,

    I’ll say it again for the last time after which I shall accuse you and others of wilful misrepresentation. Either that or I’m a bad writer, which is possible.

    Securing a public voice on marriage is to make sure that your voice cannot easily be dismissed as the homophobic ranting of religious bigots. There is nothing to gain from such a characterisation, especially as SSM will pass anyway. Emotive Facebook campaigns, email forwards, petitions run by mysterious “pro-marriage” groups, Leviticus-thumping, angry letters, etc., might very easily whip opponents of SSM into a righteous frenzy after which it will be impossible to prevent the kinds of extreme outbursts we are already seeing from some religious quarters in the UK. There is simply nothing to gain from such a strategy and I haven’t even counted the internal costs of schism and bad feeling.

    I am simply asking that Britons who oppose SSM realise that they will not succeed in preventing it. Several people here are alarmed at my defeatism, so let me repeat my conservative bona fides (thereby risking smug factor overload) for what I hope they are worth. I am a member of the Conservative Party, the only party that would historically have been cautious with regard to gay rights. The Party hierarchy is in favour, the Tory blogs are resigned to it, the mainstream Tory press runs the gamut from cautiously in favour to only tepidly against, and the votes have been counted.

    Given that reality (this is not California 2008), I wonder whether the churches might take a different approach, one that does not involve a no-win attack. Perhaps they should explain why the sacrament of marriage performed in churches has to be between potentially procreative partners, why this is not homophobic, why they support civil partnership, and why they will, however, accept the will of the democratically-elected government on civil gay marriage without resorting to apocalyptic and hateful language, an inevitability I am afraid if they zealously barge in and thus ensure that no-one, besides extremists, ever listens to them on marriage and family ever again.

    For the last time: SSM will pass in the UK. Proceed accordingly.

  35. I don’t see how repealing SSM is unthinkable; Iowa could very easily do so after the next election. There seems to be an implicit directionality built into that claim.

    I wasn’t making any sort of argument about who I wanted to befriend, I’m just arguing that the assumption that so many hold about a very particular direction of history is based mostly in ideology. I wasn’t making a case as to whether that direction was good or not since, unlike many in the SSM debate, I don’t see a logical relationship between the two.

    So, while it may give some people glee to envision the grandchildren of conservatives being ashamed of their oh-so-close minded grandparents, the reality is much more complicated, and belies simplistic comparisons to the civil rights movement of the 60s.

  36. Iowa is not England. You are right that one cannot predict the future but one should not be paralysed by agnosticism either. The trajectory in the UK has been:

    1. Decriminalisation.
    2. Lowering of age of consent to 16.
    3. Homosexual relationships described in schools.
    4. Gay adoption.
    5. Civil partnership.
    6. Full media acceptance of homosexuality.

    I’m sorry but unless you are a time-traveller you are wrong to have anything more than a modicum of confidence that this will reverse itself.

  37. We should be careful about the pride the bubbles up when people begin to think of themselves as going up against the world. We think that being “right” creates an inevitability in the long run when we come into conflict with “the world”. That is like the #1 seed expecting to win just because they’re supposed to. While expressing disdain for notions of “political expediency” I think we forget that sometimes those are life lessons that teach us humility. When we realize that just being right isn’t sufficient and that we must face things in life over which we have no control, we are confronted with the reality of our nothingness. That is an essential lesson that we must learn individually as well as institutionally as the Church of Christ. When even the prophet had to face the real possibility of the end/destruction/dissolution of the Church in the late 1800′s during the anti-polygamy era God was teaching (or “allowing” to be taught) a deeper, more essential lesson than the “how to win at life” lessons we think we are supposed to be trying to master.

  38. As distasteful and impure as it may seem we may have to learn to “work with” those kind of people. Aside from the fact that many of “those kind of people” can sometimes make pretty decent neighbors and are not that difficult to “work with”, Christ’s gospel challenges us even further in our social relationships in this world when it asks us to love our enemies and those who spitefully use us. I don’t see how that should be viewed as an unholy compromise.

  39. Jeremiah says:

    Homer: “those kind of people” are already members of the Church…you probably know several of “those kind of people” already without realizing it. I didn’t choose my same-sex attractions, but I am committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that my attractions are a result of the fall, and that in the resurrection of the dead, I will be restored. However, I am still a good, righteous person who cares deeply about the Kingdom. I like RJHs suggestion in part because in whipping up religious zealotry in the church, genuinely bigoted and homophobic things are said–in sacrament meetings, in sunday school, in relief society, in priesthood meetings, and those who are bowed down with the challenge of same-sex attraction quickly get the message that they are not wanted, that they are horrible and evil, and that they have no place in the kingdom. You don’t know who we are because we don’t have faith we’ll be loved if we told you.

  40. Since before Prop 8 I’ve been advocating that we do the work of getting government OUT of the marriage license business as a strategic matter:

    http://www.nine-moons.com/?p=813

    So how about it? When are we going to see some lawsuits challenging the government’s right to issue marriage licenses at all?

  41. Ronan,

    What do you call a Church member who attends weekly yet continually ignores the clear teachings of church authorities and, without qualms or guilt follows his own counsel on important moral matters, all the while continuing to take the Sacrament without feeling the need to disclose any of this to the bishop?

    Where I come from we call him a Catholic. The Pope and US Catholic Bishops are adamantly opposed to contraception, divorce, and same-sex marriage. They are also ambitious, unmarried old men afflicted with misogeny and out of touch with modern life. Just 15% of Catholics say that using contraception is morally wrong, 19% think that divorce is morally wrong, and less than half (42%) opposed the CA Supreme Court decision overturning Prop 8. [1]

    Does this mean that Catholics are hypocrites or rebellious (like Protestants? Ok, I couldn’t help myself on that last part). Not at all, it just means that we are a cohesive but pragmatic people, more comfortable with differences of belief than interpersonal conflict. We want our leaders to speak out forcefully on moral issues but are quite comfortable with ignoring their counsel when it conflicts with our own. We are raised with a strong sense of duty but abiding comfort in a buffet-style religion that sustains us. The inevitable erosion of authority of Church leaders on secular matters that comes from repeated forays into cultural minefields in the face of strong intergenerational differences that are trending demographically the wrong way does not in any way undermine their authority in fighting poverty, promoting social justice, and opposing the death penalty. One does not pay for the sins of the other.

    All of which is to say, Mormons should not look to us Catholics as natural allies (or for political cover) in the same-sex marriage debate. Our leaders do not always speak for us, certainly not in this matter, and anyway it is not in our nature to put divisive doctrine ahead of people. LDS will once again be left standing at the altar of intolerance on this issue, in Britain as in California.

    [1] http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1440

  42. I have a lot that I want to say about same sex marriage, but I am not going to here. I can offer no insight or opinion on UK policies and procedures, but I do want to thank you for making a case for a compassionate opt-out devoid of the scathing and sickening homophobia that usually accompanies these types of things. More than The Church’s image I am concerned with what such spewed venom does to both the hater and the hated. I cannot speak for God, but I cannot imagine it is what He wants for us either. We all have different beliefs even those of the same religion, but that should never allow us to devolve into such a state as was seen and felt surrounding the Prop 8 debacle.

  43. @ Jeremiah No. 39 – I am sorry–I think you misunderstood my comment and mistook the tone for an attack on you personally. I was using “those people” in quotes to mimic the coments and tones I have heard myself from others in this debate and contrasting it with the actual gospel teachings we all strive for, including the commandment to “Love Our Neighbor”. As we claim to follow the gospel then engage in these divisive and sometimes hate-filled cultural battles I wonder ” where is the love?”. I am sorry if you were hurt by this misunderstanding.

  44. Jeremiah says:

    Homer: Thanks, brother.

  45. handle with care says:

    This has really been playing nice.

    Whilst we must have every right to make our religious beliefs clear, it seems to me that once that’s been said we’ve made our contribution-we teach correct principles and they govern themselves. Once the argument starts to get strident,aggressive or heated we’ve been in the forum too long. The church is not a political party,and we have to respect the fact that we live in a democracy where sometimes we don’t get our own way. I’m hoping that we will be able to be distinguish ourselves by our respect for others choices.

    I’ve been personally advocating this position for some time,but it does seem that haters gonna hate however much sense you talk to them.

    In all, it’s a storm in a teacup that we just need to let pass us by and make as little fuss as possible. Experience would suggest that there are few in the gay community who will embrace marriage,and those who do are in my opinion praiseworthy for bucking the trend of promiscuity that has so characterised the homosexual community in the past. Such well meaning souls can only contribute to stability in communities.

    I’ve always struggled with our lay clergy and the burdens it places on families, but it does occur to me that in situations such as these it does give us independence from legislation. Since I have no legal background, I’m wondering if I’m right in thinking this?

  46. @handle with care # 45,
    Can you provide links to sources on which you relied to make the three following assertions? Without data I am disinclined to believe them:
    “In all, it’s a storm in a teacup that we just need to let pass us by”
    “Experience would suggest that there are few in the gay community who will embrace marriage”
    “the trend of promiscuity that has so characterised the homosexual community in the past”

  47. Geoff - A says:

    In Australia the Area Presidency had a message read over the pulput asking members to make clear their feelings on gay marriage to their local member of parliament. The stake president sent a letter accompanying it askin us to make this a private matter and not discuss it in church meetings. We do have some members who sent email opposing ssm with the same retoric used in California but generally pretty low key.

    There seems to be a sense coming through above that gay marriage might be inevitable but it is still evil. Similar to the ideas put forward against the negro having the priesthood which some apostles said was an eternal principle. How many are still trying to sustain that position?

    There was an interesting talk on Sat AM of conference explaining that the church and gospel are different. I believe that many of the differences between the church and the gospel are the influenced of the very conservative culture of Utah on the church. I don’t believe there ever was a ban on the priesthood for all worthy members of the church, or approval for polygamy, or anti gay marriage, or modesty, in the gospel. These are the church and as such will eventually come into accord with the gospel. The statement on the LDS Newsroom about racism is revaling. “It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began,” We will have a more christlike church when we can say that about some of the others.

  48. it's a series of tubes says:

    I don’t believe there ever was a ban on the priesthood for all worthy members of the church, or approval for polygamy, or anti gay marriage, or modesty, in the gospel.

    Geoff, those are some pretty radical positions. It’s incontrovertible that over the course of history, various righteous men and women have practiced polygamy with divine approval (c.f. Abraham, Jacob, etc).

  49. #48 – I’m not saying the ancients (or even moderns) lacked divine approval, but the only thing that is incontrovertible is that they and others after them believed they had divine approval in the practice.

    There’s divine approval and divine allowance – and human assumption of both. “As far as it is translated correctly” is much more expansive and much less narrow than we tend to assume, imo.

  50. it's a series of tubes says:

    Ray, how do you view the case of Abraham in light of D&C 132:29 and 35? Or Isaac and Jacob in light of the middle clauses in verse 37? Or the case of David in v. 39? The language there appears fairly strong. Are you saying you read these verses to state only Joseph’s belief with respect to the divine approval of the ancients? Or, perhaps even more narrowly, as Joseph’s “excuses” as to why he should be allowed to practice polygamy also?

    As for me personally, though I am descended from a certain fairly prominent polygamist, I’m glad I live in an age where the principle isn’t practiced, and I hope that is eternally the case.

  51. that was a really nice and exemplary exchange between jeremiah and homer. nicely done, dudes.

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