Same-Sex Marriage Debates in 2009 and Beyond

This is not a post about whether we should have same-sex marriage.  Rather, it is an exploration of the ways that strategic options for same-sex marriage proponents and advocates of traditional restrictions on marriage are evolving.  What kinds of arguments are likely to be meaningful to persuadable people?From the traditional-marriage camp, many frequently-advanced arguments are likely to lose their persuasive utility over the next few years, given the evident resilience of new institutional rules for marriage in Massachussets, as well as legislative and judicial victories in Iowa, Washington, D.C., and throughout New England for advocates of making marriage available on equal terms for same-sex and different-sex couples.  In particular, the following arguments are either now unlikely to persuade anyone who is not a member of the traditional-marriage movement, or they will quickly attain that status.

  • The argument that same-sex marriage is being undemocratically imposed.  A majority of the jurisdictions in the U.S. that currently recognize same-sex marriage made that decision through the standard democratic legislative process.  The fright-night figure of the “activist judge” is no longer especially relevant to this debate.
  • The argument that same-sex marriage changes the definition of marriage.  In practice, given the large portions of our country that have had at least some experience with same-sex married couples and the significant number of such couples now legally recognized by various state governments, the definition of marriage in the U.S. has already become more flexible.  People know how to imagine a “gay marriage,” and many of us now know men with husbands and women with wives.  The lived definition of marriage in the U.S. is now one in which heterosexual marriage is the prototype but other options exist.  That is to say, the definition has changed, and a return to a more purely traditional conceptualization of marriage would itself now constitute a change to our definition of marriage.
  • The argument that same-sex marriage is an untested experiment.  This has not really been true for some years, as there are countries in Europe which now have a fairly extensive period of experience with same-sex marriage.  In those countries, there is little evidence that traditional heterosexual families have been harmed by legal recognition of other kinds of family structures.  But Americans are often persuaded by the argument that we are unique.  Well, the experiment is now being tested here.  There is not much compelling evidence to date that the traditional family in Massachusetts is in any new or extraordinary state of decomposition, but perhaps it will come.  We can wait a decade or two to get more definitive results, if the reader would like.  I doubt very much that undecided or persuadable Americans will wait that long, however.  If there is not clear and compelling evidence of actual harm to traditional families in states that allow gay and lesbian marriage within the next few years, this argument will lose its punch entirely.

For the marital-equality camp, the strategic landscape is changing, as well.  While the option of simply waiting a generation or two in the hopes that current attitudinal trends will continue remains open, some changes in present-day tactics and strategy seem likely

  • To date, arguments for same-sex marriage have tended toward either highly abstract ideological claims or toward concrete claims that specific same-sex couples are hurt by present policies.  Recent developments make available the pragmatic middle ground that Americans seem to prefer: the argument can be made that same-sex marriage works in the places in the country where it has been implemented.  This is almost certainly a net strategic gain, as this kind of argument is particularly appealing to the less ideological citizens who constitute the persuadable middle.
  • The fact of a large number of real-world marriages brings inherent negatives for same-sex marriage advocates.  Same-sex marriage on a large scale means that there will also be same-sex divorces, same-sex spousal abuse cases, same-sex court battles over alimony, and so forth.  These ugly aspects of contemporary marriage will inevitably complicate debates, as the current stereotypical happy image of the two grooms atop a wedding cake becomes muddled with stories of compromise, antagonism, and sometimes violence.  Some voices in the traditional-marriage movement will probably play these incidents up.  Both sides will need to develop strategies for addressing the probably-inevitable fact that same-sex marriage will sometimes have the same less-than-storybook endings that traditional marriage has.

Of course, both sides will continue to assert their fundamental moral claims.  The religious core of traditional-marriage advocates can quite clearly continue to emphasize the view that homosexuality is wrong because of God’s law, regardless of empirics.  Same-sex marriage advocates can still press their claim that social equality requires state-recognized marriage.  These claims play best to the base; they speak strongly to those who are already mobilized into the movement, but much more weakly to those who are persuadable.  Messages that will reach the persuadable middle are increasingly available to same-sex marriage advocates, but are becoming relatively scarce for traditional-marriage advocates.  I expect to see a great deal of creative thinking, most of it unsuccessful, as intellectuals and activists search for new, persuasive messages.  (One such effort is Hudson’s relatively recent Square Two article, an innovative if ultimately failed attempt to build a feminist argument against expanding definitions of marriage.  A detailed and serious deconstruction of Hudson’s argument by TT at Faith-Promoting Rumor is here.  My feeling is that Hudson’s argument simply shipwrecks on the empirics: the societies that have the most extensive experience with same-sex marriage are also among the societies that — according to virtually any empirical indicator — have the highest levels of gender equality on the planet.)

As a final note, I very much wonder how the LDS church’s official response to same-sex marriage will evolve in the coming years.  The strategy to date has been substantially oriented toward short-term electoral victories to, as it were, plug holes in the dam.  There may now be too many holes in the U.S. to plug.  Will we see a move away from legal and electoral manuevering and toward a more directly cultural effort at mass persuasion?  Some allege, based on murky but not absolutely implausible conspiracy theorizing, that the recent “Gathering Storm” commercials represent a first movement in that direction.  Whether or not that video represents an initial, inept move by the church toward cultural persuasion and away from a more narrowly legal and electoral strategy, such a general change in direction seems a sensible strategic reaction to the suddenly changed environment of marriage norms and laws in the United States.


  1. JNS, I thought it was telling that in the series ending episode of Boston Legal, James Spader’s character and William Shatner’s character decided to take advantage of the Massachusetts SSM law to avoid probate over the one character’s estate. SSM proponents on the show tried to get the courts to deny them a marriage license under the argument that they were making a mockery of SSM, and that it was a sham marriage of convenience, to which Spader’s character responded that it happens all the time in traditional marriage, and if they really wanted equality, they would welcome this sham marriage.

    It was very funny in context, but I think indicative of how the landscape is changing, as you point out above. I remember hearing about a year after the Massachusetts statute became law, a report on NPR about the first divorce filings. I also see that the church may have to go through a shift of moving the defense of traditional marriage from a church/community basis to promoting individual obedience to principles. It’s Jan Shipps’ boundary maintenance paradigm shift all over again.

  2. The fact of a large number of real-world marriages brings inherent negatives for same-sex marriage advocates.

    I think this is overplayed. Straight people “need” to get married out of family pressure, raise children, or (for LDS) have sex. None of these is statistically true for gay men (I cannot speak for gay women).

    So, there is a very strong selection bias. Those gay men who choose to get married do not get many actual benefits from it without dependents (my taxes went up!) They worked hard for the right to do so. I expect (in at least the next 10 years) to see substantially reduced marriage failures among gay men relative to straight couples. We shall see…

  3. Mark Brown says:

    J., I agree with you that the ground is shifting rapidly here.

    Last year at least part of the church’s expressed opposition to prop 8 was based on uncertainty about religious freedom. In the past month we have seen that legislatures are capable of crafting laws which allow SSM but which also accomodate a robust exercise of religious freedom.

  4. Mark, I’d like to think that is the primary concern of the Church. When legislatures pass SSM with religious freedom protections, it doesn’t bother me one bit. When SSM passes by judicial fiat, there is no guarantee that religious liberty will be respected.

  5. From MM

    “I think your outlook on SSM is not backed up by electoral/legislative success outside of NE. NE is unique in how liberal and secular the region is compared to most of the rest of the country. To put this in context states with about 85 electoral votes voted to ban SSM in their state constitutions just 6 months ago. I see a future on SSM where a few deeply blue states allow SSM and the majority of states do not.”

    I simply do not see a scenario outside of a SC decision that would facilitate SSM outside of a few states mostly in the northeast and on the west coast.

  6. Dan,
    Actually, at least on the federal level, a gay couple’s taxes are unaffected by marriage–the current DOMA doesn’t recognize gay marriage, even where state law does. (Presumably that will change at some point, but I don’t pretend to have my ear to the ground on anything legislative, really).

    There has been some interesting scholarship, but overall, whether your tax picture improves or gets worse depends on a lot of things (including, among other things, whether you and your spouse make similar amounts of money or a widely disparate amount of money, whether you have certain types of appreciated property that you want to transfer now, and how large your estate is when you die (and, of course, whether you want to leave it to your spouse or not)).

    Of course, I don’t generally think that people (straight or gay) get married for tax purposes–in fact, I think that only in the rarest of situations do people consider the tax consequences of marriage when deciding whether or not to do it–and I think that’s probably for the best.

  7. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    BBell, I hate to burst your bubble, but that quote really reflects the past and not the present. Nationwide polling has recently shown support for same-sex marriage either approaching or actually reaching a plurality. Time trends suggest that same-sex marriage would be a popular-vote winner in more than half the states in the U.S. within the next 10 years. Your argument is really more backward-looking than presently applicable.

  8. John Mansfield says:

    There’s just no fighting the inexorable march of history. Same-sex marriage is our future just like communism.

  9. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    John, nice one. It’s certainly not deterministically sure that the time trends evident over the last 15 years will continue — but it seems that generational turnover will move things in that direction unless something changes. That’s not impossible at all, but the trend-changing fact isn’t on the table yet.

  10. I concluded after listening to Oprah a few times that I have the unconventional nontraditional marriage. No infidelity, only one marriage (so far), all children conceived and born after we married.

    I wondered how the church would respond when they said they were not against civil unions and then the gay rights groups in Utah asked for the church to help them with just that. Will they stand behind civil unions or will they stand silently as it gets defeated in Utah or do they actively try to undermine it some other way?

  11. Iowa is not in the Northeast or west coast. The feeling that SS couples got the shaft in Cal is changing the polls some what. There is no doubt where the trend is heading. I do think it will be interesting to see how religous groups not just the Mormons address this.

  12. JNS,

    I have looked at the internals of the polls you cite and simply disagree. Politics on social issues simply do not move as fast as you have indicated you believe. 29 states have recently outlawed SSM in referendums. A good example is Florida which 6 months ago with 62% of the vote outlawed SSM. Citing a poll or two that based on the internals is skewed due to what I percieve as does not suggest that this type of Florida referendum result has suddenly almost overnight vanished. Especcially between the coasts and down South

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 5
    I’m not so sure, bbell. Just look at how much things have shifted in just the past decade. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where many states (including most of the upper midwest) have SSM, and the offer civil unions. I think that’s where things are headed in the next twenty years or so. The trend lines seem pretty clear, especially when you factor in age vis-a-vis opinion on the topic.

    This is a great post, J. I’m not sure that attempting to shift toward cultural persuasion is a a sensible strategic reaction as much as a result of having few other options.

    The conservative right lost the culture war a generation ago. The delightful NOM TV ad linked to in the initial post is a great example of this. What percentage of the population would respond positively to that? It led to dozens of often very funny responses: (wait ’til the ending, folks!)

  14. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Bbell, I’m talking based on polling averages, not a single poll. The Midwest, in particular, seems to be next in line after New England and the West Coast.

    Incidentally, regression analysis based on voting behavior in the referenda you talk about also points in the same direction:

    The politics of social issues can definitely change fast, in the sense of over a decade or so, due to familiarization and generational turnover. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

  15. bbell and Mansfield: Nate Silver has some interesting state-by-state analysis (not just national numbers), and the inexorable march argument.

  16. #14, 15–Oh JNS beat me to it! Great minds…

  17. DavidH says:

    I agree with bbell. The constitutional amendments in a large number of states would have to be overturned before the legislatures could enact SSM. I would want to see polling results in the states with such constitutional amendments in place before expressing an opinion that those amendments would be reversed any time soon. (California would be an exception–it is not hard for me to imagine that the next time it comes up, SSM will win.)

  18. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    David H, a reversal in California within the next few electoral cycles is indeed reasonably likely. Nate Silver’s analysis adds several states where a reversal in the near future might be possible: Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, etc. Recall that past voting results are lagging indicators.

  19. JNS I looked at the results of the model that 538 has. Its laughable. According to the model in 2 years Idaho would by referendum approve SSM. Utah in 2013.

    This is a state by state issue due to federalism. The only way to accuratly measure what will happen on this issue is look at past voting patterns most importantly referendums and current polling state by state.

    national polls simply do not give an accurate picture. Even the national polls on average continue to show a majority rejecting SSM.

  20. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    BBell, if you mean the national polls show a majority failing to approve SSM, you’re right — neither side has a majority in the polling averages anymore. You’re overstating the critique of the 538 results. The model is just missing a covariate for %Mormons.

    Past voting patterns are just that: past. They show a trend across states and on the average toward much closer contests. Those trends in conjunction with survey data suggest that things are changing quickly.

  21. JNS its not just the jello belt. it also has TX in 2018. Also laughable.

    its a matter of how far the trends go in favor of SSM. I believe that the trend lines on SSM will take in NE, a west coast state or 2, Some mid-atlantic states (MD, NJ) and an occassional upper midwest state. Thats it.

  22. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    TX in 2018 isn’t remotely laughable — that’s a long time in political terms.

    What’s your theory behind a ceiling on the trend lines? Generational turnover combined with familiarization effects would suggest a pretty high ceiling, unless you have another argument on the table?

    Note that I don’t remotely suggest here that reaching the ceiling is inevitable. If traditional-marriage advocates are successful in creating new appealing arguments to reach persuadable individuals and change trends among the young, things can move in the opposite direction. But the inertia right now seems to be in the direction of basically countrywide same-sex marriage before most of us are dead.

  23. Crunching the numbers aside: does a national shift towards support of same sex marriage represent a positive change or a negative change? I’m just curious as to what BCCers feel about that, as it seems fey or illusive at times.

  24. JNS,

    SSM is a social issue like abortion, Gun control. A good model is to take a look at state laws concerning these issues and go from there. You find the most restrictive gun laws and open abortion situations in the states and regions I mention above.

  25. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    BCC: “Fey and Elusive Since 2004. Just Ask Our Bishops!”

  26. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    BBell, I’m absolutely mystified by the suggestion that gun control and abortion are comparable in terms of national opinion with same-sex marriage. Where’s the evidence, again, of 10+% shifts in public opinion on either of those other two issues over the last decade?

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    MikeInWeHo, last night my daughter showed me a different parody of the gathering storm commercial. I hadn’t seen the original, but I thought the parody was very funny.

    J., I like your analysis here. There is one point I think I disagree with, and that is that the SSM argument based on social equality plays mostly only to the base. I think that’s one that plays pretty well to the persuadable middle. Witness the recent news accounts of Marie Osmond and her lesbian daughter, saying that all should have the same civil rights. That seems like an argument that the persuadable middle will buy to me.

  28. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Kevin, you might be right; equality of opportunity is a foundational American value. On the other hand, I’m not at all sure that I’d count Marie Osmond as part of the persuadable middle. People who buy the equality of opportunity argument may be out of reach for persuasion efforts from the other side.

  29. Scott B says:

    Todrobbins (23)-
    Do you mean BCC contributors, or just people who participate in the discussion through comments, etc? In both cases, the feelings on the subject are as varied as anywhere else.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark Brown, I agree with you that it is very important for gay activists to include protections for religious liberties in these state statutes. SSM proponents have been burned for not taking these concerns seriously enough, but they seem to have come around, to good effect.

  31. JNS,

    Your mystified by my assertion that states that enact more liberal policies on hot button social issues are more open to SSM then states that have a more conservative take on social issues?

    Where have we seen SSM enacted by legislatures? Liberal deep blue states. In what states do we see 60-70% margins in referendums on SSM? Deep red states.

    Political Science 101

  32. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    BBell, you want Political Science 101? How about this: variables that have different time trends are not the same as each other.

  33. Scott B says:

    Kevin & J,
    My experience out here in California last fall was that the “persuadable middle” is shrinking very quickly. In this vein, I agree with JNS’s main points, but would add that I think the changing of stances will be fairly lumpy–as entire groups of people who have been clinging to one argument or another realize that such an argument no longer is valid, lumps of voters will begin (ahem) batting for the other team. That lumpiness is also why I think Texas is _not_ so far out of reach for SSM advocates, as BBell suggests.

  34. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    By the way, I absolutely agree — as does everybody else — that there is geographical structure to opinion on same-sex marriage. Traditionally sorta libertarian areas like New England, as well as socially liberal areas like the West Coast, are more favorable to same-sex marriage than other areas. Socially conservative areas, particularly in the South, are less favorable. But the time trend in general, and in most regions, is toward same-sex marriage. Note that telling me that Democratic states are more favorable is irrelevant information here: what matters is that publics in both Democratic and Republican states are on average moving in the same direction.

  35. Maybe it’s just me. (I live in CA). I see three groups in play: Those against SSM, those for SSM, and those who don’t put the outcome high on their list, (Large ?). I would be in number three. There are just too many things that have a direct effect on my life, to have a concern about SSM. I am fine with it. Now let’s talk about the DOW, health care, wars, jobs, or a hundred other things.
    I know for a Gay person, this is an important issue, and I am ok with them having it high on their list, and wish them the best.

  36. The geographic component is large but stable. It is the age of voters that is driving this change and that should give SSM opponents real cause for concern.

    According to the highly respected Field Poll (31 Oct 2008), there is a hard-core anti-SSM contingent that is over 65 and dying off rapidly:

    Table 3: Preferences toward Prop. 8
    (Same Sex Marriage Ban) by Age

    Frac. Age subgroup Yes No Undecided
    (1.0) Total statewide 44% 49% 7%
    (.25) 18 – 34 39% 52% 9%
    (.27) 35 – 49 43% 53% 4%
    (.29) 50 – 64 38% 53% 9%
    (.19) 65 or older 62% 32% 6%

    That the 62% against SSM has not transferred its stance on this issue to the baby boomers tells me they’ll be taking their opposition to the grave.

  37. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 27
    You have to see the original NOM ad, Kevin. It’s remarkable. When I saw it I thought “Can this be for real? Was it actually produced by some gay organization?” Talk about ripe for parody.

    NOM’s efforts at cultural persuasion are almost funny in their ham-handedness. Not long after the TV ad, they launched an effort to get two millions signatures against gay marriage. They splashed this effort across their web site and called it 2M4M. This was quietly dropped when ridicule again ensued: M4M is commonly used in personal ads by men seeking relationships with other men.

    I’m not sure they’re doing much better this week as they sign up Carrie Prejean to be the new poster-child for religious persecution:

  38. Scott B says:

    Dan–I remember that poll, and remember the astonishing misfire it had on predicting outcomes for prop 8. Assuming there was nothing systematically wrong with the poll, and that those responding simply didn’t tell the truth, which age group was lying the most about their true views?

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 38 You have a point, Scott. If that poll is correct, why did Prop 8 pass? How could virually all the undecideds under 65 swing toward yes at the polls?

  40. Right after the poll was taken, there was an unanswered major ad blitz by pro-8 implying that it would lead to “teaching homosexuality in schools”. This was not factored into the poll, and had a major effect on the undecideds.

    Obviously, one poll snapshot is not a good test of velocity, but future polls should pay extra attention to the age variable and do longitudinal studies on it, not just clump everyone together.

    We need to know whether the trend is from individuals changing their mind or generations turning over. I suspect it is the latter.

  41. Also, it seems obvious in hindsight that “undecided” means anti-SSM, especially now that pro-SSM is so “trendy”. Frankly, I wish they’d take undecided off the menu. How indecisive do you have to be to be undecided about SSM anyway?

  42. Scott B says:

    Dan, I agree that the ad blitz toward the end of the campaign was a factor in persuading people who were undecided, but I don’t think it is the only story. There is precedent for people being less than honest on socially heated issues, and this fits that model. So, working from that precedent, my question is simply, Who is lying about their true preferences? Is it the 65 year old or the teenager? Or the 40-something?

    My money, having been a been one, is on the teenagers. As such, I agree that younger generations are moving this issue forward, but I would not be surprised if the difference in polls between 20 yearolds and 50 year olds is smaller than those numbers indicate. Enough to delay things by a few months…maybe a year. :)

  43. The New Order Mormons are understandably irritated at their long-time acronym being co-opted by these people.

  44. More NOM!

  45. Mark Brown says:

    44 and 45 are funny, but MikeInWeHo’s link is still the funniest.

  46. Nick Literski says:

    I wondered how the [LDS?] church would respond when they said they were not against civil unions and then the gay rights groups in Utah asked for the [LDS?] church to help them with just that. Will they stand behind civil unions or will they stand silently as it gets defeated in Utah or do they actively try to undermine it some other way?

    The LDS church leaders during the Prop 8 campaign that they had no objection to California’s previously-existing domestic partnership laws (which gave “all” the rights of marriage to domestic partners), the LDS are now getting involved in another “coalition,” trying to overturn a newly-passed bill in Washington State that provides the same level of recognition as California’s law. So much for honesty and integrity!

  47. Mike S says:

    Another aspect to consider as far as the LDS Church is concerned:

    The church has stated that they have nothing per se against homosexuality and people who have those urges. As far as behaviors, we have been told that gay people need to follow the same rules as heterosexual people: no premarital sex, and no sex outside marriage. Up to this point, this has effectively enforced a life-long celibacy on gays who wished to remain in good standing in the church.

    However, given the increasing reality of gay marriage, and given the fact that our church recognizes civil marriages and not just temple marriages, how do they respond to a married gay couple that wishes to remain active Mormon? They could argue that they didn’t have premarital sex and are faithful to their marriage.

    How should they handle this?

  48. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 46 The pro-SSM side is winning the cultural debate because quite frankly, we are funnier and have lots of material to work with.

    re: 48 I think I’d rather watch C-SPAN than go down that road again.

    Is the LDS activity to overturn the domestic partnership law in WA officially encouraged by the Church, Nick? Or is just Mormons doing this on their own? There is a big difference. Any links on that?

  49. Nick Literski says:

    The papers here are saying that the petition drive is being put forth by a group of “Catholic, Protestant and Mormon organizations.” So far, I don’t take that as (openly? honestly?) directed from SLC LDS HQ. On the other hand, these would appear to be LDS who are actually presenting themselves as if they are acting in the name of the LDS church.

    Not long ago, a bishop in Nauvoo, Illinois, saw fit to approve a message via the official church website’s e-mail system to all of his ward members, urging them to actively fight against civil union legislation in Illinois. The message leaked to the media, and the LDS Public Affairs department in SLC was so loud in denying any official church involvement, that many commentators thought “the lady doth protest too much.”

    As quick as the LDS PR folks in SLC are these days to react to unfavorable news media, their failure to disavow the Washington State petition drive is notable.

  50. Nick Literski says:

    However, given the increasing reality of gay marriage, and given the fact that our church recognizes civil marriages and not just temple marriages, how do they respond to a married gay couple that wishes to remain active Mormon?

    My understanding is that in nations where plural marriage is legal, the LDS church requires potential converts to divorce their “additional” wives before baptism. I would expect, therefore, that the LDS church would require a married gay couple to divorce before baptism.

  51. Mike S says:

    re: 49

    Sorry I’m new here and was just wondering what the implication of all this would be. From your comment, it sounds like this must have been discussed ad nauseum before. I apologize.

    Do you have a 2 line consensus summary of the discussion?

  52. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, your #47 and #50 cross the line. We would prefer not to ban you, but inflammatory remarks like yours are not welcome.

  53. re: 51

    This all becomes much much tricker when children are present. I think no Church would let itself be seen as encouraging the breakup of a legally-recognized family unit containing children.

    What a quagmire.

  54. Phouchg says:

    I find laughable the assertion that New Hampshire is a “deep blue liberal state”! This shows bbell’s complete non-understanding of New Hampshire politics and lifestyle. New Hampshire is LIBERTARIAN, but certainly NOT liberal. No sales or income tax, no mandatory Motorcycle helmet law, no mandatory seat belt law etc. etc. SSM fits right in with the libertarian mindset – and I should know, since I spent the first quarter-century of my life living 1 mile from the NH border and working in and visiting the Granite State for years.

  55. suzanne says:

    I am sometimes still surprised that there is concern expressed about religious freedoms. We have separation of church and state (or we are supposed to) for the express purpose of protecting these freedoms. I am more worried about the church becoming so active politically with Prop 8- it seems like the lines are being broken down by the religious right rather than the other way around.

    As for how long it will take for SSM to become a standard norm- Loving vs Virginia is an interesting case. Just 42 years ago the supreme court had to weigh in regarding marriage between a racially disparate couple. Inside of 20 years a majority of America would agree that the ruling was common sense, however at the time this had a profound effect on the social and political landscape. F.C. Decoste states, “If the only arguments against same sex marriage are sectarian, then opposing the legalization of same sex marriage is invidious in a fashion no different from supporting anti miscegenation laws”.

    I believe that 20 years from now we will look on this issue in the same light and see this as common sense- 42 years from now it will be as obvious as Loving vs Virginia.

    However- there is a difference in these issues because homosexuality is a sin. I do not see that changing. SSM will be in existence, however the anti discrimination laws do not apply to churchs and they will not be forced to recognize or perform SSM.

    I personally feel it will be a relief to see the SSM issues come to a logical conclusion and be laid to rest. The protections of the marriage contract in the eyes of the law are protections granted by man, not by God. I am unable to sustain any belief that Heavenly Father cares about estate succession, spousal protection for property, medical decision making or any of the other legal protections that my spouse and I share simply by virtue of marriage recognized by the state.

  56. P,

    I know all about NH politics. NH is in transition right now from its libertarian roots as people from MA move in and change the political culture/balance by sheer numbers. This helps explains all the defeats of the traditional NH R libertarian candidates since 2006 in NH and helps explain what is occuring now in NH via the state legislature.

  57. queuno says:

    TX in 2018 isn’t remotely laughable — that’s a long time in political terms.

    To extend your example … I think the statehouse shifts back Democrat before or during 2018. If Perry wins the GOP primary over KBH, maybe even 2010…

  58. Mark Brown says:

    This article summarizes research conducted at Rice University in Houston. It provides a rich set of data extending over time, so we get a clear sense of direction. The research only covers Houstonians, so it would be interesting to know how much we could extrapolate to the rest of Texas and the South in general.

    Here are the key points for this conversation:

    Attitudes toward abortion rights have been virtually unchanged for all of the last two decades in Houston, but views on homosexuality have shifted. On virtually every relevant question, support for gay rights in Houston has grown in what Klineberg described as an “unmistakable, consistent increase over time.”


    Support for gay marriage rose to 43 percent in 2009 from 32 percent two years ago. Tolerant attitudes toward homosexuality closely follow age, Klineberg noted, with younger Houstonians more accepting of gays and lesbians.

  59. JNS,

    It seems to me that apart from the argumentation changes, the most important factor that is leading (I think) toward general acceptance of SSM is the increasingly widespread recognition that homosexuality is not simply a function of choice combined with the development of a culture that no longer requires gays and lesbians to stay in the closet.

    One of the principal results of those two factors is that people of my generation (I’m 47 at present) and younger know lots of gays and lesbians. Some of them are people we grew up with who have come out of the closet, some of them are our maiden aunts and confirmed-bachelor uncles who only tacitly acknowledge such things, and some — most compellingly — are our children. Some of our loved ones are gay, and we not only no do not desire to change their intrinsic nature, we’re glad for the beauty of a world that includes them.

    That shift of perception means that the “gay rights activists” that SSM opponents talk about are not “them” — they’re “us.”

    The only theoretical way this doesn’t work out as the trend lines suggest it’s heading is if the “homosexuality isn’t really a choice” genie gets stuffed back in the bottle.

    And I just don’t see (nor do I desire to see) that happening.

  60. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 52 Sure, here’s a summary of past posts on that very question:

    “Married gays should be allowed to stay in the Church. You’re a bigot and a homophobe.”

    “No, you’re deceived and probably apostate.”

    Repeat x 500.

  61. Mike, wait. You left out the Hitler part.

  62. A question for the ancient historians here.

    How tolerant were the Greeks and Romans in respect to homosexuality?

    The argument against same sex marriage is that it will erode our civilization to the point of destruction. We apparently don’t have many examples of such civilizations to test that theory out. Except maybe we do. The Ancient Greeks and Romans, from what I remember in high school history, were fairly tolerant of gay lifestyles. And those civilizations lasted a really long time under those conditions.

    If the argument is that America better not tolerate such acts because God will strike us down, if God doesn’t strike us down, then the argument fails, badly. The only city God ever destroyed himself was supposedly filled with sexual depravities. But lots and lots of civilizations have survived in this world that have been very sexually depraved. I mean, heck, The Netherlands not only has legalized same sex marriages, but prostitution is also legalized there! And God hasn’t sunk the Netherlands into the North Sea.

    I think on this particular issue, for those against same sex marriage, God himself is going to need to do something to make the argument against it convincing. Not to convince someone like me (I don’t need signs to see what is right and wrong), but to really make the point that the prophet of the Lord knows what he is talking about.

    If the argument is that allowing such things destroys a civilization, then evidence must be given to prove that point. The current evidence is that numerous societies in history and around the world continue to thrive even while allowing much more toleration for such activities. It makes it very hard to argue against being tolerant.

  63. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 63
    The ‘tolerance led to the desruction of Rome’ argument has been long-debunked, but it still gets trotted out from time to time. It does not hold water from a secular perspective. John Boswell’s book “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality” was the seminal (no pun intended :) ) work on the topic almost 30 years ago.

    I have not seen credible evidence that any society has ever been diminished by tolerating homosexual relationships. Indeed, just the opposite seems to have been the case at times. Boswell lays out how intolerance actually increased in Rome as the empire declined. The Weimar Republic is another example. It was very tolerant of homosexuality, but the rise of Nazism corresponded with a dramatic reversal which of course led to the eventual slaughter of German gays.

  64. Mark B. says:

    Of course, a large number of those German gays were associated with Ernst Röhm and the SA–the Brown Shirts. (Hard to believe they wore those horrid brown shirts–you’d think they’d have wanted to wear the black of the SS.)

    So, the gays of the SA played a major part in the destruction of the gay-friendly Weimar Republic. Maybe they are everywhere.

  65. Re: 63

    Wow, I’ve never heard of a reverse-‘tolerance led to the destruction of Rome’ argument, but keep on going on.

  66. MikeInWeHo says:

    Boswell didn’t argue that intolerance led to the destruction of Rome. He just noted that as societies decline or go into crisis, they tend to become less tolerant of minorities because there is a need to identify someone to blame.

  67. RE: #56
    Judeo-Christian Bias and Invidious Discrimination?

    In my opinion, proponents of same sex marriage go out of their way to demonstrate to the supposed ignorant, that homosexual activity has been going on throughout history and across all cultures, something that needs no explanation and is inherently obvious.
    What is not so clear is whether the concept of “same sex marriage” has similar ancient roots.
    Loving vs. Virginia, upon which proponents of same sex marriages rely as a comparative case for violations of civil rights, ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional because of their patent “discriminatory” nature, but in a sense very different from what same sex advocates claim.
    State courts, with few exceptions, (and the US Supreme Court in particular); have been reluctant to give a formal definition of marriage other than how it has been traditionally defined, that is, between a man and a woman. Loving vs. Virginia affirms this fundamental understanding! Basing their ruling precisely on this understanding, Chief Justice Warren asserted that “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man…,” precisely because it is through marriage that humanity perpetuates itself. Chief Justice Warren clearly indicates that the courts’ primary objections to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws were that they were based on “invidious racial discrimination” and because there sole purpose is to perpetuate white supremacy. Indeed, the ruling has nothing to say specifically regarding marriages between couples of the same sex, and it is doubtful that Justice Warren would have viewed marriage from other than a traditional and historical perspective. Commonsense suffices to demonstrate that individuals of different races who wish to marry are: 1) men and women, 2) capable of creating offspring, and 3) conform to our legal, cultural, and religious understanding of what constitutes marriage. For this reason, the court in Loving determined that anti-miscegenation laws were discriminatory because these laws were designed to perpetuate white supremacy.
    It is difficult to justify same sex advocates claim that objections to same sex marriage constitute invidious “religious” discrimination because it cannot be shown that religious objections to same sex marriages have any other agenda than that of preserving the fundamental understanding of marriage as it is affirmed in Loving.

  68. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Jose, when you say, “it cannot be shown that religious objections to same sex marriages have any other agenda than that of preserving the fundamental understanding of marriage as it is affirmed in Loving,” I think you’re reaching much too far. It’s actually trivially easy to show that a wide range of religious objections to same-sex marriage have an agenda beyond conceptualizing marriage in the traditional way. Many religious objections don’t even draw on this idea, instead focusing on what is characterized as the inherently sinful nature of homosexuality. Indeed, to the extent that references to the Bible are offered, the appeal is necessarily to a competing argument, since the Bible offers no definition of marriage.

  69. Re #68,

    Since this blog is about strategy, not advocacy, I will only say that your arguments are compelling to fewer and fewer people, and those people are already convinced.

    How would you advise anti-SSM advocates to retool their campaign to be more effective to undecideds (especially among the younger voters)?

  70. Dan, maybe young voters need more cowbell.

  71. MikeInWeHo says:

    NOM would be well-advised to include more cowbell in its future campaigns, definitely.

  72. Mark Brown says:

    I’m afraid. I’m very afraid. I fear the reaper.

  73. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 73
    Me too, Mark.
    Da storm ees combing.

  74. since the Bible offers no definition of marriage.

    This is definitely not true.

  75. Dara is right. My Bible defines marriage as an institution that allows multiple wives and concubine (or sixty) in addition to my wives. Oh yeah, divorce is mostly forbidden and marriage is definitely ’til death do you part. Fortunately, that’s easy enough since stoning naughty, non-virginal wives is permitted too.

  76. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Dara, please provide specifics! Mike’s got the thread of what I had in mind: the Bible provides scenarios in which very different definitions of marriage are evident. It does not, however, ever contain a statement that marriage is between “one man and one woman.” Nor does it contain explicit conceptualization of marriage itself.

  77. Religion lost the political battle the instant it made its core argument a scientific one. “Homosexuality is unnatural” simply is a terribly flawed scientific argument.

    Also, the only argument against homosexual marriage that makes any sense religiously is a strictly religious one: “It is against the commandments of God.” That doesn’t require believers to make scientific arguments, and every scientific argument I’ve heard thus far fails miserably – either because they are demonstrably false (e.g., “homosexuality is unnatural” and “marriage has always been between a man and a woman”) or because nobody wants to be consistent with the application to the heterosexual community (e.g., “every child deserves to be raised by a mother and a father”).

    If someone wants to oppose gay marriage on religious grounds, s/he needs to oppose it on religious grounds. If someone wants to oppose it on scientific grounds, they better come up with something that is both valid and inapplicable to the heterosexual community, since equality under the law is an important concept. I’d love to hear such an argument, but I don’t know what it is, frankly.

  78. Latter-day Guy says:

    77, Perhaps Dara is referring to the groundbreaking research presented in books like “The Bible Code,” in which the Bible is shown to say a lot of very… erm… interesting things. (See the Lord’s comments regarding the Bible in the following video.)

  79. How about Adam and Eve were married by the Lord?

  80. How about who married Cain? His mother Eve? She was the only woman around then (at least in my Bible). Was incest okay then? Genesis 2:18-20 makes clear that even God did not know what a suitable mate for Adam would be and first tried out animals (!) before settling on a woman companion. Even then, Eve didn’t have a free choice to marry. God “gave” her to Adam. Where was her free agency then?

    Genesis is a tricky book to play a lead role in the battle against marriage equality. I’m not sure it can stand the scrutiny even for a majority of Christians, let alone undecideds.

  81. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Dara, that’s an instance of marriage, not a definition. Are animal skins the true definition of clothing?

  82. Were Adam and Eve actually married by the Lord?

  83. Ray,

    Religions sticking with religious arguments won’t have any traction in an atheistic political arena. So religion is doomed to lose the battle no matter how it frames it’s arguments–with one possible exception. And that may be building a cultural definition of marriage based in the most fundamental aspects of Darwinism: Survival of the species. Hows that for irony?

  84. Religion and science are not mutually exclusive. It can be proven scientifically that particular actions have an adverse effect on a society or a given person. We just don’t know enough about the human body, or about societies to prove it. A lot of things still have to be taken on faith.

  85. I never said religion and science are mutually exclusive. I just said I haven’t seen a solid scientific justification yet. I’d like to see one, but I haven’t seen one yet.

  86. Nick Literski says:

    Religions sticking with religious arguments won’t have any traction in an atheistic political arena.

    They won’t have much traction in a religiously pluralistic arena (such as the United States), either. The assumption that all religions (or all religious people) oppose marriage equality simply isn’t true. For that matter, not all religions in the United States believe in the same deity, so it’s really not enough to say “[my] god says so,” because it’s not a universally-accepted premise.

  87. A man shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.

  88. Dara,

    there is no evidence in the book of Genesis that God actually married Adam and Eve. The phrase “a man shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh” was written by Moses as commentary (Gen 2:24). And of course, Moses lived like 2000 years after Adam and Eve. Just saying.

  89. There is no evidence that he didn’t. LDS church members are not like cafeteria Catholics. We cannot simply pick and choose. Gay marriage never is and can never be part of the Lord’s church or the eternities.

  90. Scott B says:

    Dara & Dan-

    Is this going anywhere?

  91. I’m enjoying it, if that matters.

  92. Scott:
    Why can’t people blog they way they want to?

  93. Scott B says:

    People can blog any way they want, Dara. My question for you was whether or not you insisting the Bible defines marriage while several others give you evidence that it doesn’t is going to result in anything more than a big “Oh Huh!” and a judgment of one another’s testimony of life, the universe, and everything.

    P.S. Ardis (92), Congrats on Keepa’s birthday. I’m mostly a lurker and rarely a commenter there, but your stuff is fantastic.

  94. Should I continue, Ardis? :)

    Dara, please don’t equate disagreeing whether or not God actually legally “married” Adam and Eve as endorsing gay marriage. I’m one of those who has a fairly neutral position on this. I really don’t care either way. Gay marriage will never affect my relationship with my wife, as such it is not a threat to me. I’m more worried about divorce (not that my own marriage is actually threatened by divorce, but that divorce actually does threaten my marriage in ways gay marriage could never actually do). I think those who speak out against gay marriage should focus at least half their energy on ridding heterosexual marriage of its biggest plague, divorce. I think you’ll find you will save more marriages and more families than you will in fighting off the ills of those dastardly gays and their encroachment on what is supposedly something sacred. Frankly, the frequency of heterosexual divorce makes me think heterosexuals don’t really take marriage as seriously as they claim. Within the Mormon community, this is obviously not the case. We preach marriage and family very strongly. And the divorce rates, particularly among temple sealings are much lower than the national norm (at least, that’s the last I heard; I could be wrong).

  95. suzanne says:

    #95 – I couldn’t agree more- let’s focus more on keeping core family units together (whether they are traditional man-woman or SSM) and prevent erosion of the family unit. That strikes me as similar to the arguement that if you want to reduce abortion- don’t make it illegal, educate, educate, educate and provide the social support that creates opportunities to make a better decision.

    #68 – I think we should be careful when assuming what Justice Warren intended Loving vs Virginia to validate marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage is a contract between two individuals that are eligible to create a valid contract under current contract law. Currently we have specified that this particular contract can only be between a man and a woman. My point is that this is as discriminatory as saying that the marriage contract can only be between a man and a woman of the same race.

    That is why I always laugh when individuals raise the concern that if we allow SSM people will want to marry their pets. Allowing SSM will not create a change in the fundamentals of contract law- you cannot create a valid contract with your pet.

  96. Scott B says:

    Dan, I think you absolutely should continue. I apologize if my comment above suggested otherwise–I confess to having a short fuse with what I perceived as the use of semantics to impose a judgment by one person (Dara) on other people (you). The first sentence of your #95 catches the essence of what I was trying to get at. However, that may not have been (probably was not) the intention of Dara, so I pulled the trigger to quickly.

  97. Latter-day Guy says:

    90, “We cannot simply pick and choose.”

    Actually, we cannot do anything BUT pick and choose. We have no systematic theology as such, so when there are doctrinal contradictions (and there are many) we must pick. Picking the currently-accepted doctrine over an older concept is still picking.

  98. For Mormons who believe in the Plan of Salvation the decision is clear. Why would we even consider approving of gay marriage? We simply can’t consider SSM as a viable alternative in light of our professed faith. For us, it should be a no-brainer.

  99. Kristine says:

    annegb–consigning gays and lesbians to a lifetime of celibacy and uncertain prospects in the hereafter raises some very, very complicated theological issues aside from the practical ones. It might be a no-brainer for Catholics who have a tradition of honoring celibacy, but it definitely isn’t for Mormons, with our denunciation of celibacy and affirmative theology of sexuality.

  100. SSM (pro or con) is very definitely not a no-brainer for Catholics (at least in the trenches). There are active and diverse discussions going on and (unlike LDS, where this is not allowed) even between church hierarchy and laity.

    Marriage may not be as important for Catholics as it is for Mormons, but children are. I predict (pure speculation!) that the degree to which Catholics can be persuaded to support SSM rests strongly on whether it is beneficial to children of gays raised in a two-parent household when the alternative is a one-person household. Expect to see more children of gay parents appearing center stage in the next round of commercials. I dare the counter-commercials to attach an 8-year old boy saying “leave my mommies alone”.

  101. Kristine, I am unaware of any Latter-day Saint denunciation of celibacy nor any affirmative theology of sexuality. I am aware of chastity, and marriage, and procreation, and other related concepts. If your words were doctrine, then I would have to believe that my celibacy is evil and that anybody’s promiscuous and illicit sexual relations are holy.

  102. Scott B says:


    To say it’s “not allowed” is a bit strong for my liking, and also depends on what level of hierarchy you are referring to. If we’re talking about the highest levels of the Church’s leadership, then “Not Happening” is not synonymous with “Not Allowed”; in my opinion the (apparent) paucity of dialogue is more a function of access than willingness–average joe members of the Catholic Church surely do not have access to the Pope very often, either.

    To be fair, however, certainly very few non-GA members of the Church discuss SSM with President Monson personally, but the same could not reasonably be said of ward members with their EQ/RS Presidents and Bishops.

  103. Latter-day Guy says:

    Ardis, I think you’re misconstruing Kristine’s point. In Mormonism celibacy is ultimately damnation. Exaltation is tied to sexual expression. Yes, there are certain bounds to be observed, but are you seriously arguing that Kristine is equating promiscuity with holiness? Straw man.

  104. Matt W. says:

    “In Mormonism celibacy is ultimately damnation. Exaltation is tied to sexual expression.”

    This is bull crap and not true. Sorry. Show me where it says that in any lesson manual or LDS scripture. Maybe in your understanding of Mormonism through the cultural window you were taught, but this is not Church Doctrine in any official sense.

  105. Kristine says:

    In Mormonism, the only blessed celibacy is temporary and earthly–we promise those who do not marry in this life and earnestly desire marriage that they will have the opportunity to do so, and that they will be exalted in this future union. We can’t make any such promise to gay people, which I think is a theological problem.

    Dan, sorry–I should not have spoken so quickly about the Catholic situation. Of course they’re not not thinking about it! I meant only that there is some provision for celibacy to be understood as a way of consecrating oneself, in a way that it is not in Mormondom.

    Ardis, I’m certain that you can find more historical statements than I can, in which the Mormon commitment to marriage, rather than celibacy, as the holiest state is affirmed. I didn’t think that was a very controversial thing to say, and I certainly didn’t mean to say anything about your current celibacy (or mine!) being evil.

  106. Thank you, Matt.

    One huge problem with the entire discussion is the equation of sex with marriage. It’s the heaven-ordained marriage that matters when it comes to exaltation, not the sex. Considering them as identical, or substituting one for the other, leads to false conclusions, which is what I called Kristine on. If there’s a straw man involved, it’s hers, not mine.

    Sex outside of bounds may be damnation; I’ve never heard the slightest suggestion that celibacy, outside or even within marriage, is damnation.

    If LDGuy claims otherwise, perhaps he is offering himself to perform sexual-relations-by-proxy for all the damned virgins in history.

  107. #105: I have always been taught Exaltation required Marriage(?) Has someone said differently?

  108. Kristine says:

    I’m sure there are plenty of more authoritative sources for these ideas, but 2 minutes of searching on turns up the following references to the practice of celibacy as a feature of the great apostasy:

    Hyde Merrill, Ensign, November 1972
    “As we look back across seventeen centuries, blessed with the hindsight that our position in time affords us, we are struck with the scores of references that Eusebius makes to apostasies and heresies within the church. One of the more pernicious was the teaching of the doctrine of celibacy:

    “Clement [of Alexandria] … gives a list of those of the apostles who were married. This he does on account of those who condemn marriage. He says, ‘Will they also condemn the apostles? For Peter and Philip had children, and Philip gave his daughters to husbands. Indeed, Paul does not hesitate to address his wife in one of his letters. It was to facilitate his mission that he did not bring her around with him.’ ” 7

    He quotes Clement again:

    “We are told that when blessed Peter saw his wife led away to death he was glad that her call had come and that she was returning home, and spoke to her in the most encouraging and comforting tones, addressing her by name: ‘My dear, remember the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their consummate feeling towards their dearest.” 8

    Eusebius also quotes from Irenaeus (a.d. 130–200), Bishop of Lyon:

    “… the people called Encratites preached against marriage, thereby rejecting the ancient plan of God and silently condemning the creator of male and female whose purpose was the begetting of human kind. … They also denied the salvation of the first man.

    “This was introduced by them when a certain Tatian became the first to propound their blasphemy. He had been a disciple of Justin, and as long as he remained in his company he produced nothing of this kind; but after Justin’s martyrdom he apostatized from the Church. He grew exalted with the idea of becoming a teacher. He became puffed up, believing himself superior to the others. He fabricated his own brand of doctrine, telling tales of invisible eons, … and … he denounced marriage as corruption and fornication.” 9

    This passage is most interesting, showing as it does not only that the early leaders strongly opposed the doctrine of celibacy, but also that deviation from the truth was beginning to spring up within the membership of the church. ”

    New Era, February 2005:

    “During the Apostasy, many ordinances were altered or added without proper authority. The church allowed infant baptism and baptism by sprinkling or pouring, instead of by immersion. Pagan influences and philosophies of the time crept into the church—such as burning incense, celibacy (the clergy remaining unmarried), and the belief that the body was evil and that God did not have a body. The honoring of martyrs turned to superstition and worship.

    Because of the wickedness within the church, the gifts of the Spirit ceased and people began to deny true spiritual gifts. Without revelation, church organization changed through the government of men, instead of through inspiration from God.”

    The Textbook was a Revelation, Ensign, Mar. 1989
    “The first sentence Brother Allred spoke that day was, “This is the gospel of happiness.” I hardly heard another word that hour. The moment he made that statement, I was overcome with the sudden recognition that I had already received my own commandment.

    It had come seven years before, at a time of turmoil in my life. For fifteen years, off and on, I had been unable to choose either life in a convent or marriage and motherhood. In my former church, true spirituality required celibacy, and from my youngest memory, I had wanted both spiritual progress and to be someone’s mommy.

    Late one night, I was trying to take stock of my life. I believed that both desires were worthy and were God’s will for me. My belief had been tested through a series of disappointments. I recall kneeling on my bed, near despair, and literally crying out, mostly in anger, “What do you want from me?”

    I don’t claim to have heard a voice, but it seemed that I did, saying clearly, “I want you to be happy.” But because of my disappointments, I felt that answer to be cruelly ironic. So I discarded the entire incident as my own imagining.

    Until that day in class seven years later, I had not remembered it at all. Then I suddenly understood that this long-ago answer to an earnest prayer had been a personal commandment. When the teacher said “gospel of happiness” I recognized the way the Lord had prepared for me. In joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I could obey my commandment to be happy by being a mother and by consecrating my life to God.”

    And this denunciation of celibacy as selfish:

    William Bradford, Ensign, Apr. 1983
    “Self-imposed celibacy and isolationism are extreme expressions of selfishness and an unwillingness to serve or be served.”

  109. I wouldn’t have bothered to make the point, especially since experience teaches me that it won’t be well-received at BCC, except that my situation was linked to that of gays

    “consigning gays and lesbians to a lifetime of celibacy and uncertain prospects in the hereafter raises some very, very complicated theological issues aside from the practical ones.”

    Nobody “consigns” anybody else to any particular kind of life — I don’t have that power over you, and you don’t have it over me. The “uncertain prospects in the hereafter” for gays is no more uncertain than it is for me. None of us knows how the difficulties will be resolved. All I’ve been told is that whatever blessings are denied to me here will be made up to me there — not what form that “making up” will take. There is nothing about such a teaching that is any different for me than it is for any gay man or woman in the church. Lack of revealed detail may raise theological questions, but since when have questions about the hereafter prevented or excused us from living righteously in *this* life?

    And I deny that the practical issues are any different for any gay man or woman than they are for an unmarried heterosexual man or woman. (I reject the as a supposed difference that I could find the right man and marry tomorrow in a marriage acceptable to the church, while that possibility is denied to a gay man or woman. At my age, in my life circumstances, that isn’t going to happen. I have no greater hope of honorable marriage in this life than if I were gay.)

  110. 109: Well, then, Kristine, LDGuy was right. You and I are going straight to hell.

  111. Kristine says:

    Ardis, I guess you could argue that marriage, rather than sexual expression, is the important requisite for exaltation, but it seems like a pretty strained interpretation of the discourse about marriage. Indeed, given the amount of ink spilled about whether spirit procreation resembles physical procreation, I think it’s safe to assume that most Mormon discussions of “marriage” work on the assumption that marriage includes sex.

  112. Kristine says:

    111–Ardis, I suspect I’ll get there faster than you :)

  113. Seriously, Kristine, every one of your quotations — and every one that you could possibly find — speaks only of rejecting honorable marriage in favor of celibacy. None of them glorifies sexuality in and of itself. That’s what I complain of — your confusion of sex and marriage. I suppose that confusion is an effort to sustain SSM by the undoctrinal logic that “If sexuality is holy” and “If sexuality may be expressed righteously only in marriage” then “Same sex sexuality in marriage is holy” and therefore “SSM must be permitted.” Those conclusions don’t follow.

  114. Kristine says:

    As for your 110, we just fundamentally disagree. I think it matters to have some idea of what the compensatory blessings might look like, and to not be told that there is something grossly, fundamentally wrong with you.

    I doubt we’ll convince each other on this point, and I’m not especially interested in continuing the argument. It was really just the “no-brainer” line that got to me. It may be clear to Ardis and annegb, but I don’t think it’s self-evident or uncomplicated. Then again, I may just be looking for trouble.

  115. Kristine says:

    114–I agree that the conclusions don’t follow in any simple or linear way, and you are putting an argument in my mouth that I’m not making. I only want to claim that it’s not an easy slam-dunk, doctrinally.

  116. Nick Literski says:

    For Mormons who believe in the Plan of Salvation the decision is clear. Why would we even consider approving of gay marriage? We simply can’t consider SSM as a viable alternative in light of our professed faith.

    All the above is absolutely true–for LDS members (as annegb put it). The difficulty comes when someone attempts to use civil law as a bludgeon, to coerce non-LDS into living according to LDS teachings. “The decision” is one each should make for themselves, based on their own beliefs, rather than having one faith group dictate the answer for everyone else.

  117. I’ll have to remember that about SSM and BCC — just say “yes, ma’am,” “yes, ma’am.” Don’t express a different point of view, don’t point out fallacies. Agreement means discussion, and disagreement means argument, which must not be continued. Got it.

  118. Kristine says:

    Ardis, I’m perfectly happy to keep discussing, if you want to. I think we’ve come to a point on which we fundamentally disagree and aren’t likely to convince each other. I don’t mind the discussion at all, and I don’t mean argument as in “contention” only as in “advancing a line of thinking.”

    I’m sorry that I’ve annoyed or offended you.

  119. At the risk of blowing all of this up in some way . . .

    1) Celibacy is NOT condemned in the Church and never has been. Ardis is 100% correct that it is the active choice of celibacy as a rejection of marriage that is condemned – and that’s a critical distinction. A member who is gay and celibate is honored as a dedicated, faithful member – as is someone who never had a legitimate chance for marriage in the temple. Celibacy in these cases is considered noble and holy.

    2) We have no scriptural description of how spirit children will be created. We have a lot of supposition and speculation, but there is no canonical, authoritative statement. We simply don’t know – and I think it’s important to remember that.

    3) We have multiple marriage models in our own historical past (all within the past 200 years) – and no real idea how everything will be “worked out” in the future. We simply have faith that it will.

    Every one of these points has some implication for how we discuss homosexuality and same-sex marriage, especially in a church founded on the core concept of continuing revelation. I have no idea how this issue will play out in the Church, but I can say that I am astounded and awed by the amazing number of marvelous (in the truest sense of the word – “of a nature that causes one to marvel”) events that have transpired within our history.

  120. The church’s position toward those with homosexual tendencies bothers me on only one point, a point which is central, I think to the argument against the church’s position. The church states that the similarity between homosexuality and heterosexuality is that both are driven by sexual desires, and both should be tempered and bridled. The difference, and here is the key, is that heterosexuals are given a way out, to be able to act on those sexual desires without that act being called sinful. That “way out” is marriage. Homosexuals are told “tough luck dude, you’ve gotta hold out on acting on your sexual desires until the day you die.” Throughout their whole entire lives, those with homosexual tendencies cannot act on their sexual desires without it NOT being called sinful. Throughout their whole lives, those with homosexual tendencies must live with the thought that their actions are considered a sin by God. There is no “way out” for them. There is no path they can take where those sexual desires are fulfilled and that act not be called sinful. That’s double tough man. I’ll be quite honest that I would never make it if I were told I could not have sex my entire life, that I could not fulfill that natural desire. Count heterosexuals lucky that they are given a “way out” so that acting on their sexual desires is not considered a sin.

    I don’t find this position by the church as very charitable. And I honestly don’t know what they can really do about it.

  121. Kristine says:

    Ardis, Ray, what I’m trying to get at (and clearly doing a lousy job of articulating) is that in affirming marriage (including the licit expression of sexuality) as the appropriate state for priesthood holders, and rejecting the Catholic model of celibacy (and the attendant teaching that sex is intrinsically sinful), it seems to me that Mormon doctrine and practice are at least implicitly valorizing sexual desire as sanctioned by God when appropriately expressed.

    I would have taken that to be a relatively uncontroversial point, and that’s why I didn’t bother stating it at any length in my initial comment.

  122. Thomas Parkin says:

    re: the conflation of sex and marriage, ending in some personal anecdotes which may or may not speak to the Ardis / Kristine discussion.

    We don’t only conflate sex and marriage, we conflate sex and everything. Thank you to Darwin who told us everything was reproduction and Freud who taught us that everything is sex. Thanks also to the fact that we, speaking about our society, ultimately reject any authority outside and above one’s deep and sincere feelings. Since the “peak experience” and desire for sex can be at any given time as great or greater than any other “peak experience” or deep desire it is therefore the chief authority currently reigning. Sex is our god, absolutely, in and through all things.

    While sex can be wonderful, and is most of the time very gratifying physically, it is not always wonderful. _Most_ of my experience of sex outside of marriage and some of my experience of sex inside of marriage has been destructive both to me personally and to the people I’ve been involved with. It is only from a position of augmenting wholeness that one can make this judgment. Absolutely, I was blind but now can see. The solid majority of my experience of sex in this life left me wounded, and I’d have have been better off without it. I’ve seen as near to the bottom of this as I believe can be seen – there is no mystery to me about the world of sex that exists in this society. It is not a planet of wild joy, but an endless parade of casualties.

    At 43, and after ten years in what has been for me a rewarding second marriage, it is easy to imagine a life and a marriage without sex being fully enjoyable and acceptable. At 23, it was difficult for me to imagine a day without sex. But, the heydey in the blood is tame, and waits upon the judgment. Sex is temporal, _temporary_. We can be deprived of it by circumstance, age, illness. I don’t mean to say that there is _nothing_ of the eternal in it, or that there isn’t an eternal parallel to it – I think there is. And I don’t mean that I don’t prefer having a healthy active sexuality, or that it isn’t preferable for pretty much anyone, on the whole; something to be worked towards, anyway. But I think there is every reason for me to see sex as a potential part of life and marriage rather than an essential part of either. So, I suppose, I see things closer to Ardis’ point of view. ~

  123. Kristine says:

    Um, Thomas, TMI, and I’m talking doctrinally, not practically. (And please, whatever you do, leave Freud out of it!!) Doctrinally, I think Mormonism affirms that sexuality expressed in marriage, is holy. I think our rejection of celibacy as an ideal has to do with a valorization of sexuality as a part of the divine potentiality of human beings. As I said, I would have thought this was relatively uncontroversial.

  124. I think our rejection of celibacy as an ideal has to do with a valorization of sexuality as a part of the divine potentiality of human beings.

    I think Kristine’s analysis of why Mormonism for the most part seems to exclude any principled case for celibacy is correct. The exclusion itself is, I suspect, wrong, but that would require a consideration of why I further suspect the extent of the popular imagining of many Mormons in regards to our divine potentiality is also wrong.

  125. Thomas Parkin says:


    Can you separate doctrine from life practically lived?

    TMI? I didn’t say anything. :)

    I agree with you, but think maybe you’ve missed Ardis’ point. It isn’t that sex within marriage is or isn’t holy, at least potentially. The question is whether or not it is essential.

    As to Freud. We won’t get past him until this current historical cycle is through. He taught that everything was sex and that whatever measure of health we could hope for (he was not a hopeful guy) was directly tied to not repressing this fact. His ideas were a direct contributor to the Sexual Revolution, which is now in full play all around us. Whenever someone tells me they don’t believe in Freud, I tell them “yes, you do.” ~

  126. Latter-day Guy says:

    105, 107 [:)], 111,

    As usual, brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio. Sorry, I was not clear.

    In this life, our goal as church members is to build righteous families; those relationships are exalting when perpetuated by sealing power beyond the grave. Of course, there are exceptions and people who will not be able to fit the model, due to various circumstances in this life. I believe that those situations will be adjusted at some future date. However, we do not discard the model.

    Thus: Man + Woman + Progeny + Covenant keeping = Exaltation.

    As Ray says, we don’t know by what process spirits are created. However, there is a process for the creation of progeny in this life that (I assume) we are familiar with (at least in theory). ;) This is the only way we know how for the time being.

    While celibacy is not condemned, it does not fit the model. It may be a necessary choice in certain circumstances (either with or without a marriage), but it is not the ideal. Indeed the fullest expression of the Law of Chastity, as explained in the temple, is not celibacy. It is marriage and all that goes with it. We are commanded to multiply and replenish. Those who have the opportunity to do so, but elect not to are violating a commandment, and are thereby risking damnation.

    If my comment 104 was interpreted to mean that we all ought to be shagging aplenty, regardless of the bounds the Lord set, then I apologize. That idea is, as Matt W. pointed out so gracefully, “bull crap.”

    (And Ardis, if the Lord wishes me to help out all the “damned virgins in history,” I am willing to do my part.) ;)

  127. Dara (90) Gay marriage never is and can never be part of the Lord’s church or the eternities.

    I would not be so quick to declare the eternal will of God. Certainly, same-sex marriage is not currently recognized by the Church, but our history has taught us that Church policy is not nearly as eternal as the gospel. At my blog, I have attempted to answer the question of what obstacles to recognition exist in LDS doctrine. In other words, if a revelation were to come that same-sex marriage were to be recognized, would that contradict existing doctrine? Read it here (follow the links on the page to get to all parts).

  128. Kristine says:

    Thomas, when I said ‘leave Freud out of it,’ it was because I find most popular discussions of Freud are reductionist and annoying, not because I’m unfamiliar with the basics of his thought and its influence on our culture. (Every once in a while, that @#$! degree in German Studies is slightly a propos).

    You may be right that I have missed Ardis’ point, I think we just disagree.

    Russell, you tease!!

  129. Kristine says:

    Wow, that last comment of mine sounds snotty. Sorry, all.

  130. Thomas Parkin says:


    I doubt you have to establish yourself as a very bright and well educated person. ~

  131. Kristine says:

    Thanks, Thomas. It was just a momentary spasm of pride in my completely obscure and ridiculous field of study. I’m repenting as fast as I can!!

  132. People here are very intellectual. That’s good. Here is a link to a story about the end of marriage in Scandinavia. This author interesting points.

  133. This author makes interesting points.

  134. Thomas Parkin says:

    I know I have something in my style that is too aggressive. I try to write it out … but I’ve pissing people off on the internet for 16 years … maybe it’s like a thorn in the flesh thing. ~

  135. Dara, that article says explicitly that gay marriage only adds to the problems caused by trends that were increasing already through the terrible condition of heterosexual marriage in Scandinavia – then it turns around and implies that the problem is gay marriage. There is nothing in the article itself that justifies blaming gay marriage for the ills outlined in it – or that says those trends wouldn’t have continued exactly as they have even without gay marriage. Fwiw, every problem described in the article is shared here in America – in states that do not allow gay marriage.

    That’s not the type of argument that I hope to hear some day. It’s the type of argument that makes opposition to gay marriage seem so illogical and unintelligent.

  136. Ray:
    No society truly wishes to die off and disappear. States/countries that promote gay marriage put themselves in the predicament of facing this one day as well as other consequences. Across much of the world birth rates are down and marriage rates. Society should never put itself in the position of promoting any other model other than husband and wife. While not perfect, it is the only model that works. States/countries have an interest in keeping their states/countries populated.

  137. Dara, how does not allowing gay citizens to marry impact birth rates – of either heterosexuals OR homosexuals? That is a heterosexual issue, not a homosexual issue.

  138. Dara,

    No society truly wishes to die off and disappear. States/countries that promote gay marriage put themselves in the predicament of facing this one day as well as other consequences


    As Ray says, birthrates cannot be impacted by gay marriage because those who are gay will already NOT be having children, seeing that they will not be engaging in heterosexual relationships. It’s not as if for the past thousands of years homosexuals had all married heterosexuals and contributed to the birth rate. Furthermore, as I queried earlier, Rome and Greece were quite thriving societies that tolerated gay culture, nay gay culture permeated their way of life!

    It would really help your cause, Dara, if you had an example of a society that promoted “gay marriage” (in all its permutations) that did die off due to its promotion of “gay marriage.”

    Oh, and to stick it in the eyes of those at Weekly Standard, birth rates in Europe are rising.

  139. Dara, Kurtz’s article is actually statistically flawed; the trends are not as clear as the author claims, and some of them either leveled off or reversed direction when gay unions were recognized. Indeed, Kurtz’s discussion is so statistically flawed as to count as (probably inadvertent) deception. What the Scandinavian cases really show is no relationship between the health of heterosexual families and the permissibility of same-sex marriage.

  140. If marriage rates and births are falling, why on earth does anyone think that it would be a good thing to promote gay marriage? Dan, Europe’s birth and marriage arates are falling dramatically and Europe is indeed losing population. The example is right there. Kurtz’s article was right on the money. One only needs to read the Proclamation on the Family for the consequences of the disintegration of the family.

  141. Kurtz is hardly a scientist in any objective sense.

    It is possible that birth rates are falling in Europe…but that would be at best correlational not causal.

  142. Dara,

    The Weekly Standard piece you link to is dated 2004. A lot has changed in five years.

  143. re: 139
    Love your comments, Dan, but one quick point of disagreement. Sexual practices and marriage patterns in ancient Rome and Greece were different from ours in virtually every way. It’s true that homosexual behavior was common, but nothing similar to contemporary “gay culture” (whatever that is) existed back then. It was all very, very different.

  144. “It would really help your cause, Dara, if you had an example of a society that promoted ‘gay marriage’ (in all its permutations) that did die off due to its promotion of ‘gay marriage.'”

    Oh, so that’s what happened to Atlantis. And the Roanoke Colony.

  145. Mike,

    Thanks for the clarification. I felt that I had gone a little overboard on #139 with Rome and Greece.

  146. Mark B. says:

    Regarding this part of Kristine’s #115:

    . . . to not be told that there is something grossly, fundamentally wrong with you.

    Perhaps the problem is that we’ve gone so far in rejecting Calvinism’s utter depravity that we have ignored King Benjamin’s “the natural man is an enemy to God.”

    The fact is, we should probably all recognize that there is something grossly, fundamentally wrong with ourselves. And quit trying to excuse or explain away or justify our sins. And quit declaring that our actions that arise from those gross fundamental wrongs are not evil, but good.

  147. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 147
    Were it only that simple, Mark B.

  148. Simple yes. Simplistic no.

  149. Society is not built arounf 2 women or 2 men. That’s not how families are organized or how the next generation rises. The model of husband wife and children, while not perfect, is the only one that works. Gay couples claim that their children will be affected by not being able to get married. One 1 of those people are the children’s parent’s. States and countries have an interest in keeping their states populated.

  150. Society should not legitimize the deviancy of homosexuality.

  151. Society should not legitimize the deviancy of homosexuality.

    you could have just dispensed with all the garbage sociology and told us from the outset what you really think.

  152. State courts, with few exceptions, (and the US Supreme Court in particular); have been reluctant to give a formal definition of marriage other than how it has been traditionally defined, that is, between a man and a woman.

    Loving vs. Virginia affirms this fundamental understanding!

    Basing their ruling precisely on this understanding, Chief Justice Warren asserted that “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man…,” precisely because it is through marriage that humanity perpetuates itself.
    Chief Justice Warren clearly indicates that the courts’ primary objections to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws were that they were based on “invidious racial discrimination” and because there sole purpose is to perpetuate white supremacy.

    Indeed, the ruling has nothing to say specifically regarding marriages between couples of the same sex, and it is doubtful that Justice Warren would have viewed marriage from other than a traditional and historical perspective.

    Given the cultural, historical, and yes, religious precedent established by our society with regard to marriage, it is difficult to justify same sex advocates claim that objections to same sex marriage constitute invidious “religious” discrimination.

    In Baker v. Nelson (a ruling that was upheld by the US Supreme Court for want of of a substantial federal question) the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Minnesota law limited marriage to opposite-sex couples, and that this limitation did not violate the United States Constitution.

    The salient points of the State Courts ruling are that the absence of an express statutory prohibition against same-sex marriages does not indicate a legislative intent to authorize them. In fact the court found just the opposite. The Court found precedent to assert that, “The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis.”

    The court was not persuaded by the petitioner’s assertion that the right to marry without regard to the sex of the parties is a fundamental right of all persons, nor that restricting marriage to only couples of the opposite sex is “irrational and invidiously discriminatory”.

    In my opinion, it is still too early to state that we live in an “atheistic political” society. As evidenced by the above court decisions, religious,moral, ethical, and cultural concerns are still very relevant.

  153. Re: 139

    From a historical and traditional perspective, there are certain fundamental realities about marriage that cannot be disputed, as they have been confirmed throughout our cultural, legal, and traditional experience.

    Even from a multicultural perspective, with very rare exceptions, almost all societies, whether patriarchal, matriarchal, polygamist, etc., have held the fundamental understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman. This has been the norm going back to ancient times. In fact, the very concept of “marriage” between individuals of the same sex is a very recent development, and has little historical precedent; and precious little when viewed within our own social, legal, and cultural heritage .

    To be sure, there have always been different types of marriage arrangements throughout history, and across various cultures. No one is disputing this. However, what possible relevance can these marriage arrangements and customs have within our own, unique, cultural experience? In what way are these few examples representative of the religious, legal, and political heritage of the United States?

    The answer is that they have no bearing on our collective experience at all.

    I find it interesting that anthropologists who favor the concept of same sex marriage employ terms such as “similar to”, “analogous to”, or “much like” when comparing same sex arrangements anciently to civilly recognized heterosexual marriages. With few exceptions, it appears that these anthropologists are reluctant to state unequivocally, that these same sex arrangements were actual, bone-fide, marriages.

    Furthermore, examples of same sex marriage arrangements in places such as Africa and China and anciently in Greece are so far removed from our own perspective as to be unseemly, and even abhorrent to our understanding of marriage (let alone our understanding of what constitutes healthy, normal, “legal”, homosexual relationships) if indeed these arrangements are and were marriages at all.

    Indeed, there is compelling evidence that many of these same sex marriage arrangements are based on kinship and political contingencies and not on homosexual love or attraction. Thus, these examples do not even address the issue of same sex marriage as it is understood even by proponents of same sex marriage here in the United States. Far be it for me to cast judgment upon the marriage customs of other cultures, but once again, where is the relevance of these customs to our notions and perspectives on marriage?

    Homosexual relationships have an ancient history, stretching as far back as recorded history. What is not so clear is whether the concept of “same sex marriage” has similar ancient roots.

  154. Latter-day Guy says:

    Indeed, there is compelling evidence that many of these same sex marriage arrangements are based on kinship and political contingencies and not on homosexual love or attraction.

    Would you care to elaborate? What is the source for this?

  155. From a historical and traditional perspective

    This argument is passionate but no longer persuades.

    If Alexander the Great had his Hephaestion yet conquered the known world, if Richard the Lionheart had his King Philip II yet won the Holy Land in the First Crusades, if King David had Jonathan son of Jesse yet still slew Goliath, I would say that the lessons of history (when not rewritten by prudes) are more mixed than you imply. If the above three were married (and they were), that disparages the politics of marriage more than the love of friends.

    My read is that Americans younger than 65 are quite willing to change history and tradition (e.g. to elect a black President, marry interracially/interreligiously) if current needs require and future needs are not compromised.

    It is no surprise that Californians were unimpressed when lectured about the past. Prop. 8 surged only when the future (how will my child be impacted in 20 years) was in as a scare tactic.

    If (as I continue to understand it) this blog post is about strategy: the past preaches only to the choir, the current is a big win for SSM, and the future is still up for grabs. I suggest, as a change, you imagine not a gay-free past, but an SSM-allowing dystopia of the future and warn us of the potential unintended consequences.

    The biggest challenge for future-thinking apologists is not to fall back on the slippery slope, which in this case is not very slippery. I for one hope that Jose R continues living in the past comfortably ensconsed in irrelevance. He will be much less of a threat to my postion if he is content to fight the last war instead of the next.

  156. ” Indeed, there is compelling evidence that many of these same sex marriage arrangements are based on kinship and political contingencies and not on homosexual love or attraction.”

    Would you care to elaborate? What is the source for this?
    Linda S Stone, Professor of Anthropology at Washington State University, while endorsing same sex marriage acknowledges that… “Marriage” around the world most often involves heterosexual unions, but there are important exceptions to this. There are cases of legitimate same-sex marriages as, for example, woman-woman marriage among the Nuer and some other African groups. Here, a barren woman divorces her husband, takes another woman as her wife, and arranges for a surrogate to impregnate this woman. Any children from this arrangement become members of the barren woman’s natal patrilineage and refer to the barren woman as their father…Marriage usually involves sexual relationships between spouses. Yet this was not true of Nuer woman-woman marriages. Regina Smith Oboler, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology of Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA., elaborates further, “The female husband does not have a sexual relationship with a woman.” This form of marriage is an effort to replicate the functions and fruit of the heterosexual family by individuals and a community in a particularly special case for a privileged few. They are not similar in nature or spirit of same-sex families being proposed today.

  157. “If Alexander the Great had his Hephaestion yet conquered the known world, if Richard the Lionheart had his King Philip II yet won the Holy Land in the First Crusades, if King David had Jonathan son of Jesse yet still slew Goliath, I would say that the lessons of history (when not rewritten by prudes) are more mixed than you imply. If the above three were married (and they were), that disparages the politics of marriage more than the love of friends.”
    I would beg to argue that the opposite is true. Gay and lesbian scholars are the ones who are rewriting history to fit their political agendas. In this respect, the “prudes” as you call them have written far more extensively regarding this topic. Look here for just one example:

    But even if the examples of homosexual love you cite above are true, so what? No one is denying that homosexual love did not, does not, or will not exist. The question before us is are the examples you give above bonefide marriages? I would like you to cite the sources for this claim.

  158. Steve Evans says:

    Jose R, step away from the keyboard.