Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Not mein kampf im afraid my friend, not mine. h.f. loves all of his children, even the homo-sexuals and lezbos and in bet weeners." -Jacqueline


Okay, so I've been thinking about/writing this blog entry for about a month now. And I figured that since election is in about oh, a week, I'd better post it.

So Prop 8. So civil rights. The pursuit of happiness vs. freedom of religion. Freedom of speech vs. freedom of religion. So the separation of church and state.

So the Church asking us to give of our time and our means to make sure Prop 8 passes.

So Liz's very close gay friends/family and THEIR rights and feelings.

It's been quite a journey to reconcile my initial feelings towards Prop 8 with what the Church and the prophet has been asking us to do. I know a lot of LDS friends have been blogging (part of what they've asked us to do anyway...use the internet and our knowledge of technology to advocate Prop 8), but this here entry will also include some thoughts of my personal journey of reconciliation, and obedience. Because when we were first asked to support Prop 8, boy, was I up in arms. I still think the wording of Prop 8 in the law itself is good and clear, but think that the way it's written in the ballot is pretty biased. But that's beside the point.

***Important note: For any of you who are gay, bi, lesbian, transsexual, straight, unsure...please don't be offended at my words. If something that I say here is hurtful to you, I am sorry. Nothing here was written in hate. I believe that everyone on earth is a child of God, loved dearly by their Creator, and it is my responsibility to love and respect them as such as well. I urge you to keep reading, throughout this entry. It's a little long, and may be a little...straight-forward. But before you make any judgments, I ask that you at least give some thought to what I'm saying, because I promise these conclusions were made after many many many hours of study and prayer. They were not easy conclusions to come by, and I am not writing them lightly, so I ask that you please not treat them lightly. I would welcome your thoughts and comments.***

First, a little background:

Proposition 8 is a proposal on the ballot to amend the California state constitution to read "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the state of California."

Brief legislative history---
1977 - First legislation regarding marriage is put into California law, defining marriage as "a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman."
1999 - "Domestic partnerships" (also known as civil unions) are given many of the same eligibility and civil rights as marriage, including those regarding hospital and jail visitation, insurance, wills, sharing of property, tax benefits. Domestic partnerships can be applied for by same-sex couples, or by straight couples in which one partner is over the age of 62.
2000 - Proposition 22 is passed by 61% of California voters. It was the exact same wording as Proposition 8 currently, but it applied to the California "Family Code."
2004 - San Francisco county clerk begins issuing same-sex marriage certificates. This action is immediately challenged by supporters of traditional marriage, and the conflict begins its journey to the California Supreme Court
May 15, 2008 - Four Supreme Court judges rule that Prop 22 is discriminatory and overturn it.
Holding(s):
(1) Gay men and Lesbians are commonly subject to biased treatment that has no basis upon their ability to be a contributing member of society. Therefore, sexual orientation, like race, religion, or gender, is a suspect class for purposes of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution. This suspect classification requires that the highest level of scrutiny be applied to laws potentially infringing upon the rights of these persons.
(2) Under the above standard the statutory denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.
Majority ruling by: Ronald M. George (Chief Justice), Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn M. Werdegar, Carlos R. Moreno
Dissent: Marvin R. Baxter, Ming W. Chin, Carol A Corrigan
June 2008 - The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent out a letter to all Church leaders in California to be read in congregations throughout the state, asking members to give of their time and means to pass Proposition 8.

Well, I was UP IN ARMS right away. My rebellious soul kicked violently against such political sentiments being read out in sacrament meeting. My initial thoughts/reactions were somewhere along the lines of "Hell, no!" But more specifically, they were something like this:
• Hey hey hey hey! What happened to the Church's stance on not telling us how to vote!? What happened to the Constitutional separation of Church and state? Isn't it supposed to go both ways?
• What about anti-discrimination laws? What about equal rights? As Christians, shouldn't we be advocating equality and fair treatment?
• What does the Church care about what the rest of the world does regarding marriage, anyway? We've got our own beliefs...we get married in the temple, we get married for eternity. How does what the fallen world do regarding marriage affect or endanger our beliefs?
• I keep hearing the argument that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to people trying to legalize polygamy or marriage between man and animal. I don't see the logic in that. How will legalizing one lead to legalizing another?
• But my most predominant thought was this: I have several very very close friends who are gay or lesbian. Many of whom were raised in the Church, some of whom are still active, faithful members. What about their feelings? Can I do what the prophet says and sign this ballot, making same-sex marriage illegal, and look them in the eyes? What will I say to them?

As you can see, I was feeling pretty strongly. But not willing to risk my eternal salvation on this issue, and knowing that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, I decided to take Hugh B. Brown's advice to "exercise your God-given right to think through on every proposition that is submitted to you and be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk, and proper acknowledgment of your shortcomings." So, I set out to do me some learning. It should be noted for the purpose of this story that I searched with intent to find out, not intent to prove. I have a testimony of the prophet, and of God's plan for his children. I just couldn't figure out how this Prop 8 thing fit in with both that and what we are taught (and what I've learned personally) about Christ-like love and tolerance.

Throughout many hours of study and prayer, here are some of the things that I found out/realized:
• After further research, I found out that the Church's stance is more specifically not to advocate any particular political party or candidate. There have been several times in this dispensation when the Church has organized its members to be active in political causes involving moral issues of great importance, and makes sure that it does so by following all protocol involved in maintaining separation of Church and state. While I'm still a little uncomfortable with the idea of political items being matters of business in sacrament meeting, I understand the level of importance this particular issue is for the brethren, and also trust their judgment regarding our worship meetings.
• Anti-discrimination laws are about tolerance. But I've done a lot of thinking about what Elder Bednar has called the "tyranny of tolerance." If Prop 8 doesn't pass, religious leaders lose a lot of rights. Adoption agencies and Churches (and possibly even our temple?) could be sued for denying same-sex couples children or weddings. And that's not fair either! It should also be noted that through domestic partnerships, same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights they would have through a legal marriage. This "tyranny of tolerance" idea has been brought up in other contexts as well, and I really like the idea. To avoid the "tyranny of tolerance," you've got to take on the thought process that says this: You will be safe from my judgments regarding your choices and lifestyle. But that also means that I ask to be safe from your judgment regarding MY choices and lifestyle. I may reject your choices, thoughts, or actions, but I do so without hate or malice, and if you should choose to reject my choices, thoughts, or actions, please do so without hate or malice as well.
• So funny it should take me so long to realize this, but you know that one document from the brethren on the family? You know, the one entitled "A Proclamation to the World"? It has just recently occurred to me that said document is not a proclamation to the world about what we believe...it's a proclamation to the world about what is true. "Marriage is ordained of God" no matter who's performing the ceremony. And since right here and now, homosexuality doesn't fit into God's plan for His children while on earth, making same-sex marriage legal throws a big wrench into...well, God's plan for His children. Examples: Suppose a couple of missionaries find a same-sex couple who want to learn the Gospel. The conversion process in this case is going to be pretty intense, anyway, but think how much more complicated and painful it would be if divorce proceedings had to be a part of that process? Granted, there are probably very few same-sex couples who would be terribly interested in the Gospel, anyway. But even if there were two souls out there who would be, wouldn't it be worth it to bring them to Christ? The Proclamation on the family also states that "children are entitled...to be reared by a mother and a father." I am 100% sure that there are millions of gay guys and lesbian women who would be incredible parents. But even just from a medical/psychological/social point of view, there are so many more advantages to raising a child in an atmosphere where they are exposed to a man and a woman. Men and women are inherently different, have different influences. These differences, and the balance between them, are essential to becoming a well-rounded, emotionally balanced individual, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It's not the only factor, but it sure is important.
• I guess people are right about same-sex marriage leading to the blurring of other laws regarding marriage. I guess, since I've never met any polygamists or people in love with their pets, I couldn't imagine them being in the same category as my gay and lesbian friends. In my mind, polygamists etc. were "the freaks." Yeah, just paint a big "H" on my forehead and call me hypocritical. Because I'd deserve it. For those closed-minded sentiments, I am sorry. That's the same closed-minded judgments a lot of others with varying sexual orientations get all the time. Whether or not I'm an advocate for alternate sexuality has very little to do with my advocation for anti-hate. I still don't understand it, but I have attempted since to retract my judgmental stance. From a legal standpoint, the possibility does carry a lot of weight.
• I have realized through this experience that so many times, I try to "obey God without offending the devil." Yeah, that's a little straight-forward. My statement implies some insult, which I don't like, but I can't think of a more diplomatic way of putting it. Well, let's put it this way: I really hate "choosing sides." Perhaps when it comes to moral issues, I'm diplomatic to a fault. I don't like making blanket statements regarding any issue. There's a part of me that believes there are exceptions to every rule, possible justifications for every crime, a square peg for every round hole. I feel like this ability/weakness makes me both wishy-washy and very strong. Woot for the yin vs. yang. This world-view of mine can be pretty valuable, and I don't know that it would be wise to try to pick one side or the other on any issue. But I'm learning that in some things, I don't have any choice. On Prop 8, I've got to take a stand--a strong stand--either for or against. And when it comes down to it, after its all over, when my children ask me what I did for Prop 8, when November 5th has come, when I stand before the Lord and he asks me which side I chose, I want to know and be able to say that I fought a good fight. And I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know that the Lord's wisdom and political knowledged and foresight far exceeds my own. I know that obedience brings blessings, that faith brings knowledge. So when it all comes down to it, I want to be able to say that I was a part of the ranks fighting on the Lord's side. Even if at first I resisted. Even if its hard. Even if I'm still confused about some things. I've learned that obedience can happen at the same time as learning why you're obeying. (Check out Alma 32:27-43 and John 7:17 for more on this last concept.)

So when it comes to Proposition 8, I've discovered that there can be no middle ground...not any that I would feel comfortable standing on, at least. And so it follows that I've got two choices:
• Fight for a yes on Prop 8, and have trouble looking my gay/lesbian friends/family in the eyes.
• Fight for a no on Prop 8, and have trouble looking my LDS friends, my bishop and my Lord in the eyes.
Ultimately, I'm choosing the former. To all of my dear family and friends whose eyes I may struggle to look into, please know that my love for you is not in any way diminished. I do not believe that "God hates homosexuals" and I hate phrases like "the gay agenda" and I find bumper stickers like "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" closed-minded and offensive. I'm just trying to be obedient, and the above reasons are why. Even though I don't understand every detail of the issue, I've come to feel strongly that this is something I need to do.

In the last several weeks, the Presidency and General Authorities of the Church have asked the young single adults and the young married couples in California to play a particularly strong role in this political battle. It has been made clear that helping Prop 8 pass in California is the especial stewardship of the young single adults and young married couples. Another reason to make my decision.

There are still a lot of things surrounding this issue that I don't fully understand. From a political/religious point of view, I've come to believe that passing Proposition 8 does the most good for the greatest amount of people. From an emotional point of view, I still sympathize with the "equality for all" thing. I don't understand the role (or more specifically the lack thereof) of homosexuality in the plan of salvation. I'll be completely 100% honest here...I've never had any problem with the idea of homosexuality. I have problems with promiscuity, with pedophilia, with pornography, and with rape and other sexual crimes/addictions. But in my heart of hearts I still have yet to believe that homosexuality is wrong. You can hit me over the head with the plan of salvation until kingdom come, and it won't change how I feel. I've yet to encounter any logical or even spiritual argument that can convince me that a healthy, loving relationship between two women or two men is wrong. Believe me, I've been trying to figure it out for YEARS, and will probably spend the rest of my life and possibly longer learning how to reconcile my testimony in the Gospel with my feelings towards homosexuality. I've just accepted the fact that for now, the Lord is simply asking me to be obedient when it comes to Prop 8, and to simply go on faith until one day He does see fit to bless me with knowledge/experience that can help me understand the limits in His plan for His children while they are in this mortal state. I'm always learning, and always open to learning, but I think it will take a lot more explanation from the Lord to me personally, and a lot more time for me to come to any definitive conclusions.

Well, you made it. You finished this extensive, detailed, hard-core blog entry! I commend you. I've become excited to be a part of this cause, although I'm still occasionally wary of the attitude some take with it. But I've gained a testimony of my part in it. And so, as I've been saying, "We are all enlisted 'till the conflict is o'er!"

Also, regardless of your stand on this issue, if you are registered, GO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4TH. I feel very strongly about this! Check out my 4th o' July entry from this last year to find out why.

And feel free to comment! And get out there and educate yourself! Check out all these resources, and whatever else you can find! Remember Hugh B. Brown's advice, but how are you going to make a decision if you don't know what your consequences might be?

And for the record, I'm still a Mormon Democrat and you can't make me believe I'm going to hell for it. And I think a lot more Mormons would be Democrats if they just took a political test or got more involved. But I ain't hatin.'

Peace and love in oh-nine, everyone.

Some additional interesting resources:
LDS NEWSROOM: The Divine Institution of Marriage
LDS NEWSROOM: Same-Gender Attraction
Coalition to Protect Marriage Website
INTERESTING NPR ARTICLE: Gay Rights Vs. Religious Liberties

5 comments:

A said...

I remember Prop 22. I had a really hard time with it. I would get verbally attacked at school and lost respect from friends, and I couldn't defend my position because I didn't even understand it. I wrote about that clarification on my blog because I think it was one of the most comforting things I've learned about prop 8 and the church's stance. They are not opposed to gay rights. They're protecting marriage. One of the things my dad said is that "it isn't personal." This isn't a personal attack on gay couples. One gay couple married, raising a family might not hurt anyone but changing the definition of marriage could. This time I think I understand better. And I can see how extremely important it must be because of all the attention and focus the church is placing on it. For me it's like, wow, the church would never ask these things of us if it weren't THAT important.

This whole thing has been really interesting--especially where I am. My ward has at least two openly gay (or maybe i should say that they have same-sex attraction) members (who do not practice the lifestyle and are temple-worthy, I might add--their stories are really interesting, and i think the two of them are inspirations) as well as parents with gay children who want to get married. I love our ward. There is such understanding and love. Our bishop called all of them before reading the letter so they could choose whether to come to the meeting or not. I really appreciate that kind of consideration and respect. When our stake president spoke about prop 8, you could really feel the pure love--the charity--he had for everyone, including gays who are memebrs and non-members, practicing and not.

Just last week we were talking with one of the gay members of our ward. He had just been to a friend's gay marriage that weekend, but then he said that he had decided to vote for prop 8. That's huge!! He's not opposed to gay marriage, and he would never admit his position to his friends. He said, "I considered what would happen if a gay couple wanted to be sealed and then sued if they couldn't" (or something like that). That's what's made him decide to vote yes.

It'll be even more interesting to see what happens on Nov 4.

Ben P. said...

Good points, all.

Please indulge this comparison, though it can be argued to have a certain degree of naïveté...

Many will always disagree on moral issues that don’t fit into their moral system. An example from the other side of the aisle is the environment. It is a well known tenant of liberalism that we have a moral obligation to take care of the environment (I know a lot of conservatives believe this as well, but please indulge my oversimplification to make a point). I do, however, know quite a few conservatives who feel they have a right not to recycle, a right to do whatever they want in their homes. For these conservatives, their rights are violated whenever legislation is based forcing them to recycle, or to not drive on certain days, or things like that. Animal rights is another good example. Some feel hunting is immoral, others feel they have the right to hunt. Many liberals who are proclaim the rights of homosexual partners would vote against the right of the hunter to hunt or the conservative not to recycle. So, which examples are actually rights and which ones are not?

The fact is, both… and neither. The fact is, every law that is debated in congress, every law that is passed and every law that dies always has a moral issue at it’s heart. Always. And your own understanding of what is moral and what is not will color the laws you will support. It is not an emotional issue. So who is right? I am. By which I mean you are. By which I mean we are all obligated to follow the dictates of our own conscience, whatever that may be. It is foolish to be upset and aggravated with someone based on their interpretation of what is moral, because you will disagree with everyone as some point of another.

Look at the issues. Decide where you stand. Go cast your vote. What is important is that you know what both sides stand for and that you know what you stand for. Never worry what someone else is going to think of you, and never feel guilty about your moral standing, whatever it may be.

Just feel guilty if you don’t vote. Because then you negate your right to have an opinion at all.

Stephanie said...

Liz, I saw the advertisement for your blog on facebook and I had to check it out. I really appreciated your thoughts on this issue, because I have struggled with a lot of similar internal conflicts. For instance, I don't understand how the church can be so harsh to homosexuals in a faithful relationship, and yet have much more lenient standards for an individual who cheats on their spouse. I have been thinking about this because I have different friends who have dealt with both trials, and the church was significantly more strict with the homosexual individual, which is mind boggling to me! Anyway, I agree with all of the reasons why you chose to support Prop 8, and I have come to many similar conclusions here at law school. There are two things I would like to add to your list. First of all, remember that "separation of church and state" is not a constitutional right, because it's not in a constitution. It was in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. So this is a false battle cry of those in favor of homosexuality, and there really is no constitutional basis for there claim. Second, I encourage you to check out this article about a judge in Massachusets who ruled that schools have the right to teach children in KINDERGARTEN that homosexuality is acceptable social behavior, and if parents don't like it they have to send their kids to private school. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/02/24/same_sex_teaching_upheld/
This is an example to me of the proverbial "slippery slide" argument, because although I know not all homosexuals feel this way, I believe the end goal of many special interest groups is to silence any social disapproval of homosexuality all together, which would completely violate freedom of religion in the 1st amendment.

I hope you are doing well. Hope you don't mind me commenting!

-Stephanie Barclay

Reamworks said...

I'm afraid that if prop 8 PASSES, then we will have legal polygamy!. That's why I'm voting NO on prop 8 and leaving things as they are.

Annie McNeil said...

Loved reading this, Liz; thank you.

In "The Screwtape Letters," C.S. Lewis postulates that one of Satan's most effective tricks is to put an entire generation on its guard, through propaganda and catch-phrases and "contemporary wisdom," against the evils to which they are least susceptible. I.e., an excessively permissive generation would be put on its guard against "intolerance."

I think this principle applies to individuals as well. Just as you say, people like you and I would be better off training ourselves to think more about faithful obedience and "the tyranny of tolerance," and of course there are those among our acquaintance who could probably stand to ponder Christ's teachings on love and mercy and judging not a bit more.