Personal Statement on Gay Marriage

This is coming late, by a couple years, at least. I have never really addressed this issue in public. My preference has been to stay out of a discussion where anything that is said is potentially hurtful, and due to the powerful feelings involved, easily misunderstood. I wouldn’t address it now, but I know that it remains out there as an issue for Mormons and about us. I simply want a statement I can refer people to, as needed. I’m not going to leave comments open; I’m not looking for discussion.  I doubt I will take part in future discussions on the issue. This is not the kind of thing I want to do on this blog.

Here are the basics: I don’t oppose gay marriage, personally or politically.

As for the position of the church: I don’t really oppose that, either. It may or may not be known, but marriage between the sexes is, for the church, as much a metaphysical issue as a social issue. What the church wants is to protect its ability to practice the ordinance of marriage as it stands. There is a fear that an alteration in traditional legal definitions will open a door to legal persecution. This concern is often dismissed, and, of course, there is not a substantial public will to enforce moral codes from outside religions on religions. (The siege mentality that our history inclines us to has may play a part in the church’s reaction.) But it doesn’t seem difficult to imagine that public will developing in the decades to come. The passions of some who like to say “tolerance” would require little enough historical nudge to turn them inquisitorial. In any case, it seems to me that the concerns of the church are defensive. The nature of Prop 8 put the church on the offensive. And that brought a lot of unfortunate and unnecessary pain.

In spite of that hurt, I think that the argument will have more positive than negative ramifications in the long haul. There is a lot of good happening in the church around this issue, some of which has been accelerated by the Prop 8 kerfluffle. There has been a real change in rhetoric over time. I think Kaimi, at T&S, documented this pretty conclusively. This change in language presages changes in behavior. A key change is the slow dissolution of the us vs. them mentality that we are prone to. (There may well be a ‘them’, but it is on ‘them’ to make it so and keep it so.) It has been possible for many in the church to view homosexuality as something taken part in by them – dancing naked on the streets of Sodom, or San Francisco, or wherever. Not one of us. I think it is increasingly clear to many of us that gay people are with us, not out there, and that our effort to make a place for them has been … somewhere south of awful. We have so much inheritance of fear that is not warranted by our doctrine. The situation of Mitch Mayne, in the bay area, is very encouraging. I can’t imagine what an openly gay member faces, and love to see the way Mitch has been included, and includes himself. Of course, that is the Bay Area, not Payson – but by and by.

I’m not sure that any of this means substantial changes in the doctrine of the church, soon or, possibly, ever. I’m not sure that it should. The teachings that require us to be kinder and more tolerant than we’ve been are in place. A fairly remarkable change in emphasis is also in place. I hold with the idea that happy marriages that can produce children are indispensable to creating, generation to generation, the kind of societies we’d like to live in. However, many people live with circumstances – infertility, sexuality, other powerful inclinations and life purposes, or simply bent time – that mean that those marriages will not happen. In all cases, I think we have to welcome attempts to live happily and constructively, and gay marriage falls into that as far as I can see.

I personally understand why a gay person would leave the church. I can hear it even in the language I’ve used here. If they do leave, that in no way decreases my desire to be their friend. I take this to mean something beyond being tolerant. If I required every one of my friends to live and think the way I do, I’d have none.

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