The recent decision by my native state to officially overturned a voter approved initiative from eight years ago that stated Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. has left me with several conflicting feelings that need expression in the context of being a husband and father. There are two main issues here that on the surface, seem to be diametrically opposed, and upon further inspection, turn out to be finely linked and related. I wish to address these issues at least to the level of personal satisfaction, but it almost certainly won't be to everyone's.
This decision disturbs me on a couple of levels. First, my conservative view on marriage is offended by a vocal minority disrupting the institution that has existed since the dawn of time. I honestly and truly believe that society is worse off if same-sex marriage is allowed. It has nothing to do with the people themselves, but the lifestyle they choose to live. It's not private, no matter how much people protest the institution's innocuousness. Marriage matters, and marriage re-defined will change not only the dictionary, but all people living in their cities, states, and country.
The Proclamation on the Family states:
Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.Heavenly Father has organized the family in a certain way, with a mother and a father having specific gender roles that provide specific things to the raising of children. Changing the implementation of this divinely designed unit will lead to national calamity. Therefore, should we not fight to preserve the family unit, including heterosexual marriage with all the power we posses? I would argue that anyone who claims to believe the Proclamation to be a divinely inspired document would feel compelled to.
Elder Oaks, in an interview with the Church's Public Affairs dept. on the subject of gay marriage said:
This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “homophobic.” In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.In addition to the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets, a more immediate effect on freedom to worship God is in jeopardy because of a slip in social morality. We should be aware of an respond to all attempts to undermine religious freedoms in our country including the increasing social acceptance of gay marriage.
To shift gears slightly, I wanted to address the issue of homosexuality itself. I want to make it clear that from a Church perspective, that same-gender attraction is not insurmountable, it is not acceptable, and it is not normal.
Those who have same-gender attraction are given direction from church leaders on how to handle their situation. First, from the same discussion with the Church's public affairs dept., we have a statement from Elder Wickman:
Same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life.Then from Elder Oaks on how same-sex attraction should be handled:
The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.He goes on to say that same-gender attraction should be treated in the same way all sin is treated. Avoid it. Don't entertain thoughts about it. Put yourself in a position of control over it and it won't be a problem. This is how to put off the natural man, which is an enemy to God. Changing laws to make behavior accepted is not the solution. Redefining marriage will not provide protection from eternal consequences.
Elder Oaks continues, speaking about the condition of marriage for people with same-gender attraction. It is only recommended for those "who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate."
Some people claim that this position is not sensitive enough to a person's basic desire to have a family in this life and eternal companionship. They want equality in the eyes of the law so that they can have a hope of marriage in this life according to their currently oriented attractions. To this Elder Oaks replied:
The circumstance of being currently unable to marry, while tragic, is not unique.He and Elder Wickman go on to discuss the situation of many people who, because of physical, mental, or other limitations, won't have a marriage opportunity in this life. However, the Atonement makes it possible for all people, who live worthily now, to have all blessings given to them.
If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.From a church perspective, marriage is not guaranteed for all people during mortality. It is only guaranteed for people who keep certain commandments and covenants. Putting off same-gender attraction may not be easy, but it is required for eternal salvation and happiness in this life. From what Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman have said, there will be greater sorrow in yielding to the sin of homosexual behavior in this life than in abstaining from any kind of marriage now, and waiting for the eternal promises made possible through the Atonement.
The next more debated area of discussion is the legal aspect. Personally, my patriotic sensitivities are bruised by this heavy-handed decision. If the voters don't have ultimate say, then what freedoms are safe? How can a court legislate from the bench laws that the people don't want? It seems that Lincoln's dream that democratic government "of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" has already begun to die.
The courts were created as a check against the legislatures, not against the will of the people. I would go so far as to say that the people are a check against themselves and that no government entity should trump what the voters have already decided. Here we have the government (of California) unilaterally overturning the will of the voters. Since an amendment is the only legal recourse, I hope that they will be able to join the other 30+ states that have amended their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
This decision also presents several legal questions as it related to polygamy, and other "non traditional" marriage states. Since the decision was aimed at the discriminatory language of Prop. 22, it sets a precedent for protecting other classes of citizens including people whose religious beliefs allow for polygamy. At least in California.