Friday, November 7, 2008

Response to "Church Responds to Same-Sex Marriage Votes"

Church Responds to Same-Sex Marriage Votes

Since Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in June of this year, the citizens of California have considered the arguments for and against same-sex marriage. After extensive debate between those of different persuasions, voters have chosen to amend the California State Constitution to state that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Voters in Arizona and Florida took the same course and amended their constitutions to establish that marriage will continue to be between a man and a woman.

Such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life — family, identity, intimacy and equality — stirs fervent and deep feelings.

Some have asked why we in the LGBT community are fighting for same-sex marriage and/or why we are fighting so hard. This is part of the reason why. It is not a selfish grab; it is about the deep issues of our lives -- "family, identity, intimacy, and equality" -- being recognized and protected.

Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.

No, it won't. If anything the issue has been heightened. The flood of vitriol in just the past few days tells me the situation, for many, has escalated beyond a "debate." Many seem ready to have a new wave of Stonewall Riots.

We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

This is where I begin to take some real issue with the Church's comments. For people asking for parties to be "well informed" and not subject each other to "erroneous information" the Church seems to like using erroneous information to argue their position. I have already posted links to an analysis on Six Consequences... if Proposition 8 Fails (gained through I also take issue with the many studies they reference to support their view on marriage. Often they are misused taking inference from them that is in no way related to the issue (e.g., studies on the effect on children raised by both biological parents vs. only one biological parent do not give any information, directly or indirectly, on the effect of children raised by a same-sex couple).

It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage--a union between a man and a woman.

The words "sacred" and "divine" are inherently religious. This argument makes it clear the issue with the Church is trying to make civil structure reflect their religious ideology. Although I understand their concern, desire, and zeal to do this, I must take issue with the level of force they are showing. I strongly feel the Church is overstepping its bounds by trying to legislate deep doctrinal beliefs.

Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong.

Perhaps this is a little flippant: the very definition of bigotry is what has been going on. The fact of Church involvement and their own arguments as to why they are involved (see previous paragraph) are bigoted. They are stubbornly fighting against any recognition beyond what they believe: the "sacred" and "divine" union between a man and a woman.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.

Obviously, some of the members of the Church and others have missed this. I know this comment has been made many times over the past few years, however, I consistently hear LDS members say they only recently realized it was said. Still, some others seem to think "hostility" only means outright battery. They do not consider emotional, financial, and social harm any problem. In fact, some have said it is the very thing the Church and God want them to do.

Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

First, I will reiterate my stance on supporting the constitutional rights of churches in this country and what happens in the civil arena should not infringe on those rights. Where is the line when basic rights for same-sex couples begin to "infringe" on the "integrity" of the "traditional family"? This seems so vaguely defined that the Church can have the latitude to protest against anything that even seems similar to allowing marriage rights. Back in 2004 when an amendment was on the ballot in Utah and other states to define marriage between a man and a woman, the Church gave an obtuse endorsement of those amendments via a First Presidency Statement:
Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.
Either the Church has taken a turn in the past four years in regard to allowing civil rights to same-sex couples, or this current statement is disingenuous.

Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.

Let me reiterate, I do not object to churches making their beliefs and views known publicly regarding politics. I do not object to churches asking the members of their congregations to be civilly involved. What I take issue with is the pouring of literally millions of dollars, disseminating erroneous information, and pressuring--not just asking, pressuring--their members into donating millions as well, to name a few unethical practices, for the purpose of pushing doctrinally based legislation through the system.

Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.

I wonder if this is more of a required statement to cover the Church from being accused of forcing their members to vote a certain way. Whatever it is, it seems deeply contradictory to all the work the Church has done over the past months. (Flippant moment: "If this doesn't pass, society will suffer an apocalyptic colapse. But, whatever, vote how you want.") As for Church members being understanding and accepting, I hope certain people can stop calling others "apostate" or "against God's will" for not supporting Proposition 8 or similar measures.

Even though the democratic process can be demanding and difficult, Latter-day Saints are profoundly grateful for and respect the ideals of a true democracy.

I am not sure what to make of this exactly. It seems odd how it is not the Church speaking of itself as an organization but speaking for the individual members collectively. I find it somewhat assumptive and bothersome to have the institution speaking for individuals.

The Church expresses deep appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the many Latter-day Saints and others who supported the coalitions in efforts regarding these amendments.

Conflicted Over the Religious Involvement of Proposition 8

I start writing this at 3:45 A.M. For more than 12 hours I have stewed in my internal conflict over the various reactions people are having to the passing of Proposition 8 in California, banning marriage rights for same-sex couples in that state. Facebook has been a flood of vitriol. After half a large pizza and starting my second 2-liter of Mountain Dew, I realize I need to express my feelings and sort out my thoughts. I don't want to be the angry guy; I don't want to be the guy who does nothing.

The LGB community is understandably upset, even angry. Protests in California have already been happening. This evening a protest is planned for Downtown Salt Lake City near the LDS temple and LDS Church Office Building. Law suits are already filed, one claiming Proposition 8 was not carried through the proper initiative process. A group on Facebook is supporting a petition for the IRS to review the Church of Latter Day Saints' tax-exempt status.

I have signed the petition. I did not do so with the intent of insisting point blank for the repeal of the Church's tax-exempt status due to a petition alone. My stance is more asking the IRS to audit the activities of churches involved in donating and lobbying for Proposition 8. I posted my belief before and spoken with people about how I feel the religious involvement in supporting Proposition 8 was unethical from the beginning. I am sure the LDS Church had tax attorneys involved to make sure they stayed within their technical boundaries. Still, I want to make a statement that I do not agree with what happened, regardless of the vote results on Proposition 8.

As for the protest, I feel it is somewhat misplaced in time. It seems reactionary -- a tantrum over not getting one's way. (Perhaps that is too simplistic an analogy.) Part of me wishes to join. I am angry too. Angry at all the rhetoric, arguments, and money put towards passing such legislation. At a time when so many are seeing a great sign of progress in our civilization with the electing of Barak Obama, many of us are stung deeply by the passing of Proposition 8 in California, along with similar legislation in Arizona and Florida. But I do not believe crying out in an angry protest march will help me. I do not wish to silence and repress religion. Again, I have posted and expressed my belief in a religion's rights to free speech. I believe there must be a better middle to travel. I almost want to go to the protest wearing a sandwich board that reads, "Suppressing marriage is wrong / Suppressing religion is wrong."

The LDS Church's response to the passing of Proposition 8 also upsets me. (I plan to make a more detailed analysis/response in another post.) I will say I find the response generally disingenuous. I am left to wonder how much of it is simply the required PR spin verses how oblivious they are to their actions and the effect of what they have done.

I wish I could discuss this with many of you out there. Much of what I see is a failure to communicate: a failure in hearing and speaking what the issues truly are and understanding the boundaries we are to respect. Almost no one seems capable of transcending the trite talking points and buzzwords. I cry thinking of how many I have come in contact with, on BOTH sides, screaming out with closed eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to those they attack and even to themselves.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Promises and Expectations after Proposition 8

This political season has been difficult for many of us. We have seen one of the most intense presidential races in history. Stakes are high with issues regarding the economy and wars, not to mention historic milestones seen for both African Americans and women in our political arena. I feel an energy in the air with it all. Something is tipping; a corner in a cycle is being turned. We as Americans will become different through the coming events-–much like how we became different through the Industrial Revolution, Great Depression, and WWII, to name a few.

For me, emotions ran very high over the now over decade old issue of same-sex marriage. Many states carried the issue on their ballots this year. This ranged from trying to keep homosexual couples, and other unmarried couples, from being adoptive or foster parents (AK Initiative Act 1) to constitutional amendments to make marriage only between “a man and a woman” (AZ Proposition 102, CA Proposition 8, FL Amendment 2). Again, we saw some of the most intense politicking ever seen in the CA campaigning over Proposition 8, garnering attention to position it as mascot of the issue for the country. Debates were intense. Advertising and general claims often went past extreme into the absurd. Many baffled me as I tried to understand how the issues they brought up have any bearing on the issue. Perhaps the most disturbing were the highly sanctimonious reasoning behind most of the arguments and the intense financial backing by religions, especially the LDS Church. I lost more than a few nights of sleep as the world became a little more hostile to me trying to live peaceably in it.

With all that has been said, debated, and argued, I promise to do the following:
  • I promise to allow you to educate your children as you see fit. I have my beliefs as to what should be included in sex-education, health, and social study courses. I think it is somewhat absurd and potentially damaging to ignore the existence of homosexuals in these issues, and I believe the curriculum must be carefully tailored to fit the maturity of the students. However, I completely acknowledge your rights as parent/guardian to teach the morality of these things to your children and should hold the right to remove your child from involvement should you deem it necessary.

  • I promise to allow churches to marry whom they wish to marry and not marry whom they do not wish to marry.

  • I promise to allow church based agencies providing services, such as adoption, to reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. I promise to allow any other private company the right to the same, as long as they abide by the proper local laws to do so.

  • I promise to allow private, sectarian school to run their housing and admissions according to their own policies.

  • I promise to allow people, including ministers and other religious figures, to speak of homosexuality as sin without insisting they be censored on the claim of “hate speech.” Also, I do not consider phrases like “traditional marriage” or “family values” to be hate speech. However, this is no basis to allow incendiary rhetoric condoning harm to others.

In return, I ask for the following:
  • Become educated about homosexual, bisexual, and transgender issues. Many out there are still severely ignorant, leading to fear and anger, about what these are and what is – and isn’t – involved.

  • Become education about the points you argue. Many have gone to topics and expressed concerns about issues in no way connected or contested over the issue of same-sex marriage. Also, learn how to understand studies and statistics and know how to find the reliable ones. So many have abused and misused studies to make their point seem valid. (I openly admit many on both sides of the issue are guilty of this. All the more reason for you to know how to deal with it properly.)

  • Those who argue the issue is not same-sex marriage but defending "traditional" marriage or the definition of marriage, work to actually define "traditional" marriage in the law. I admit, I ask this somewhat ironically. One of the great talking points is protecting marriage as it is defined. However, our civil law has done a poor job in reflecting the definition many give as to why same-sex couples should be barred from it. If the great debates and issues surrounding same-sex marriage have shown me anything it is that marriage, from the point of view of the law in our country, is poorly defined in what it is for and what purpose it is to serve. I expect to see the proposal of legislation at both state and federal levels to improve the structuring of marriage laws to reflect what it is to have and maintain "traditional" marriage (e.g., if "traditional" marriage is to be about bearing and raising children I wish to see fecundity requirements for marriage and tax benefits only when the couple is the primary caregiver of a minor). Otherwise, I shall consider this aspect of arguments merely meaningless talking points used to emotionally manipulate people.

  • Those who say you have no objection to civil unions stand by your promise. Many have said they have no problem recognizing civil unions at both state and federal levels that allow ALL the same RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES as marriage. Although I feel this is playing a very unnecessary semantics game, I hope you will stay by your word. Should we seek to have such civil unions, either support us or stand aside. If you oppose us after all you have said I will consider you the most extreme of hypocrites.

  • Acknowledge our existence. One of the most pervasive attitudes I saw in all the debate and argument was a feeling that people wanted homosexuals not to exist. I am not talking of an intent or desire to kill us or drive us from our homes. It was a subtle, almost unconscious “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of attitude. As much as you may wish us off the radar, we are here. To insist on ignoring our existence by not allowing your children – or even yourself – to hear of us, by not allowing us to share our lives with the one we choose, or even by not allowing us the basic needs to survive in society – as one man I spoke with actually wanted to do – is an attempt at a relativistic existence. With all the fearful rhetoric of homosexuals destroying society, I see trying to maintain such an existence as being far more destructive.