I haven’t written much on this subject because I’m not sure how to approach it. The easiest way, I suppose, would be to talk dispassionately about the law and its ramifications, but then I’ve always been interested in the human effects of such things.
One of my kids said not long ago that they didn’t understand the big uproar over allowing gay people to marry. Said child said, “That doesn’t affect anyone else but them.” Despite what Prop. 8 proponents say, continuing to allow homosexual marriage will not destroy heterosexual marriage, won’t “turn” children gay, won’t lead to a slippery slope wherein people are free to marry pets and household appliances. As my daughter said, it doesn’t affect anyone but those who marry.
From what I can see, the fight is not over extending specific rights such as property rights or estate control or even medical visitation. The real issue is over the word “marriage.” Simply put, certain groups, my church included, want to own the word “marriage” and exclude same-sex couples from being included in that exclusive club.
From what I can see, there are no practical effects to giving homosexuals the right to enter into the same kind of marital contracts that heterosexuals enter into. It’s just that word. The courts have already determined that allowing that one word to define homosexual unions is consistent with equal treatment under the law. That seems reasonable to me. Some of my good friends are gay, and they have written extensively about why this issue is important to them (see Todd’s Hammer, Sideon’s Sanctuary, and a new blog I just discovered, Yes I Am).
I completely understand where my friends are coming from. The judicial branch of government has confirmed that they have a right to marry (and call it a marriage), and yet certain groups are trying to take that right away. An analogy would be that after the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, white Americans banded together to amend the Constitution to provide for discrimination against non-whites.
So, what is it about that word that gets people so upset? I don’t need to mention that it’s a little hypocritical for Mormons to insist on a “one man, one woman” definition of marriage. For many years the federal government put a lot of pressure on the LDS church over its practice of non-traditional, polygamous marriage. But now they find themselves “defending” the use of a word because they don’t like the idea of a despised group co-opting “their” word.
Honestly, this whole business reminds me of the “coloreds” in South Africa. I’m not talking about black Africans, who were denied basic human rights, but rather I mean those of non-white races (Indians, Filipinos, and mixed-race people) who were sort of in a weird limbo: not being black, they weren’t as disdained as the African majority, but not being white, they were not granted the same political and social status as whites. That’s sort of what our society has done with homosexuality. The public face of Mormonism is tolerant, for the most part, but in private people disdain and joke about gays and lesbians. If nothing else, the fight over Prop. 8 is pushing some of the private into the public eye.
I suspect that some day soon the idea of discriminating against same-sex marriage will be treated with the same bemused puzzlement that we now feel when we think of whites-only drinking fountains. And everyone will know what most of us already know: the LDS church is on the wrong side of this issue.