I've always supported granting committed monogamous same sex couples the same legal rights and benefits as married couples - even back in my homophobic-in-denial days. But, I've had a change of heart over the last few months. And, I'm now ready to declare my support for full blown gay marriage.
But, now that creates a dilemma for me. The church handbook of instructions, which is the authoritative source regarding church policy, states:
"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. The Church accordingly opposes same-gender marriages and any efforts to legalize such marriages. Church members are encouraged "to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender."
"Church Handbook of Instructions", book 1 p.187
Not that my support means anything - add $0.50 and you'd have enough to buy a newspaper. But, it is a milestone for me personally. You see, a number of years ago, while living in California, I heeded the churches call and hit the streets going door to door seeking signatures to oppose same sex unions. Mind you, I wasn't very successful in my efforts. Many of the people I talked to assumed I was gathering signatures for the other side. They would say something to the effect that they didn't have anything personal against people like me, but that they were against gay marriage - and then shut the door before I could explain that was what I was gathering signatures for. I don't think I'm that obvious - but, maybe I am, if you look at me in the context of homosexuality [sigh]. It really bothered me at the time as I was still deep in my denial phase.
We hear the 'sanctity of marriage' argument all the time; but, I don't get it - I don't understand how gay marriage has any impact on the sanctity of a heterosexual marriage. Once, when channel surfing, I paused on the Logo TV station (A GLBT cable station). They were showing a clip of Barney Frank, an openly gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who was saying something to the effect of: "How does me loving another man affect your marriage?" I don't have an answer to that question - because it doesn't have an answer. Two men or two women loving one another and living in a marriage-like relationship has absolutely zero impact on my marriage.
A year ago, this whole gay marriage thing was all academic to me - because I didn't know anybody in such a relationship. But, over the last few months, I've had an opportunity to meet some gay couples in committed monogamous relationships. I've yet to meet any in person, but I've gotten to know them online through their blogs and emails. And, you know what, they are nice people. People whom I wouldn't mind living next door to me. People whom I wouldn't have any qualms about inviting into my home. And, the loving relationship they have for one another - suffice it to say that there are a lot of heterosexual couples who should be taking notes. So, if this issue ever comes to a vote of the people in the great state of Texas - I will cast my vote for gay marriage.
But, this doesn't set well with formal church policy? In fact, "... reject all efforts to give legal authorization ..." suggests that even civil unions are to be opposed; so, I've been at odds with formal church policy for years and didn't even know it.
If the church opposes something, does that mean that I, as a faithful member of the church, must oppose it as well? If the church encourages me to do something - what if I refuse? What if, instead of doing what the church is encouraging me to do - I do the exact opposite instead, i.e. appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to support gay marriage. Is it possible to be a faithful church member while disagreeing with certain church policies? And, it is a policy, not a doctrine. It may be rooted in doctrine; but, it is not doctrine in itself. And, policies can, and do, change over time.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that churches must also recognize gay marriages if they are accepted by society. Churches have the right to define their own values. For example, consumption of alcoholic beverages is accepted in our society - although not in the LDS church. But, it is my most humble opinion that the church is fighting a losing battle on the issue of gay marriage and is painting itself into a corner. It's already legally supported in many countries - it's probably only a matter of time before it becomes legal here in the U.S. as well. The church has a policy of political neutrality which it vigorously enforces - except for this issue. Personally, I think the church ought to adopt an position of political neutrality on this issue as well.
The fact of the matter is: Gay people are among us and are here to stay. If we don't allow gay couples to marry - aren't we, therefore, encouraging them to engage in the stereotypical gay lifestyle of promiscuous sex? If we really want to preserve the sanctity of marriage, isn't society better served by promoting committed monogamous relationships? Isn't it better for children to be raised in a two parent home - even if both parents are of the same gender?
Help me out here - why is gay marriage bad for society? Even if we agree that gay sex is wrong, if two people are going to engage in gay sex, isn't it better for us to encourage them to do so in a committed monogamous relationship rather than in one-night-stands with some guy they don't even know? Don't monogamous relationships help fight the battle against sexually transmitted diseases? By opposing gay marriage on the grounds that gay sex is wrong - aren't we cutting off our nose to spite our face?
Some other arguments I've heard against gay marriage are:
- First gay marriage, next plural marriage, then marriage between humans and animals
- Churches will be forced to perform gay marriages
But, such claims are ridiculous (to put it mildly) and only tug on people's emotions without any facts to back them up.
By supporting gay marriage - can I still be considered a faithful member of the church? Or have I planted my feet firmly on the road to apostasy? Am I standing in the great and spacious building pointing my finger at and mocking those who oppose gay marriage? Or, is this simply my way of being in the world but not of the world, and has no impact on my faithfulness whatsoever? I choose to believe the latter.
Hmmm, my next temple recommend interview could be interesting; but, I have until 2009 before I have to worry about that ...
UPDATE: Results of the gay marriage poll