Last week’s overturning of California’s Proposition 8 by Federal Judge Vaughn Walker was a big victory, not just for the gay and lesbian community but also for anyone who cares about personal freedoms, human rights, civil rights, equality, and all that other good stuff.
As a new Time magazine article points out, though, not everyone is happy. Apparently the Mormon church is upset with the decision. I couldn’t be more ashamed of the church that I grew up in, and to which my family has now belonged for seven generations. Mormon church members in Utah contributed nearly four million dollars in the fight to pass Prop 8 (a ballot in a different state!) a couple years ago. By some accounts the Mormon church came pretty darned close to losing their IRS tax exempt status by getting involved in this political matter; it’s apparently that important to them. They claim it is a moral issue. Perhaps it is — as it applies to their own members. If the Mormon church, or any other group, doesn’t want to perform gay or lesbian marriages they are free to (not) do so. But more importantly, why is it that they feel the need to impose their beliefs on anyone else?
Strangely enough, in the late 1800s it was the Mormon church asking the rest of the world to accept their out-of-the-ordinary definition of marriage. Mormons back then practiced plural marriage, where a man with enough church status or money could have multiple wives; most of the rest of the world was aghast at the practice. So as a condition by the U.S. Congress for statehood in 1896 Utah’s constitution had to prohibit plural marriage, and the Mormon prophet dutifully and conveniently received a revelation from god ending the practice.
So maybe it’s just a case of sour grapes because the Mormons didn’t get to have their own definition of marriage over a hundred years ago, and so now today nobody else should go outside the norm. Or is it that they get a bit queasy thinking about gay sex? Or maybe they, like a lot of other supposedly Christian (motto: love thy neighbor) denominations think that gays and lesbians are sinners and therefore don’t deserve to be in a happy, secure relationship.
If it’s sour grapes, they need to get over it; it’s been a long time. If it’s the queasiness, get over that as well; just think about straight sex instead.
Maybe it’s the sinner aspect. The Old Testament of the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. But this doesn’t hold up; it also says a lot of other things, such as dietary laws, that Mormons and other Christians don’t follow. In Mormon theology the rules of the Old Testament were superseded by the new, higher law of Christ contained in the New Testament — “love thy neighbor as thyself” and all that. But apparently it’s a bit of a pick-and-choose which rules still apply. Stone adulterers: no. Slavery: no. Dietary laws: no. Kill the fags: hell yes.
Maybe it’s the issue of reproduction. If a same-sex marriage will not produce children then they can’t comply with the admonition to “be fruitful” and make lots of Mormon babies. But of course some heterosexual marriages don’t produce children yet are still recognized. Adoption is encouraged for these couples, but for some reason that option isn’t allowed as a way to validate a gay marriage. So that must not be it.
There’s another possible explanation. An editorial by Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times suggests that a major factor in Judge Walker’s decision was the changing of gender roles in marriage. Until recently “Men were seen as suited for certain types of work and women for others. Women were seen as suited to raise children and men were seen as suited to provide for the family”. Except for these traditional roles there is no need to ensure that one partner in a marriage is a male and the other female; if either (or both) can provide for the family as well as care for the home, then what need is there for one of each?
When Mormon church representatives talk about a “return to traditional roles” this is what they mean. The Mormon church is stuck in the 19th century (if not in the age of the Abrahamic patriarchs) when it comes to gender roles. Women are still urged to stay home to care for the family, and men are given the task of providing for them — even if it means working two jobs so that the wife can stay home with the kids in the large houses so popular in Utah. And given their patriarchal rights, of course only men can hold the priesthood and serve in leadership positions.
All too often it comes down to this: “not normal” people don’t deserve to have the same rights that “normal” people have. If there’s a way to differentiate between “god’s chosen people” and others, they’ll take it. The Mormon church has never been very progressive when it comes to civil rights. It wasn’t until 1978 that the prophet received a revelation allowing blacks to be ordained to the priesthood an thus hold any leadership positions. As with the end of polygamy this was a revelation of convenience; the policy on blacks and the priesthood was getting in the way of missionary efforts in Africa.
And by the way, women are still not ordained.
I suspect that the Mormon church is not going to change its stance on gay marriage, or giving women the priesthood, until forced to do so by some circumstance that threatens the well being of the church as an institution. That’s the only way that major changes have happened in the past.