(This post was originally published HERE on March 26, 2013.)
Listen, I’m not sure about the title of this post. I know that I was just thinking, it is about time I stop being a coward and write the post that has been rattling around in my head for more than a year now. So, it is not that I believe it is time now, because it is really way past time.
The same goes for marriage equality in general. We are long over due.
The thing that made me decide I really need to write this post and get my thoughts out there was reading THIS post at Momastery. And I thought, if nothing else, what my heart says to me about this—and all other issues, really—need to be said out loud for my children. And not just because they might grow up to be gay. But because they might grow up to be human. (And the odds of that are actually pretty good.) And even though it is hard and scary for me, because the community that surrounds me does not like what I have to say, I have to say it. Because I don’t want my children to approach their fellow members of the human race with that narrow-mindedness that I see from the community that surrounds me. Indeed, it is my goal to raise them to always question a narrow mind, and to think hard about those who question an open mind.
I try to be understanding of view points that I don’t agree with. I try to see these things from another point of view, and often times I find that even though I may disagree with my neighbors, at the heart of it all we want the same things. But, honestly, when it comes to marriage equality and gay rights, I just don’t understand where these people get off. And I don’t understand how we could want the same things.
I have yet to see a valid argument for denying marriage rights to anyone. People seem to cling to this idea of God ordaining marriage between a man and a woman. And maybe they are basing that on the Bible? But what the Bible actually says about marriage is a bit confusing, and most modern day Christians seem to have abandoned all but the Adam and Even style that they are most comfortable with. Indeed, most Christians seem pretty choosy about what they do and do not follow in the Bible. I’m just saying, I know a few ladies who consistently wear some cotton blends to church. And sometimes even in combination with braided hair and jewelry. And they almost never cover their heads to pray.
But I digress. This post isn’t about how imperfect people wrote imperfect passages of scripture, and how we have to use inspiration and a bit of common sense to see beyond that to the heart of it. The point is that people who oppose gay marriage seem to do it on religious grounds. And what with the separation of church and state that we Americans are so fond of, those religious grounds make no sense to me. I don’t understand this conservative notion that “government should stay out of my business, unless they want to enforce something that I believe in, because that is totally cool.” If you want the government to start embracing and enforcing a particular religion, then fine. But I think you’ve chosen the wrong nation of residence. Also, take care. Because you might miss that separation of church and state if one day someone chooses a religion that is not yours to enforce.
But here is the real nitty-gritty part for me (and what follows here is the part that is the scariest to write. the part that will get me the most hate mail). I belong to a religion that DOES believe that the act of homosexuality is a sin. Notice the care with my wording there. Just the act. The Church has recently come to terms with homosexuality not being a choice, and doesn’t automatically assume a soul damned for being gay. I give credit for that, because it is a step in the right direction. But, I do only see it as a step. Because, they still purport that acting gay is a problem. And this is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. Since way back when, and I was a teenager and I had gay friends and I knew them to be loving, and kind, and awesome. And I didn’t believe they’d chosen that path and I struggled with a God that would create them a certain way and then tell them that being that way meant that they had to live a life of solitude and shame. I have a really hard time believing in that God. And for a lot years this is an issue that I pushed back into the recesses of my mind, so that I could feel comfortable sitting in church listening to people talk about we “love the sinner and hate the sin” and how we need to learn to “tolerate” those who make bad life choices and show them love in spite of it all. I came to a point where I just had to admit to myself that I believed that all citizens of our beloved USA should have the same rights. But there was still more to it than that. But it was so outside of the realm of what my church community believes that I was just too afraid to voice it. To even think about it.
And I kept pushing these things back into those recesses of my mind, until the birth of my first child. And then I guess with all of the love, and all of those hopes and dreams I had for his future, and the things I wanted for him, and the world that I want him to grow up in and be a part of… there was no more room in the recesses of my mind, and it all came tumbling out. And I finally had to admit to myself, to say out loud to myself, that I don’t even believe homosexuality is a sin. Not the being, not the act, none of it. Because, as I said above, I have a hard time believing in a God who would do that. I don’t believe that God makes mistakes. And if he creates a soul, and that soul is gay, he’d have to be kind of a jerk to then tell that person being gay is wrong. And I don’t believe that God is a jerk.
I’ve read all the scriptures that people say mean God hates homosexuality. I just don’t find any of them validating. Strange flesh could easily mean adultery. Or necrophilia. It is the mind of man that has assumed it must mean gay. And don’t get me started on Sodom and Gomorrah. I don’t know how anyone could read Lot’s story and come away thinking homosexuality was the big offender. I’m pretty sure that is a story about gang rape. And if you recall, everyone was just as willing to include Lot’s daughters as they were his male guests. They were equal opportunity gang rapists.
But I digress again. My point is that it seems to me that societal influences have a stronger role in interpreting scripture than most people like to believe. And sometimes what the scriptures actually say and what people say they say gets all muddled up. So sometimes I have to put all of those scriptures aside, I have to take this issue straight to the God I believe in. Because I come from a religion founded by a man who had hard questions and took them to the Lord in prayer, and got answers. And he taught others to do the same. And so I’ve gotten on my knees and I’ve told my God my issues. I told him that I don’t understand this, that I’m conflicted with the implications of it. And I’ve told him that if he tells me homosexuality is a sin, then I’ll believe him (In fact, that would be the easy way out for me. I’d fit in much better at church.) but that the idea doesn’t feel right to me. My soul wrestles with it and I can’t find a peaceful place in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to homosexuality. And I’ve gone back to him many times about this issue. And you know what? I’ve never felt the confirmation that two people of the same sex loving each other is wrong. Never even anything like it.
I HAVE felt the confirmation that having love and compassion and understanding for all of mankind is the course I should take.
I’m going with that.
I am a straight ally.
Thank you for writing this. You detail my own experience with this challenge succinctly and I am grateful fir your candor. Id like to join you as another ally. 🙂
I’ve been meaning to “come out” as a straight ally, and still may do my own post, but you did an incredible job summing up feelings I’ve had for a long time now. Thank you! I’m right there with you!
Loved this and I agree “that it seems to me that societal influences have a stronger role in interpreting scripture than most people like to believe.”
You’ve articulated so well some of my own thoughts and feelings! Thanks for posting. I think it’s time for me to have a coming out party on social media so members in my family and ward know more specifically where i stand (and to recruit more followers of the great work that this is.) And when i do it, I’d like to add your article as a voice that speaks exactly what I feel. Would you mind if I linked your article?
I don’t mind at all! I’d be honored.
The law of chastity, as articulated by the church, does not equal a “life of solitude and shame”–not even for gay members who choose celibacy.
Then I take it you are a homosexual man living the law of chastity as defined by the church? I’m assuming that for you to be so sure you’d have to have personal experience.
There’s no reason I have to be my own counter-example. If the claim is that the law of chastity = solitude and shame for gay members, then all it takes to refute the claim is to identify one gay member to whom the law of chastity does not bring shame and solitude. That’s how counter-examples work in logical arguments. There are high-profile examples that we could talk about, but I don’t want to get derailed.
My point is not to say gay members don’t typically experience solitude and shame in the church. I’m sure most do, and that’s a terrible thing. But the problem isn’t with the law of chastity, it’s with mormon culture. We need to foster a culture where gay members feel known, accepted, and loved. Posts like this that attack the law of chastity rather than challenging the culture cause attitudes of exclusion and shame to become more entrenched in the church–making the problem worse, not better.
I don’t feel like I’m attacking the law of chastity at all. I didn’t even bring up the law of chastity. You did. I believe in being chaste, and that sexual intimacy should be saved for marriage. I think any two people can easily abide those rules. ANY two people. I’m not sure how that is anti-chastity.
Thanks for the response Leah. Correct me if I am wrong, but in this article I think you are arguing that we ought not categorize homosexual behavior (beyond merely identifying as gay) as sinful. Please help me see how that doesn’t directly contradict the church’s definition of chastity.
Can definitions change? Of course. However, I think it’s important to note that the church’s current definition (that sexual relations should only occur between a man and woman, legally married) is supported and nowhere contradicted in scripture. Below you refer to the biblical example of polygamy. However, the definition above (or at http://mormon.org/faq/law-of-chastity ) doesn’t actually proscribe polygamy generally. Why the church doesn’t then allow members in countries where polygamy is legal to practice it is another question.
The Church has *not* “recently come to terms with homosexuality not being a choice”. That website only repeats and emphasizes the same things that Apostles have said about same-sex attraction for years. One of the reasons it was necessary was that no one in or outside the Church was paying any attention to what they’d actually been saying. But of course, as soon as they put it on a website instead of in a General Conference talk or Ensign article, suddenly everyone notices and says “Look, the Church has changed its stance!”
I don’t know. This assessment of Miracle of Forgiveness would suggest otherwise: http://www.nomorestrangers.org/the-miracle-of-forgiveness-an-open-letter-requesting-removal-or-an-update-to-reflect-current-knowledge/
Mike that is one of the worst books of all time.
Rather than this be an echo chamber, I’ll go ahead and disagree with you. The issue about gay marriage isn’t about whether or not being gay is a sin. Because my values shouldn’t dictate whether something can be done or not. I don’t believe in drinking but I don’t believe in denying others the right to either.
The truth is that there are atheists who have no issue with gay lifestyle but who also don’t support gay marriage. Is it based on moral grounds? Nope. It is based on redefining something that isn’t. Marriage has been between one man and one woman for thousands of years. If we change it to be something else, where we can say that they don’t have to have the same genitalia to be married, why then can’t we also change the number (2) to be 3 or 4 or ten? And if the basis to change it is that a couple is in love, is committed, or whatever else is argued as a basis for changing it, could not anything that meets that criteria petition for marriage. If a restaurant wants to petition the courts to have the right to call noodles a meat than they can do that, but noodles are still not meat. If I pray at my local auto club, I can’t petition the courts to call it a church just to receive tax benefits that come from that.
The truth is that many traditional supporters like me have no issue with gay people. I am libertarian about sexuality, in that you are free to do what you want behind closed doors, and I don’t judge you because it isn’t my place to. You can view porn, or be gay, or do what you like but that’s your business, not mine. I don’t impose my values on others. I like people for who they are and how they treat others, whether your gay or straight, democrat or republican, vegan or a meat eater. I don’t care. Just don’t ask me to call marriage something that it isn’t.
Ill write more about this in a separate post.
One man, one woman?
I think it is subject to change.
Again Leah, I didn’t provide the bible as a basis for my argument. As I mentioned, there are atheists who view this as I do. It isn’t because of the morality of being gay, or the science about how one becomes gay. The issue is the redefinition of marriage. By every measure, marriage has/is/was viewed as between one man and one woman. I want to know the constitutional basis that you would apply that would give the courts or states the responsibility to allow gays to marry.
There are but two restrictions today on marriage and they are genitalia and numbers. Currently marriage is only allowed between only 2 adults, a male and a female. You want to allow any sex to marry each other. Are you comfortable with the polygamy? If the sex of those who can marry is open to change, why not the number (2). Why can’t 4 or 8 or 29 people marry, using the standard you apply?
If you dismiss the moral argument against gay marriage (as your post has)- than can you please tell me the constitutional basis to make a change to our currently accepted law today (one man and one woman).
We are not talking about polygamy or debating polygamy, we are talking about gay marriage. Please keep to gay marriage. If you want to debate polygamy, well I guess first we will have to do a pro-polygamy post. This is a gay debate, not a polygamy debate.
If you support gay marriage, you have to support polygamy too to remain consistent.
How do you change the sex that can marry (MF to MM or FF) and dismiss the number of consenting adults who can marry too?
Bad logic, especially the part about the separation of church and state. Not sure what is so confusing about opposing gay marriage on religious grounds. Which came first, marriage or the U.S. government? And I guess the U.S. government can’t make any rulings on marriage related topics? Ever hear of DOMA?
Supported by many liberals, BTW. And since humans are imperfect, then suddenly all canonized scripture is invalidated?
“Ever heard of DOMA?” Um. Yes. I am fiercely opposed to it. That is kind of my whole point.
Whose logic is bad?
The Mormon Church could not simply “recognize” legal and lawful same-sex marriages without addressing a slew of other, interrelated concerns. The Church would have to say something about accepting a marriage arrangement that has been a non-starter for 6,000 years. The Church would also have to say something about the Temple. Here are some possibilities:
(1) “We recognize legal same-sex marriages, and the sexual relations within them, as acceptable to God – but only in mortality. Such unions are dissolved by death and will not be reconstituted thereafter. Therefore, these unions will not be sealed in the temple.”
Will same-sex attraction be felt after death?
Can for-time-only same-sex marriages be performed in the temple?
Will spouses in same-sex marriages be available to be called as bishops, Stake presidents, Youth leaders, Primary and Relief Society presidents? If not, why not?
(2) “We recognize legal same-sex marriages as valid in mortality, but we don’t know all the conditions operative in the next world or in the resurrection and therefore cannot comment on them. So we will accept legal same-sex marriages but will not seal such unions in the temple, and wait to see what comes. Spouses in same-sex marriages will have to hang on and hope for the best.”
Related issues: See above
(3) “We recognize the validity of same-sex marriages in this life and because we don’t know what will obtain in the next life, we will go ahead and seal these unions in the temple anyway and let it all get sorted out in the next world.”
Related issues: See above, minus the temple restrictions
(4) “We have expanded our understanding of doctrine: We now hold that marriages in heaven are of three types – man and woman, man and man, and woman and woman. Eternal same-sex unions are an exact analog to eternal heterosexual marriages in their rights, privileges and destinies. Being eternal, same-sex marriages have always existed, though we knew it not until now. It is on this understanding that we will seal these unions in the temple.”
Related issues: Presumably, all issues above are resolved.
In recognizing same-sex marriages as valid in the Church, some form of the above would have to be considered. Policies and rationales would need to be articulated. Same-sex marriage doesn’t exist in a theological vacuum. Nothing does. And which policy would same-sex couples settle for?
How would such decisions be made? The LDS Church being what it is, and to be true to its claims, there can be only one answer: Revelation.
And here is the sticking point, the deciding line: For Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not run by a group of men in Salt Lake City. The head of the Church is Jesus Christ.
What if Jesus Christ says no?
For Mormons who want the Church to recognize same-sex marriages, what is their contingency plan for this?