Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why This Straight Mormon Supports Marriage Equality

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I support marriage equality. That is, I support the passing of laws throughout the United States (really, throughout the world) that give same-sex couples the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples, and with the same benefits before the law.

As it happens, I am heterosexual; I don’t have a horse in this race, as it were. I have held this position for a long time. I have said nothing about it publicly because the Church supports the idea that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and on occasion leaders in the Church (local and otherwise) have taken the position that to differ publicly with the Church on issues like this is itself an offense that merits either an official review of one’s membership status or a withholding of a temple recommend. I have felt very uncomfortable keeping quiet about this important social issue, especially for this reason.

However, the Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune published a story in which Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated unequivocally that expressions in support of marriage equality on social media do not endanger one’s standing in the Church, as long as such expressions do not attack the Church or support organizations that do.

Wow. So much could be said about this statement and its ramifications—but all that is for another time.

Here and now, I will explain why it is that I support marriage equality.

Marriage Is a Civil Right

Marriage is a civil right. It is just that simple.

Sure, as a Latter-day Saint, I believe that God the Father instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. This is a scriptural belief based on writings in the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price, among the LDS scriptures, and also on the LDS temple ceremonies. I am not questioning any of this here.

But when we talk about marriage equality, we are not talking about divinely performed marriages. We are talking about marriages recognized by the civil authority, by the state, utterly independently of any religious authority. This makes marriage a matter of civil rights, not religious doctrine.

On civil grounds, there is no reason to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. There is no compelling interest that the state has to ban same-sex marriages.

“Oh, but the state should strengthen families!” some have said. I believe that completely—which is why I believe the state should permit people of all sexual orientations to marry and form families, rather than forcing some people to remain single by banning same-sex marriage.

Here are some blunt truths that need to be stated, perhaps repeatedly:
  • Same-sex marriages do not weaken opposite-sex marriages. (How could it be otherwise? How could someone else’s marriage make my marriage weaker?)
  • There is no legal justification for confining marriage to people who might conceive children. (I am 58 years old. Any woman I am likely to be involved with in the future will be beyond childbearing years. Should we be barred from marrying because we cannot conceive children? Of course not.)
  • Legalizing same-sex marriages doesn’t mean “anything goes”; same-sex marriages would have the same rights, responsibilities, and restrictions as opposite-sex marriages. (So, no, this is not a step in the direction of people marrying their pet ostriches, or pedophilia, or any of the other nonsense that some opponents of same-sex marriage have put forth as being ‘the next step’ beyond marriage equality.)

Marriage Equality, Mormon Doctrine, and the Law

“But what about the Church’s position?” some might say. “Even though you are free to state your opinion, aren’t you taking a stance against the Church’s position?”

No, not really. The core of the Church’s position is that marriage should be between a man and a woman. It is the Church’s prerogative to take this position—as a doctrinal statement. Let marriage be between a man and a woman, within the Church. The Church has every right to define what marriages it will recognize or not, for religious purposes. None of this has to have an impact on the law, which must apply to all people, including those not of the LDS faith.

I will leave it for another time to consider the issue, should the Church attempt to influence legislation on this matter? Because that is part of a much larger issue, one with a long history to take into account to do it justice.

On the matter of marriage equality, I have made my position clear. I do not attack the Church, nor do I support organizations that do. But I do hope that my taking this position will provoke reflection on the part of other Latter-day Saints.

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I discuss the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ in my book, The Rise of the Mormons, and I discuss another important issue in my book, Latter-day Saint Women and the Priesthood of God (both available here).

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[The photo of the rainbow flag was taken by Benson Kua, and appears here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.]

Copyright 2015 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, I enjoyed this piece. Thank you for putting out there and delving into the difference between doctrine and law.


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