It’s time: Marriage equality for all

I am a faithful Latter-day Saint, yet I have come to believe that the government should allow same-sex marriage. Here’s why.


Update, 26 June 2013: In a pair of 5–4 decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and that the proponents of California’s Proposition 8 didn’t have standing to defend it in court. The DOMA ruling means that the federal government must extend to same-sex couples, legally married in the states where gay marriage is legal, the same rights and benefits it extends to heterosexual couples. With Proposition 8, the court remanded the case to the lower court with the instruction to dismiss it, meaning same-sex marriage is once again legal in California. With today’s ruling, same-sex marriage is legal in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

With today’s momentous announcements from the Supreme Court, there’s not much that we can add. But we will say this: the justices (well, five of them anyway) made the right decision. Bigotry and discrimination lost. Fairness and equality won—which means we all did.

Writer’s note, 4 June 2013: In the coming weeks, the United States Supreme Court is expected to rule in two landmark cases it heard earlier this year concerning the legality of same-sex marriage. The outcome of these cases has the potential to affect millions of Americans and their families—including some who are our own friends. While we, like people on both sides of this debate, have reservations over the issue being decided by the courts, our position is unequivocal: two consenting adults of age should have the freedom to enter into a legally valid marriage relationship, of their own free will and choice, regardless of those individuals’ genders. Today, we reissue our call for marriage equality for all, first published in the July 2012 issue of our magazine and posted on Dialann.org earlier this year when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the cases.

It’s time to take a stand. Here’s ours.


On 8 May 2012, voters in my home state, North Carolina, approved an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and allowing the state to recognize no other union, effectively banning same-sex marriage. In response to a post I left on Facebook expressing my disagreement with the amendment, the seminary teacher I had for all four years of high school asked for my response to a statement issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2008. The statement outlined the reasons for the Church’s support of Proposition 8, an amendment to California’s state constitution approved by voters on 4 November 2008 which banned same-sex marriage, reversing an earlier ruling by the California Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage in the state. This was what I wrote in response to her request.

My response follows the same order as the Church’s statement. Section headers marked with an asterisk * are identical to those in the Church’s statement. Minor revisions have been made to this version.


I believe that marriage—specifically temple marriage—is essential to God’s plan.

It starts with my belief in God. I believe that he exists, that we are his children, and that he has a plan for us, the plan of salvation. I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that his Atonement makes the plan of salvation operative. I believe that the Savior restored his Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that that Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the only one the Lord recognizes as his own and the only one with his priesthood authority. I believe that the keys of the priesthood, including those of eternal marriage, are held today by President Thomas S. Monson. I believe that when President Monson directs how those keys are to be used, he is following the Lord’s will.

It follows then that from a religious perspective I have no major disagreements with the statement on marriage from the Church’s Public Affairs office on 13 August 2008 (the one or two religious disagreements I have with the statement will become apparent below).

However, the debate of whether the government should allow and recognize marriage between same-sex partners is a political debate, not a religious one. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is very clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Reasoning based solely upon religious belief should have no bearing on political issues. For both the religious and the irreligious, we should ensure that the wall separating church and state in America remains firm.

This document appears to be an attempt to twist religious reasoning into political reasoning. It should be considered a political document, not a religious one. As a political document it is open to scrutiny and a critical comparison with personal opinion, societal consensus, and constitutional principles of American government. Therefore I will look at it from a political perspective. (Again, if I look at it from a religious perspective, I find little to disagree with.)

The following should not be viewed to be in any form or respect a personal attack upon the Church, its leaders, or its teachings, practices, or beliefs. I am proud and grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is one of the most important things in my life, and I am committed to maintaining my baptismal and temple covenants. But while those covenants bind me to sustain Church leaders and teachings, I do not believe those covenants bind me to agree with the Church, its leaders, or its members on political issues—my Church membership does not compel me to vote for certain candidates or parties and does not compel me to hold particular political views. And this is one where I have come to disagree.

The divine institution of marriage*

This section’s title alone crosses the boundary between religious and political. While it lays a solid foundation for the perspective of the Church as a religion on marriage, the argument that we can’t alter the definition of marriage because God gave that definition doesn’t work in the political sphere. In the United States, government power and the policies and actions it undertakes with that power are derived from popular sovereignty, not divine will. This principle is particularly important in a multicultural, pluralistic society like America’s, where everybody has a different God (or no God at all) whose will varies. Political questions, therefore, are answerable to the people’s, not God’s, will and the basic constitutional principles, rights, and protections we have all agreed to through the social contract.

Take Susan’s sister and her husband for instance. They are atheists and, clearly, they are married, civilly (they got married in his sister’s living room). Do they believe their marriage is a “divine” institution, of a God they don’t believe in? Should we restrict them from getting married because they don’t believe it’s a divine institution? Of course not.

What about people who don’t live up to our definition, as Latter-day Saints, of godly marriage, who violate what we view as the marriage covenant but that they don’t find applicable in their own marriage? Further, we as Mormons think marriage is good, but we think temple marriage is best. Indeed, we believe that God intends for us to be married for eternity by his priesthood authority. We can’t seriously argue that the government should restrict those who don’t share our religious view of marriage from getting married.

While I recognize that those who fall into the categories above are a small (but growing) minority of Americans—I think most Americans view marriage as a divine institution, that’s why they get married in churches—I am making a rhetorical point that religious perspective on marriage, whether or not it is the source of marriage in human society, has no relevance on political questions surrounding marriage today. Again, we must be vigilant in keeping church and state separate, so reasoning or history based solely on religious belief, unaccompanied by scientific or sociological data, cannot be used as a basis for political decisions.

From the Church’s statement: “As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.’”

It is dangerous reasoning to use one part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to support a political perspective that government should disallow gay marriage when other articles of the declaration can be used to support the perspective that marriage is a fundamental right that should be extended to everyone, regardless of partners’ gender. Further, the declaration offers no definition of “family.” Indeed, many cultures around the world have a much different perspective of what a family is from our idea of the nuclear family. Here are some other things the declaration states:

  • Article 16, where the above statement is found, states, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” No definition of marriage or who may enter into a marriage is given.
  • The rest of the statement quoted in the Church’s document reads, “… and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Again, different people have different definitions of what a “family” is. Just because someone’s definition of their family differs from my definition of family, why should they be entitled to any less protection by society and the state for their family than I am for mine?
  • Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” In other words, these rights are just as applicable to homosexuals as they are to everyone else.
  • Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” If heterosexual couples are allowed to marry, then homosexual couples should be allowed to, too.
  • Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Many people hold the perspective that whom someone chooses to marry, including the gender of that person, is a private decision that should be made without interference of the state and would fall under the purview of the above statement. (This article could also be used to invoke protection for the Church and its members in the event gay marriage were legalized.)
  • Articles 18 and 21 serve to reinforce the wall that should exist between church and state and the idea that religious influence should not enter the political sphere and vice versa. Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Article 21: “(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

I understand that different people will have different perspectives of the real impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the gay-marriage debate. But my point here is to show that both supporters and opponents can use the declaration to support their arguments.

Challenges to marriage and family*

Endorsement

From the Church’s statement: “In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.”

Government allowing marriage of any sort does not constitute an “endorsement.” Just because Susan and I, or any married couple for that matter, received a marriage license doesn’t mean that the government “endorsed” our marriage. Rather, the state recognizes that marriage is a living situation that many of its citizens will choose, whether or not they are religious, and the state acknowledges that it will act a certain way in relation to that relationship because of its impact on the partners who enter into it. Government merely recognizes marriages. It may endorse the concept through tax and other benefits, but it endorses no one’s individually.

Think of Kim Kardashian. Just because she had a “government-sanctioned” wedding license doesn’t mean everyone accepted her marriage, or thought that it was anything other than a mockery of the institution of marriage for her to be married for a mere 72 days before deciding it just wouldn’t work out. Not everyone buys Hollywood’s example or thinks that something is okay because bureaucratic procedure was followed.

Likewise, two people who love each other don’t need the government’s endorsement of their relationship. Quite frankly, Susan and I got a marriage license because we had to, not because we really needed the government to “approve” our marriage or love for each other. Just because two people choose not to seek a government license for their relationship doesn’t mean they don’t love each other just as much as two people who do have a license for their marriage—indeed, given the divorce rate, they possibly love each other much more than some people who have sought the government’s supposed “endorsement” of their relationship. It also doesn’t mean they won’t live together as if they were married.

People’s relationships with and love for each other do not need government endorsement. They don’t even need the government’s recognition, but if government is going to recognize marriage, it shouldn’t recognize one form and not the other.

“Traditional” marriage

I have an issue with using the word “traditional.” The Church’s definition of “traditional” family seems to have its genesis somewhere in recent decades, or the past century or so, reaching its idealized form in the 1950s. “Traditional marriage” has meant various things throughout history. Over the centuries and in various cultures, including Western society, it has included arranged marriage; marriage where a woman was stripped of her rights and property and became, essentially, the property of her husband; marriage where men were free to verbally and physically abuse their wives and children. “Traditional” marriage laws, some of which existed well into the 20th century in various parts of the United States, restricted women’s freedom and prohibited such things as interracial marriage.

Yet using the word “traditional” is an attempt to legitimize a certain definition of marriage—not including those traditional aspects of marriage above that we now view as wrong, but excluding other ways of organizing families—by arguing that it’s right because it’s been that way for so long. Really, it hasn’t been that way for that long, and while it’s a form that works, it’s not the only form that works.

It also speaks of a natural tendency to believe that somewhere in the past was an idealized form that we should attempt to replicate today and all will be well. As I mentioned above, it appears that the form we’re speaking of above appeared somewhere around 1955 and disappeared shortly thereafter. If we can just get back to that ….

Marriage is not the only realm where we have this tendency. The French, for example, do the same thing with their language. They tend to think that somewhere back in the mists of time French existed as a “pure” language and that it is a patriotic duty of the French to attempt to keep their language in that form, without undue influence from other languages or cultures (especially English and American). Among urban planners there is a tendency to think that the idealized American urban form came to fruition sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century, reaching its apex sometime before the Second World War, and that if we can just figure out what year that was and replicate how everything was built all the ills of modern urbanism—and climate change to boot—will be solved. (There was, of course, no such thing.)

Point being, “traditional” has meant a lot of things over time. And when those meanings changed there was always alarm. But just because something has been a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t change. And just because it changes for society doesn’t mean it has to change for us as individuals or as a church.

The will of the people

The Church has repeatedly used the argument that “the people have spoken” in support of defining marriage solely as between a man and a woman. As I stated above, while popular sovereignty is important, it is not the only governing principle in our republic. As citizens of the United States, we have all entered into a social contract with each other which has been codified in the Constitution. These constitutional principles, rights, and protections form an equal basis for our government with the will of the people. Sometimes the will of the people is in conflict with these rights and protections. In those cases, we must be especially vigilant to ensure that the rights of the minority are protected. I believe gay marriage is one of those cases.

Though it is fair to note that popular opinion is shifting. In the United States as a whole, fully one-half of all citizens believe gay couples should have the right to marry. In some states that number is significantly higher, and across the country the shift in thinking continues. This shows one error in this line of reasoning: popular opinion changes. Making opinion polls or past referendums a crux of your argument is unsteady ground indeed.

Further, while public opinion, at least up until now, has been on the Church’s side, who’s to say it won’t shift away from the Church on this or any other issue? What if the people, either through their elected representatives or through referendum, chose to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Church and other religious organizations? Would the Church use the popular-will argument then? I don’t think so. (My guess is that it would switch to that other important aspect of our government, constitutional rights and protections.)

Tolerance, same-sex marriage, and religious freedom*

Tolerance

The idea that “tolerate” is synonymous with “condone” is erroneous, though I will agree that some segments of society take the concept of tolerance too far: a with-us-or-against-us siege mentality. That is why the word is used against Latter-day Saints rather than to describe us. But it’s an argument we’ll never win. As long as the Church and its members attempt to use legislation, referendums [note 1], and other expressions of “popular sovereignty” to enforce our definition of marriage, everyone on the other side of the issue will continue to see it as an attempt to shove our beliefs down their throats. And quite honestly, no matter your definition of tolerance, pushing your beliefs on others through government authority is not part of it.

Beyond that, is it possible that Mormons fall short even of the Savior’s exhortation to “love thy neighbor,” described in the piece as “a much higher concept?” Absolutely. There continue to be stories of faithful Latter-day Saints who reject or disown their gay children or, for example, who don’t allow their children to play or associate with children of other faiths. They clearly fall short of what the Church is calling the Savior’s “much higher” standard. And I would say they fall short of the presumably lower standard of tolerance. We can allow others to exercise their agency while retaining our own faith.

Yet, not only because of our faith’s history of being persecuted but more importantly because of our belief that all human beings are children of God, our belief in the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ, and our belief that the Savior rendered an infinite, eternal Atonement for all mankind, we should be the most tolerant and—that “much higher concept”—loving of any group, religious or nonreligious. If others don’t recognize us as such, maybe it’s not so much that their definition of tolerance or love is too different or extreme. Maybe it’s because we as individuals and a people still have a lot of spiritual growing to do.

We need to say, “You can practice your beliefs, secular or religious, and we will practice ours, and we will both rejoice in a system of government that allows us the freedom to do so and a society that permits us to live together peacefully and prosperously.”

Religious freedom

I wholeheartedly agree that, regardless of how the government defines marriage and who can enter into it, religious freedom must be respected and maintained. Religious organizations should not be compelled to allow their facilities or clergy to be used to perform same-sex marriages if they have a religious objection. I support writing such protections into marriage laws if necessary, though I believe the First Amendment protects these rights as well.

However, the Church expresses a fear that “[o]nce a state government declares that same-sex unions are a civil right, those governments almost certainly will enforce a wide variety of other policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples.” Interestingly, earlier in the same document the Church expressed support for “policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples,” including “rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.” Even if at the state level government authorities attempted to use additional policies to prevent what they view as discrimination against same-sex couples, federal courts—in particular, the Supreme Court—have generally sided with First Amendment protections of religion and association for organizations that are tax-exempt [2] or even those that receive government funding. Take the Boy Scouts, which falls into both categories: the Supreme Court upheld their right to eject a gay scout leader, even though the organization received federal funds, a remarkable protection of First Amendment freedoms.

In short, we cannot use government to impose our moral beliefs on those who do not share those beliefs. It is true that there is a set of behaviors that we as a society have come to a consensus should be regulated or prohibited by the government—generally, those behaviors which can cause harm to other persons or damage to property. But unless others’ actions fall into those categories, we generally should allow our fellow human beings the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. It is, after all, the best way to ensure that our own religious beliefs and practices will be, if not respected, protected and tolerated.

How would same-sex marriage affect society?*

The purpose of marriage

Here, the Church, or whoever wrote this document, begins an examination of the very basic purposes of the institution of marriage. “When a man and a woman marry with the intention of forming a new family, their success in that endeavor depends on their willingness to renounce the single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment and to sacrifice their time and means to the nurturing and rearing of their children.” The paragraph goes on to explain that the basic purpose for marriage is to raise children and that same-sex couples, because of their inherent infertility, should not be permitted to marry because they cannot fulfill this basic purpose of marriage. The issue is that this same reasoning could also be applicable to heterosexual couples who cannot or choose not to have children.

If we think of a marriage license or certificate as a contract with the government, then a description, from the Church’s perspective, of that contract is found in an earlier paragraph:

Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. While governments did not invent marriage, throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself. Hence, regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, married couples in almost every culture have been granted special benefits aimed primarily at sustaining their relationship and promoting the environment in which children are reared. A husband and a wife do not receive these benefits to elevate them above any other two people who may share a residence or social tie, but rather in order to preserve, protect, and defend the all-important institutions of marriage and family.

Taking that to its conclusion, the childless couple—by choice or not—is in violation of that contract with society and should have it nullified, right? Should two people who are too old to have children not be allowed to marry because they can’t fulfill this “obligation” above?

Further, two married people constitute a family. Susan and I formed a family before we had Fiona. You ask any married couple—and I think this would be particularly true among Church members—and they will tell you that they are a family, whether or not they have children. Two married members of the Church, without children, are under the same obligation to hold family home evening, family scripture study, family prayer, and other family activities as a Mormon household with children. Just as parents are essential for children because they provide for their needs, the two partners in a marriage provide for each other’s needs in a way that they alone cannot. In that sense, the statement, “Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations,” is false.

Indeed, the marriage vows in most religious and civic settings exclude any mention of children, one, because there is no guarantee that children will come into a marriage, and two, precisely because marriage is “a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations.” Frankly, it surprises me that a Church member—I don’t know who wrote the Church’s statement, but I am certain he/she was a member of the Church—would even say that it isn’t. (This is one religious disagreement I have with the Church’s statement.)

Taking fears too far

The remainder of this section takes gay-marriage opponents’ fears and not only validates them but takes them to the extreme. “An essential bulwark of individual liberty.” “An increase in the power and reach of the state toward whatever ends it seeks to pursue.” “The curriculum of public schools will have to support this claim.” Really? It reads as if it were plagiarized from right-wing propaganda.

Sex education. One of the main reasons the state must teach children sex education in schools is because of the widespread failure of parents to do so themselves. If parents had been fulfilling their responsibilities in this area, the state would not have had to take it over. Beyond that, just because a child learns something in school doesn’t mean he/she accepts it—especially if there are parents, teachers, church leaders, or others who are teaching the right. Children have a remarkable ability to recognize the truth and grasp on to what’s best for them. As members of the Church, we call that the light of Christ.

On my mission, for example, I taught a number of young children living in homes where parents smoked or drank. Yet when we taught them about the Word of Wisdom, they would immediately turn to their parents and admonish them for their bad behaviors. And here my companion and I were, two strangers who had just barely met them, yet they were taking our word over their parents’ bad example. Because children have the light of Christ, they know and recognize the truth when they see it, and they are anxious to follow it.

In another example, distributing condoms in school isn’t the government inviting children to have sex, and it doesn’t require parents to teach how to use them or to tell their children that premarital sex is okay or to distribute them themselves. (And, interestingly, studies have shown that distributing condoms in school does not increase the rate of sexual activity among teenagers, but it does lead to a decrease in teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.)

In the end, this paragraph is so ludicrous it’s laughable:

As just one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably require mandatory changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex unions are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, the curriculum of public schools will have to support this claim. Beginning with elementary school, children will be taught that marriage can be defined as a relation between any two adults and that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral. Classroom instruction on sex education in secondary schools can be expected to equate homosexual intimacy with heterosexual relations. These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality.

An essential bulwark of individual liberty? It is ironic that the Church argues that allowing gay marriage would be an example of government overreach into the “sacred sphere of domestic life,” when supporting Proposition 8 and other efforts to ban gay marriage is exactly what the Church and its members are asking the government to do. And the idea that government will force parents in the home to teach that homosexuality is acceptable is absurd. Speech of almost any sort is protected by the First Amendment. Even what most people would label “hate speech” is protected because it doesn’t meet the threshold of inciting others to inflict injury or damage. Even what gay-rights activists might say is hate speech—say, labeling homosexuality a sin—is protected.

Conclusion

There is no scientific or religious (as far as Mormons are concerned) explanation for homosexuality. There is absolutely no scientific consensus on the cause(s) of homosexuality, whether it is the result of nature or nurture, whether it is encoded in DNA, whether it is the result of hormonal or chemical differences. In the absence of such, we must accept gay and lesbian persons’ word that their sexual orientation is innate and cannot be changed. As a result, homosexuality is not unlike race or other innate, unchangeable human characteristics and is something that should not be subject to legally-sanctioned discrimination.

My view on gay marriage, like President Barack Obama’s, has evolved over time. Back in 2004 I voted for the amendment to Utah’s state constitution that, like the recent amendment to North Carolina’s constitution, defined marriage as between one man and one woman and banned same-sex marriage in the state. I think I did so largely because I was toeing the Church’s line. (Prior to the 2004 vote, the First Presidency sent a letter to be read in sacrament meetings in Utah that, while not explicitly endorsing the Utah amendment, reaffirmed the Church’s stance on marriage. Many members viewed it as an implicit instruction to vote for the amendment.)

I continued to defend that view well into 2005, even as I was studying in The Netherlands (which, by the way, on 1 April 2001 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples). I remember having dinner with Barbara Hooper, one of my instructors at Radboud University Nijmegen who was a visiting professor from the United States, and defending the Church’s—and, at the time, my—view that same-sex marriage should be legally banned and that there were solid political reasons, not based on religious standards, for that view, even if I couldn’t quite articulate them.

However, as I continued to think about the issue, and as I examined what both sides were saying, I came to the conclusion that there is no political, sociological, or scientific reason we shouldn’t allow gay marriage, especially in a nation such as ours, a republic founded upon democratic principles protected by constitutional rights. (Clearly I don’t believe that state constitutions or the federal Constitution should be amended to protract rights.)

But living in a society that permits same-sex marriage does not mean that we have to forfeit our religious beliefs or practices, just as coming to the conclusion I have about the legalization of same-sex marriage has not forced me to forfeit my testimony. Indeed, we will likely find that as we accord to others the freedom to live their lives as they choose that they will be much more willing to accord to us the same privilege, without the demand that we bend to extreme views of tolerance or political correctness. As we defend others’ constitutional freedoms, we may find that they are willing to reciprocate.

We should not expect or use government authority to force our standards or beliefs on others who do not share those beliefs. Indeed, such a course of action is detrimental and contrary to our own beliefs. Alma and the Nephites in the Book of Mormon found that force was not an effective means to spread the gospel or its principles: “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them” (Alma 31:5).

The most effective way Latter-day Saints can protect and defend their beliefs and encourage others to adopt them is simply to live them themselves and cherish the constitutional freedom that permits us to do so. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we should strive every day to improve our obedience to the Savior’s commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). This includes accepting others for who they are and affording them the same government protections and freedoms we ourselves enjoy. As Latter-day Saints, after all, we believe that God himself inspired the framers of our Constitution and government to create a system that would permit the establishment and preaching of the restored gospel and Church of Jesus Christ. And I do not believe that such acceptance is in conflict with the greater commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights defines the family as the “fundamental group unit of society” (emphasis added). But there is a more fundamental unit of society: the individual. I believe that only in a society that respects and protects the rights of the individual will righteous, loving, faith-filled families be able to flourish without interference or intervention from the state. And I believe that one of those individual rights that should be protected is the freedom of two consenting adults of age to enter into a legally valid marriage relationship, of their own free will and choice, regardless of those individuals’ genders.


NOTES

  1. I don’t like writing the plural of referendum as referenda.
  2. I think it’s a fair point of discussion whether religious organizations should be exempt from paying taxes anyway, but that’s a topic for a different time.

Featured image for this post


This article appeared on pages 21–28 of Issue 7 | July 2012.

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