As Mormons, we understand that traditional (opposite sex) marriage is a lifestyle that we accept and embrace (and love) and that these are principals that we choose for our individual lives. I have also chosen to marry someone of my opposite sex; this is a lifestyle and a way of living that I have chosen for my life, and I shouldn't assume that everyone else will choose the same.
This is the second post in a series of viewpoints on Obama's support for marriage equality.
Post by Eric R -
After Obama recently came out in support of gay marriage our housemate, a liberal self-identified atheist, asked my wife if we were going to take the “I’m Voting for Obama, and I’m a Mormon” bumper sticker off of our car. Apparently he assumed that any politician who supported gay marriage would be a politician we couldn’t, as Mormons, support.
While I can understand why he might have jumped to that conclusion, it is unfortunate that the image he had of us was so closely tied to the most vocally conservative of the Religious Right.
While gay marriage is a moral/social issue that I do have feelings about, it is certainly not the only moral/social issue I take into consideration when deciding how to vote. I also believe that how candidates address questions of war, poverty, equality, capital punishment, social programs aimed at supporting our nation’s most vulnerable and the environment as important moral indicators as well. And with respect to each of these moral questions, it is clear to me that Obama, and the Democratic party generally, more closely represents what I believe would be Christ’s position on such issues.
I am not single-issue voter, as no person who is concerned with the bigger picture could be. That said, looking specifically at the issue of gay marriage I see some elements of Obama’s stance that I can support. And it isn’t just me, but the Church as well.
Back in late 2009 the Salt Lake City council was debating a series of non-discrimination ordinances designed to make explicit certain rights for same-sex couples. Weighing in on the controversial topic, the First Presidency released a statement that reads, in part, that the Church "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights or probate rights." The Church also said that it is “not anti-gay”, but rather “pro-marriage between a man and a woman. And there is a huge difference between those two points.”
I spend enough time with non-Mormon lefties to know that many of them have a very hard time distinguishing between those two points, and I would be lying if I said that this issue does not cause some friction between many of my friends and me. That said, it is clear to me that a), God wants us to, first and foremost, treat all of our brothers and sisters with love, and b), that it is completely appropriate to push for equal rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples that heterosexual couples currently enjoy and are subject to – even if we don’t call it marriage.
So while I may not be on the same page with Obama concerning all aspects of his support for gay marriage, I would have to say that our views are compatible on about two-thirds of the issue. While that isn’t 100%, it is a great deal better than the Right’s alternative of continued disenfranchisement and denial of reality.
In the last post, I illustrated how the positive right to an education is essential to a modern economy. Most Americans do not question the right to a public education, perhaps because it has been a fact of American life for over a century. Other positive rights adopted to some extent by American society, which are unfortunately more controversial, include the right of the disabled to a dignified existence, the right to food and shelter, and the right to life-saving emergency care. Most recently, through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, we adopted in principle the right to adequate comprehensive health care.Read more
Post by Joseph M -
Two weeks ago, President Obama stated his support for marriage equality while conducting an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC, and he described his position on the matter as having undergone an evolution over time. Of course, many have speculated that he has supported for gay marriage for a while now, and President Obama admitted that his announcement of support was spurred by VP Joe Biden's comments several days before that he supported gay marriage.
And while this allows many the opportunity to shout out an "Amen," others might find themselves in the midst of a Mormon conundrum (as Cynthia L of By Common Consent so aptly pointed out.) The Church's stance on gay marriage is pretty clear, and it's laid out in The Proclamation on the Family, (any guesses when this will be canonized?) and further affirmed through the Church's campaign for Proposition 8 in California in 2008.
However, this is where things get a bit murky - because while the Church's position on gay marriage is very clear, many were surprised by the aftermath that followed Proposition 8: a movie, protests, and a trail of disaffected Mormons who were confused as to why the Church chose to get involved in the issue in the first place. The protests even reached Seattle, where about 40 people lined up outside the Stake Center in the U District at 8 am to protest; it was Stake Conference that day, so they had to wait two hours before anyone showed up, but their point was not misunderstood. Like a blind-sided contestant on CBS's Survivor, they were shocked and outraged that a church would organize a campaign effort of this sort.
Although the Church was not the one that began the campaign for Prop 8, the Church has been actively opposing gay marriage for some time and has participated in past campaigns in Hawaii and Alaska. The "story" is that the Church was courted to participate by Catholics and conservative inter-faith groups. (Apparently, this is the only time these Christians have need for Latter-day Saints; Mormons are excellent at organizing: think of moves by the Elder's Quorum, casseroles for new mothers, and visiting teaching. Otherwise the Church is kept at a safe distance seeing that it is a cult.) But after having been invited to the party, Mormons ended up providing the cake, ice cream, and crepe paper decorations, and ultimately they were left to clean up the whole mess after all the party-goers left for home - and this included more than a few broken windows, lost jobs, death threats, and incidents of vandalism. (However, I should point out that these interfaith groups did take out a full page ad in the NY Times to ask the gay rights groups to be nicer to the Mormons.)
But this did not signal an end to the issue for Californians or the Church. The Prop 8 court battle continues, and other states (North Carolina) are amending constitutions, passing laws, and seeking signatures for referendums for ballot measures. Currently Washington State and Maryland are both facing possible referendums, and Washington State's anti-gay marriage contingent have almost enough signatures (121,000) to get its Referendum 74 on the November ballot. (Ref 74 essentially is Senate Bill 6239, that was passed by the Washington State Senate and Legislature, and signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on February 13th, making marriage available to all in Washington State. Ref 74 will put this bill to the people for approval or rejection.)
I've heard from several Mormons in Washington who are concerned that the Church might organize around this referendum as they did with Prop 8 in California. Clearly the Church is still watching the Prop 8 battle play out and has periodically issued statements like check point markers along the way. The heart of the Church's argument against gay marriage is the doctrine of the eternal nature of families. However, the Church and other conservative groups have justified their opposition to gay marriage because of fears that their religious organizations will be required to provide same-sex marriages and adoption services to gay couples; (see this article on NPR for examples.) The WA state marriage equality bill has provisions that will not allow this.
But as far as Washington goes, the Church may be sitting this one out. There are some reports that letters have been read over pulpits of some wards in WA and Maryland, and that (once again) the coalition to disapprove Ref 74 has reached out to local LDS leaders. However, the broader Church leadership seems to be staying silent. Considering the time, money, and energy invested in passing Prop 8 by the local and Salt Lake leadership of the Church, some people expected to see a similar thing happen here in Washington as well. But alas, the Church seems to have evolved in its thinking in regard to its political participation in this issue.
Some may say that this might mean that the Church is realizing it was wrong in its approach to Prop 8, but I wouldn't go that far. All of its statements regarding the campaign in California are on LDS.org, and Elder Oaks defended the campaign in a speech in 2009 at BYU-Idaho that further stoked the fires of discontent for civil rights activists. However, in a Time magazine article, Elder Quentin Cook is quoted as saying, "talking about what may or may not happen in (future campaigns) would be speculation, and I wouldn't want to do that." The article goes on to quote David Campbell, a Mormon University of Notre Dame political scientist: "If it appeared that the church sat out next time because it was criticized this time, there might be a credibility question. (But) does the church want the public to identify it primarily as a political body opposing an issue that comes back again and again?" Read full article here.
Regardless of what the Church decides to do, this evolution is happening all over. While, some Mormons have been rallying around this issue for some time, (see MormonsforMarriage.com,) others are changing more slowly. (Side note: some Mormons are even participating in Seattle's Gay Pride Parade to show support for WA's equality law. See article here.)
Jim, a commenter on Joanna Brook's article on religiondispacthes.org, wrote: "...At first I was nervous because I thought my views were moving me out of line with the church's teachings. I worried a lot about reconciling what I felt led and inspired to believe with the teachings of leaders of the church, but as my heart changed, I kept finding other faithful members of the church growing in the same way I was. They were Sunday school teachers, young women leaders, bishops and stake presidents."
The evolution of thought around this issue is happening slowly in some arenas and quickly in others. Even Jay-Z (a rapper!) came out in support of marriage equality. President Obama's position has evolved, and Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington State describes "the evolution of her personal views" to explain her support and promotion of the bill to legalize gay marriage in Washington State.
The Mormon position is evolving as well - and maybe this is happening more individually than collectively. How this plays out this summer in Washington and Maryland, is anybody's guess, but I imagine that most of the meeting house pulpits will stay silent on gay marriage. (And many in the congregation will breath a sign of relief and wipe the anxious sweat of dread off their brow.) And hopefully, all of this evolving Mormon good will towards and in behalf of the rights of others will have a pleasing effect on the church collectively, if not just individually.
In my last post, I mentioned certain “positive rights” that Americans have come to assume are part of the social contract. Public education is perhaps the least controversial example of a positive right in America. As a society, we generally believe that every child has a right to a high school education, regardless of his or her parents’ income level. However, with the recent upswing of right-wing extremism, some (generally Ron Paul supporters) question the right to a public education because it requires redistribution of wealth throughout a community. Many extreme libertarians view government taxation for any kind of social program, including public education, as theft, and advocate a system of government where any redistributive program do not exist.Read more
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, in an oft-seen video clip, describes how a thriving industrialized economy is dependent on government taxation and redistribution for the creation of key institutions, infrastructure, and social programs:
She notes, “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.” She mentions factory owners who “move [their] goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for,” and “hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.” She adds that police and fire services, that “the rest of us paid for” kept them safe and prevented them from having to hire their own security and fire defense forces. She ends by saying, “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Romney has fought hard to keep the campaign about the issues (or issue in his case: the economy,) and he's fighting again; he quickly slammed attempts by a Super PAC to produce an anti-Obama ad that focused on racially charged comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright - see Yahoo News story.
Romney stated, "I want to make it very clear, I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the futures and about issues and about a vision for America."
Good for Romney, and good for all of us. The last thing we need is for the Mormon Republican nominee to call for open season on the shooting range of religious affiliation. Obama is also trying to stick to the issue(s) by making coordinated attacks against Romney's record as a "job creator" at Bain Capital. But regardless, social issues have been creeping around the edges of this campaign - like President Obama's admission of support for marriage equality last week (more on that in a later post,) or during the divisive campaign to choose a Republican nominee. However, even though Romney and Obama are attempting to steer the campaign away from these so-called social issues, enquiring minds still want to know that their Presidential candidate is just like them in every way possible (which is why we only have two viable political parties in the USA?) They want to know that their president supports/doesn't support abortion, is against/for marriage equality, loves/hates poor people, embodies righteousness/evil.
The two-party system has always had its drawbacks. How can you fit 350 million Americans under two umbrellas of political belief when their cultural, spiritual, and religious perspectives literally fill the whole world? (And also when half of them don't even vote?) This must be where the so-called "independents" come into play. Who are these people anyway? (I have yet to meet one... although I do have faith that they exist.)
But where does all of this leave us Mormons? With our belief in the reality of righteousness and sin, the existence of God and Satan, and polarity of good and evil, it might make sense to some Latter-day Saints that the Democratic and Republican parties would fit into the same dichotomous structure. And this leaves very little room in the middle for fence-sitting (or even for those of us that still insist on sitting on the back row of Elder's Quorum so we can play Draw Something on our smart phones.)
2 Nephi 2:15 explains that this dichotomy has existed since the beginning: After (the Lord) created our first parents...it must needs be that there is an opposition: even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. But while we believe that there is opposition in all things, at what point does this leave the realm of individual practice and personal decision and leap into the world of political affiliation as well?
This might be confusing for some LDS when it comes to choosing a political party or candidate, (i.e., Republicans are pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and advocate self-reliance, so they must be righteous. Democrats promote abortions, don't let children pray in school, and like to elect Muslims for president, so they must be Satan.) But forcing the two political parties into a good vs. evil scenario seems to presuppose that God Himself is at the helm of one of these (Republican?) political parties. It ignores the fact that when we vote, we are participating in an imperfect, earth-bound, and very American political system.
We received a comment on the website that basically asked the question, how could a Mormon support Democrats or Obama when their platform supports abortion? This question speaks to the simplistic reasoning that some people struggle with and that is encouraged by the two-party system. Robert Fantina wrote a well-nuanced response on MormonsforObama.org to explain that all is not so simple:
The Democratic platform does support abortion, but the Republicans do nothing to prevent abortions. They will not countenance sex education, and are now making it more difficult for women to obtain contraceptives. And they appear not to care at all about babies once they are born: they will do everything possible to deprive them of health care, Head Start programs, etc...When (George W.) Bush was president, he stopped funding for Marie Slopes International (I think that’s the name of the organization), because they provided family planning, although not abortion, services. MSI estimated that, due to this funding cut, approximately 200,000 women in their serving area who didn’t want to get pregnant, would, and of those, approximately 60,000 would have abortions. So how was he a pro-life president?
Thanks to Robert for the comment and also for the link to his article on Pacific Free Press: What Makes a Romney Win Scary? (Hint: It Ain't Religion)
In short, the issues in this 2012 election are much more complex and nuanced than the few minutes of time it will take to fill out a mail-in ballot would leave one to believe. However, I recognize that most people understand this. I have conversations with my Mormon friends and family who are Republican, Libertarian (you know who you are,) and Nader-ists, and the dialogue is almost always engaging, stimulating, and respectful. By their very nature, political parties are imperfect and fallible, and they don't easily lend themselves to black and white categorization... more like 50 shades of grey. So I would in turn ask the Mormons who question my faith and allegiance to the gospel because of my support for Obama: how can you so readily assume that because I'm an active and faithful Mormon that I would by necessity vote Republican?
So let's put this simplistic thinking to rest. Choosing Obama over Romney is not the same as choosing the great and spacious building over the tree of life. But don't get me wrong; I do believe that there are extremely compelling reasons to vote for Obama in 2012, and so I don't mean to trivialize the decision with the following analogy; but maybe it's more like choosing a spinach salad with feta, cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette over an iceberg lettuce concoction from Jack in the Box. The iceberg lettuce salad has a form of healthiness, but in the end it is empty, wilted, and undeniably overpriced.
The Priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith) contains a rather instructive quotation.
"Let us pray for the great men and women of the world who need the Lord but do not understand his interest in them. Pray for … our governors, our mayors of cities, the men who have influence in politics in our various communities, that they may do the things that will be better for all of us and make us happier, and please our Heavenly Father. That is our privilege. I say to you that the power of prayer is something that cannot be measured, " (Lesson 9.)
We read this during our joint Elder's Quorum/High Priest Group meeting yesterday, and our instructor asked an interesting question: "Is our nation so partisan that we fail to pray for the great leaders, those who have the fate of nation's in their hands?" I've been thinking about this for the past 30 hours or so, and I've pondered the fact that even though I am a supporter of our president, I do not often remember to pray for him; this extends also to local leaders in my state and city. Thus, this lesson has inspired a course-correction on my part. Additionally, I am realizing that I should take this counsel into consideration regardless of who wins the election in 2012.
So I'm finding myself pausing to consider what this means for me and for each of us, whether we support President Obama or not. I think many of us in America are too busy filling our mouths with words of divisiveness and accusation to find time for prayer, much less a prayer that petitions the Lord in behalf of the man we have just maligned.
I received an "anti-Obama" email recently - one of those that have been forwarded around and around (and clearly it had made its way around Mormon circles,) and it was so ugly and partisan that I felt myself getting angry. (And I am not implying that emails that unfairly demean Mitt Romney aren't out there as well - I think both sides need to calm this mess down.) But this particular email was so out there that I felt particularly frustrated with the Christian right for not acting too Christian.
Clearly this idea of praying for our leaders is not conducive to the ugly partisanship that exists in our nation: the name-calling, the declarations that the only goal is to see President Obama "fail," the racist remarks... none of this is invites an attitude of prayer.
However, I acknowledge that we have real political differences that need to be discussed and debated, but often it goes too far - and I am far from perfect with this myself. But I am surprised by anyone who would claim that either Obama or Romney are out to destroy our freedom, tear down this nation, or stomp on the constitution. We started this website with the statement, "we don’t hate Mitt Romney, and we don’t want to character-assassinate him here," and we continue to maintain that position. Additionally, I would hope that we could collectively (as Mormons, Christians, or Americans,) calm the waters that are swirling around during this election cycle.
I believe taking the time to remember our national leaders in prayer just might do the job, and ultimately, this may be as much for our benefit as it is for theirs.