religion in politics


So, I feel I should elaborate a bit more about my decision to remove my name from church records, to resign my membership. It’s a big decision and one that does not come easily.

I have obviously not been active for a long time. I haven’t elaborated much since my last post on this topic many months ago – but I guess for me, once I came to know that I am the person God made me to be, that being gay is not a curse to be overcome, but a blessing, I regained such an overwhelming peace in my life. Which led to the absolute knowledge that what the church teaches about gay people and same sex attraction is wrong. And from there, it was a pretty easy step to see holes in many of the other doctrines and teachings.

I think one of the most surprising things, as the years have passed, is the incredible happiness I have in my life outside the church. Once you are outside of it, it becomes so easy to see how much “mind control” there is in the church. I put that in quotes because I don’t think people are actually being controlled or brainwashed. But there is so much rhetoric about how awful people’s lives are when they leave the church, how they go down this path of sin and they get sick, they lose their loved ones and they die alone. This is not an exaggeration. Just recently someone told me a story of someone who took his name off the church and was subsequently murdered – as if the action brought on the consequence. And when you are inside the church, it’s not like you live with this fear or anything. But it’s still accepted as a fact – people who leave the church are unhappy and tragic things happen to them.

Since I separated myself emotionally from the church, I have come to terms with many issues in my life, I have met and fallen in love with the most incredible person I’ve ever known, I have more financial stability than I’ve ever had in my life, I got a job that finally not only pays me enough to live on but that I really love (I’d never experienced both of those qualities in one job before), I bought a house with my partner – my life is happier than it’s ever been. So I can’t speak for anyone else – but for me, I’ve never been happier than I’ve been outside the church.

I’ve left my name on the records, partly as a concession to my family and partly just out of inertia. I’ve thought about it once or twice, but it was never important enough to go through the process.

But now, after the past few months of activity over Proposition 8 in California, I’ve decided it’s time. It’s no longer honest for me to leave my name on the records of an organization that is actively trying to undermine my relationship and our ability to provide for one another.

I feel very peaceful about the decision itself. But I do feel a lot of anxiety about talking to my immediate family about it. I know people who didn’t feel the need to talk to their families about taking this last step. But I feel that I should, for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s been an important part of my life and I think just writing the letter and sending it almost denies that important role it’s played. I’m leaving, and it’s the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I regret my involvement in the past or that I don’t recognize the role the church has played in making me who I am. (hence, my ‘break-up’ song by the Indigo Girls in my last post – cheesy but how I feel.)

Second, I rarely talk to my family about these issues, and I think it’s only fair that they hear from me about it now and then. I won’t be angry or hurtful when I talk to them and I won’t harp on it afterwards. But I feel that they should know I’m doing it and why. I don’t want them to be able to think that somewhere deep down I still agree with the church or that someday I might change my mind. I want them to know how hurtful the church’s actions and words are for me. But I don’t want them to think I’m asking them to leave the church or disagree with the church. I’m not. But I feel that, as someone they love, I should have an opportunity to tell them how I feel, since the church dominates the rhetoric on this topic. It’s scary, because the church is seen as faultless by its members. So, as much as they love me, they will also think I’m wrong. But I still feel that I need to ask them to consider my feelings and hear me out.

So, my plan is to talk to my mom and my sisters – I don’t need to tell more people than that (although obviously anyone reading this will also know). But I don’t need to “force” the conversation on anyone else. And then I’m just going to continue to live my life.

It’s been a very emotional couple of months. One of our closest couple friends got engaged about a week ago and along with being so incredibly happy for them, I was also sad for us, that we don’t get to do that. But there’s only so much I can do about that. Mainly, I can live my life as openly as possible, so that’s what I will try to continue to do. And hope that we’ll continue to make progress, in courts, in state legislatures and in public opinion.

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My friend Crystal posted a status about “going viral” and asking her CA friends to vote No on Prop 8 the other day – and set off a firestorm of responses that took her a bit by surprise. She responded with a longer explanation and I asked her if I could post it here, for anyone reading this that doesn’t know her. It’s quite beautiful and gives me hope that change might happen, however slowly.

Dear Friends and Family:

I’m honestly a little shocked that any of you are surprised by my position on Prop 8. I do belong to approximately 1 gazillion anti Prop 8 groups on facebook and I’ve made statements about Prop 8 and gay marriage before.

I hope no one thinks I’m offended by anything or trying to figure out how to respond because I haven’t said anything till now. I actually don’t look at my gmail and facebook on weekends most of the time, because family is my #1 priority (even more than music, yes shocking), and my time on weekends with Joel and my doggies is precious. I only noticed anyone had responded because I took a quick look at my gmail to see if our morning plans were still on despite the snow. To my surprise I found a storm on my wall too! We just finished doing what we needed to do on Saturday (i.e. me getting a fabulous new haircut and both of us cleaning the house since as every LDS kiddo knows “Saturday is a special day, the day we get ready for Sunday” hehehe). There’s a long and a short version. The long version is pretty much for anyone who’s worried about my political stance in general and concerned about my going to hell in a handbasket and is an explanation for why I’m liberal. ;P

I am glad that my silly little facebook status has engendered such an interesting and well thought-out debate. After reading your responses I want my conservative friends and family to know that I am not offended by your responses and I want to thank my liberal friends and family for showing me support. In addition to comments on my status, an even larger number of my friends and family have responded to me privately in my inbox expressing their support and I thank them for the kind thoughts. I think all of you have responded civilly to each other and I applaud you.

Proposition 8 deeply troubles me and what Californian, Idahoan, and single adult Latter-day Saints are being asked to do about it deeply offends my religious beliefs as a Latter-day Saint. What I feel about gay marriage is a big part of that and a big part of my religious beliefs as a Mormon.

SHORT VERSION:
First, my baptismal covenants are, as stated in Mosiah 18, “to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God in all times, and in all things, and in all places.” Prop 8 and the rhetoric surrounding it partially bothers me for that reason. I have a lot of friends who grew up LDS and are gay and their stories are TRAGIC. Horrible. It is disgusting how they have been treated, how they treated themselves when they were struggling with how their felt, and the people who treated them like that are not without blemish, despite them thinking they were just encouraging righteousness and protect the family by trying to “save” my gay friends from themselves. It’s reprehensible and I believe they will be held accountable. I think that since Mormons have covenanted to comfort those that stand in need of comfort that that should be our #1 goal. A lot of the rhetoric surrounding prop 8 communicates to my gay friends that they are fundamentally wrong, that they should repent, and that they’re not the same as we are, and ergo shouldn’t have the same rights that straight people have. Ugh.

So I always knew I was an economic liberal, and I became a social liberal when I started realizing that equality and choice were important as a meesly freshman at BYU. I started thinking about my political and religious beliefs, evaluated why I thought them, and when I got to gay marriage I couldn’t find any way around it. In order to all be created equally with the same unalienable rights and privileges (dec. of independence.) and that we’re even equal before God in terms of what the doctrine says, there was inequality when it came to sexual preference. I realized back then that there were tax breaks, healthcare rights, hospital visitation rights, property rights, etc. that are being denied to people just because of their sexual preference. Wrong.

LDS doctrine is all about equality: “D&C 78:5-6 “That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;” and what my government says about equality in the constitution and declaration of independence means what’s happening is wrong.

The arguments for prop 8 and against gay marriage in general are:

#1 Gay marriage violates the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman (funny thing that polygamy never enters into this argument, weren’t my maternal ancestors prosecuted for a definition of marriage alternative to a man and a woman by substituting women?)

#2 Gay marriage destroys families and by a greater extension society since family is the foundation of society

#3 Gay marriage is a sin

#4 Gay marriage will lead to the end of the world (I’ve seriously heard that)

#5 Gay marriage hurts our rights and privileges

Here is why this language bothers me. No one is stating the fundamental fear, at least the Brethren aren’t although Marcello addressed it, the real reason why my Church has joined this hokey coalition. The real fear is that if gay marriage becomes a reality and a constitutional amendment, a Church can be held unconstitutional by choosing not to perform gay marriage. That’s the real fear.

Otherwise, the arguments don’t stand.

#2: Because honestly, I know many many gay couples who have been together for 10, 15, 20, even 50+ years. They are stable and are contributing to the stability of society. They treat each other with love, they are forming a family unit providing stability to our way of life. They are good parents of children, and good parents of animals (important in my book!).

#1: Gay marriage does not threaten my marriage to Joel. We’re still very happy thank you, and I don’t see how it will threaten how we communicate and relate with each other now or in the eternities. In fact I have learned a lot about healthy marriages and relationships from my friends in gay marriages and/or partnerships. Yes I believe that marriage can be eternal, and I absolutely believe in the beautiful relationship that results when the sexes are equally partnered.

In terms of earthly marriage and how it is defined in the legal code, people have the right to commit to be with whomever they want to. Yes Californian homosexuals might already receive many of the rights I’ve mentioned before of tax breaks, common property, healthcare, etc. but prop 8 denies them the right of public commitment before the law, of calling their union a unit, a family.

Whether or not gay marriage is a sin should not even be used as a reason. We’ve been told not to judge, that God will be the judger and if we judge others we’ll be held accountable. Live your covenants, and don’t make other people live covenants they haven’t made with God. Please keep religion out of defining what marriage is in law. Like Jon said, “Get religion out of our government and get government out of our religions.” I personally think that using religion to justify why certain laws should or should not exist will lead to #4, and not gay marriage. We keep heading down this path, and we’ll all be forced to be Born Agains, or Evangelical, or Muslim, or Mormon, or Catholic, or Jewish, or Atheists. We’ll be taught in our schools what is doctrine and what is not. We’ll be told how we should practice our religion. Do you want that? I don’t and I will fight till my dying day to keep government out of religion and religion out of government.

So the real fear is #5, that it hurts our rights because it’s possible that the Church could be forced to perform gay marriage in our temples. Catholics are afraid of performing gay marriage in catehdrals, or being forced to give their orphans to gay couples.

This is what makes me sad about what CA Latter-day Saints are being asked to do. Everyone, including our leaders, needs to lose arguments 1-4 because they don’t stand and let’s just address #5. The Protect Marriage Coalition certainly isn’t. Why are we part of it again? We aren’t operating under a limited light and knowledge in regards to 1-4. We know it as well as everyone else. Instead, work towards laws that maintain the separation of Church and state, allow a church to define marriage however it wants, to define family however it wants, and allow gay and straight people to get married, to have civil unions, and to do that in a Church that wants to offer gay and straight marriage, or only straight marriage, or whatever marriage, or gay and straight marriage by a Justice of the Peace. So let’s just leave this Protect Marriage Coalition and do the real right thing here. Let’s live true to our religious and American views of equality as well as the separation of Church and State. Let’s write a law that insures equal rights, equal families, equal marriage, and maintain Church and State at the same time and the right for a Religion to practice how, where, and when it may. And let’s have citizens and legislators write this law, not religions. Passing Prop 8 is not going to do that, and is going to violate a lot of principles that we hold dear.

And now for the thing that upsets me more. Not only do I dearly believe in the separation of Church and State, and not only is that a part of my scriptural doctrine, but the Church has always made a big deal about never telling it’s members who to vote for and how to vote. Fundamental stance for us, and here we are telling CA saints how to vote and why they should vote that way. And it’s not just Californians telling other Californians how to vote, but it’s Idahoans and BYU students, and institutes across the country.

We’re using words that don’t spread tolerance, that make our gay brothers and sisters hate themselves. We’re using arguments that are false. We are not showing our best Christian selves. We are not showing our best American selves. My Relief Society president, for whom I serve as first councilor, actually banned the entire topic of homosexuality from our Relief Society because in her words, “you never know who is gay and who isn’t and this Relief Society will not be the place where they decide to hate themselves forever or permanently leave the church and hate Mormons.” We are making people permanently hate us.

And now for my biggest issue. American Mormons have allowed themselves to be hijacked politically and to ignore important issues because of our fears about gay marriage and abortion. We are ignoring poverty, crime, equal taxation, equal rights for women (men are still paid more than women), law and order, world peace, cleaning up the environment etc. Show me where in our doctrine it says “thou shalt give tax breaks to the rich and large corporations and none else,” “thou shalt have AK-47s available for purchase by anyone who wants to,” “thou shalt pollute the earth and never ever worry about Global Climate Change,” “thou shalt teach everyone to pray to your God in school and none else,” the list goes on.

I didn’t plan on making prop 8 a big issue. I have always been vocal about what I think, I thought everyone knew where I stood, and it is outside my stewardship as a resident of Utah to tell Californians how to vote. But I read Elder Ballard’s and Elder Cook’s talks and they encouraged me to go viral with how I felt about prop 8 so I followed my priesthood leadership and did just that. This is not only how I feel rationally when I reason through equality on the doctrinal and governmental level, but it is what I feel is right. It is what is communicated to my soul, what the “plain and precious voice” says to me.

Long version

This response is going to be a little lengthy, and after this I mostly likely won’t respond to any future comments on my wall in regards to this topic. I claim the right to change my mind. 🙂 This response also isn’t just about Prop 8. Some of you, especially my family, expressed concern about my choices in general and I want to explain some of my larger choices and how this relates to my feelings about Prop 8. Proposition 8 deeply troubles me and what Californian, Idahoan, and single adult Latter-day Saints are being asked to do about it deeply offends my religious beliefs.

I think the real cause that some of my family are concerned about my choices politically speaking is that they are afraid that I might loose my testimony of the gospel or something. No need to fear. I 100% have faith in my beliefs, I will live my covenants to the best of my ability. In fact, to quote Senator Reid, “I’m not a democrat in spite of being Mormon but because of it.”

I’ve never really had the opportunity to completely explain to my fam why I’m liberal. So I’m going to say why now because what I feel about gay marriage is a big part of that and a big part of my religious beliefs as a Mormon. To my friends and family who are not LDS or were once LDS and have chosen to no longer practice the religion, I am going to use some scripture and I hope that doesn’t offend you. Just because I believe in the LDS faith doesn’t mean that I think you’re wrong in your religious beliefs, or belief in no religion, or no god, or that your beliefs and/or lifestyle is wrong.

Why? The scriptures say that at the second coming of Christ, after the destruction of “the wicked” (a word I am NOT fond of BTW, but I live with it when God says it but it bothers me when imperfect humans bandy it about), that “both jew and gentile shall bow.” I interpret that to mean that the righteous are and will be LDS, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Hindu, Born Again, Evangelical, Atheists, RLDS, gay, straight, black, white, asian, pacific islander, etc. etc. etc. I even think that non-Texans will make it into the Celestial Kingdon. Shocking, I know. We all have truth, we all have goodness. I spent my high school years in TX and I was told on a weekly basis by the born agains that although I professed to believe and worship the same God as them, I was going to hell for being Mormon. I hope I am NEVER guilty of that judgment for as Christ has said in Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged,” and in Mosiah 29:12: “Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.” A big problem I have with prop 8 and the rhetoric that is being used to justify it, is that a lot of it is judging people by a morality that they have not covenanted to live.

I believe that when we are judged at the end of days that we will be judged according to what we know and what we have covenanted to do. We are not all judged by the same rule book. Mormons make a LOT of covenants both at baptism and in the temple when we receive our endowments. We also make covenants to our spouses when we are sealed to each other. We will be judged based on how we kept those covenants. I think there are a lot of people who will be way better off than myself and most mormons at judgment day who live alternate lifestyles than we do (pending of course that we are right about a judgment day… ;P ).

I think I’ve actually been a progressive my entire life, I just didn’t know for a great part of that time that what I thought was more in line with the left than right.

First, my baptismal covenants are, as stated in Mosiah 18, “to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God in all times, and in all things, and in all places.” Prop 8 and the rhetoric surrounding it partially bothers me for that reason. I have a lot of friends who grew up LDS and are gay and their stories are TRAGIC. Horrible. It is disgusting how they have been treated, how they treated themselves when they were struggling with how their felt, and the people who treated them like that are not without blemish, despite them thinking they were just encouraging righteousness and protect the family by trying to “save” my gay friends from themselves. It’s reprehensible and I believe they will be held accountable. I think that since Mormons have covenanted to comfort those that stand in need of comfort that that should be our #1 goal. A lot of the rhetoric surrounding prop 8 communicates to my gay friends that they are fundamentally wrong, that they should repent, and that they’re not the same as we are, and ergo shouldn’t have the same rights that straight people have. Ugh.

And perhaps, if more Mormons were concerned with keeping their own covenants before worrying about how righteous everyone else is or is not, we’d a) have very little poverty and suffering and b) there’d be a lot less people who hate us here in Utah because they were not comforted but were judged and outcast. I’ve heard a lot of stories of non-LDS kids not being able to play with their LDS neighbors because they might have the same high standards. Sad.

My parents and my religion taught me the following:

Poverty and Economic systems:
Zion is defined as having “no poor among them.” Moses 7:18

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” James 1:27

2 Corinthians 8:14 “But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.”

D&C 142:75 “plead the cause of the poor and the needy”

Equality & Human Rights:
D&C 78:5-6 “That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;”

Col. 3:11: “Where there is neither aGreek nor Jew, bcircumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

2 Nephi 26:33 “he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

11th Article of Faith: “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” I think that includes let them worship nothing if they want too.

Separation of Church and State:
Alma 30:11 “For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.”

D&C 134:9 “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”

Environment:
Genesis 1:28 “replenish the earth” note that it doesn’t say pollute…

Numbers 35:33 “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are…” That scripture is also a good peace one: “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

D&C 59:20 “And it pleaseth God that hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” Does the giant pit in Okur Mountains come to mind??

Ezra Taft Benson: The outward expressions of irreverence for God, for life, and for our fellowmen take the form of things like littering, heedless strip-mining, heedless pollution of water and air.

Rev 7: 2-3 “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees”, also Rev. 9:4

Peace:
D&C 98:16 “renounce war and proclaim peace.”

Joel 3:10 “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Why not now?

D&C 105:38-39 “sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people; And lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth;”

Makes it pretty obvious to me, but hey to my politically conservative friends, I’m open minded enough to think we could both be right, but I don’t know many elected Republicans who are making great inroads with poverty, peace, the environment, and equality. Just saying. Elected democrats aren’t perfect either, as I’m sure my green and socialist friends will point out, but hey it works for me.

My mom is also a big fan of Mister Rodgers and daily I was taught the mantra “I love you just the way you are.” My mom said to “be different” to love those who were different and that nerds and people who were outcasts because they were different would be better friends in the long run than the beautiful and popular people. All of this speaks to why I think the way I do about equality and accepting differences. It doesn’t mean that my standards for myself are any different because of that acceptance.

Even on the economic level, I never saw a big difference between the underlying principles behind the United Order and communism/socialism. I always knew I was an economic liberal, it’s very sexy to me as a musician to think that in a perfect world I could pursue my love and talents without having to cop out for a real job or earn minimum wage until I “make it some day.”

I realized I was also a social liberal as a freshman at BYU of all places. Equality has always been a big issue for me. My dad is a convert to the Church and I often heard the story of how it was a challenge for him that at the time he converted blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. He has a beautiful story of how he gained a testimony that eventually blacks would gain the priesthood that I won’t go into here. And as an aside, I think a lot of the language being used to justify prop 8 is reminiscent of logic to justify the priesthood ban. The whole Cain thing doesn’t make sense. If that was really the case, my part-black ancestors should not have held the priesthood. The truth is we don’t know why, but a statement about Bruce R. McConkie in regards to the issue both shocked me in terms of coming from him and because I think it’s relevant now: “Forget everything I have said or that President Brigham Young… or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” Sometimes we just don’t know. Sometimes we think we know. And oftentimes we’re wrong.

[In fact, offline, one of my co-workers has suggested that people substitute the word “black” for “gay” in their arguments and see how it sounds… Now I’m not at all suggesting that I hope that the Church will someday say it’s OK to have gay sex or that we’ll someday perform gay marriages in Temples. That is not my place. And I will never be a judge in Israel so I’m never going to have to judge people’s choices here on earth. I’m just saying that maybe some of the language being used to justify prop 8 just MIGHT be unifnormed and operating under a limited knowledge. A big underlying motivator behind it is fear.]

Indeed, as my mom likes to remind me, I once wrote a paper arguing that democrats should be shipped to Antarctica because I held them accountable for slavery and the Civil War, all because of my healthy sense of racial equality inherited from my parents. Of course then I moved to TX and found out the Civil War wasn’t exactly as black/white and more gray. And I also learned about how horrible much of the Republican reconstitution was for the South what with women being raped all over the place and businesses being hijacked by those “darn Yankees.” That also helped me realize that no one, and no party is always 100% right all the time throughout all ages.

Anyway at BYU I took an honors writing class that was also a history of philosophy. I read Descartes and suddenly I realized that I couldn’t prove reality. We could all be brains in jars thinking life is real but not in reality. Proving that God existed was something I had always wanted to do back when I was into Physics because then we’d all be forced to be righteous. Who’s plan does that sound like, hmmm? Well as my lovely now-deceased Grandfather tried to remind me all the time, proving God would remove the need for faith and that would both be wrong and unfortunate. Faith is everything as I came to realize. I thought, well I have faith I’m not a brain in a jar being manipulated by some malicious being (Descartes’ words) and so then I decided let’s do what Descartes did, sort through everything I thought I knew or didn’t, and see what my faith really was. So I embarked on a study of my religion and my beliefs, and I found all of the above scriptures and nothing that said:

“Thou shalt give tax breaks unto the rich and giant corporations”

“Thou shalt pollute the earth as much as possible”

“Thou shalt treat people unequally before the law”

“Thou shalt pay men more than women”

“Thou shalt wage war without previous offense”

“The world shalt all pay homage to America and none else”

“Thou shalt exploit third world labor”

“Thou shalt ignore the war in heaven you fought over agency and create as many laws as possible forcing people to live the same way you do so every one can return to God as perfect little children.”

Yes Democrats aren’t perfect on these issues, but the principles are there.

So I always knew I was an economic liberal, and I became a social liberal when I started realizing that equality and choice were important when just a meesly freshman at BYU. I started thinking about my political and religious beliefs, evaluated why I thought them, and when I got to gay marriage I couldn’t find any way around it. In order to all be created equally with the same unalienable rights and privileges (dec. of independence.) and that we’re even equal before God in terms of what the doctrine says, there was inequality when it came to sexual preference. I realized back then that there were tax breaks, healthcare rights, hospital visitation rights, property rights, etc. that are being denied to people just because of their sexual preference. Wrong.

So I’m a liberal progressive, always will be so everyone might as well live with it. At BYU I was a registered democrat but I used to always tell people I was a communist, in graduate school in NYC I was a registered socialist since it was an open primary and why not register as a socialist when I could, and now I’m not only a registered democrat, but very involved. The funny thing is that people seem to be more shocked and offended by my being a democrat than when I used to tell everyone I was a communist. Weird. My parents though I came back from NYC a democrat, but the fact is that I just didn’t tell them outright until then. And my parents still love me and respect my choices. We have a great relationship, always have, and I am the way I am and think the way I do because of them.

So all of the above feeds my opinion on gay marriage. I find it reprehensible that in the 21st Century in the US of all places (in most states) that a gay man cannot visit his partner of 50 years in the hospital if a biological relative such as a parent or sibling says no. That a gay woman cannot necessarily provide health insurance for her partner. That two loving people cannot chose to have a family together. That gay couples in many states cannot jointly own property. That straight people get tax breaks just because they’re married. That doesn’t jive with what my constitution says about equality and civil rights. The list goes on. That also doesn’t jive with what my doctrine says about equality and civil rights. I used to think what Marcello has said, just keep marriage out of the equation, or offer civil unions instead, but make sure the tax benefits are removed and that these civil rights are offered to everyone gay or straight. But you know what? I now think that two people who love each other have a right to publicly declare that in a ceremony too.

I also firmly believe in the separation of Church and State that is laid out in LDS scripture and the constitution. I’m tired of moral legislation, especially here in Utah. These people are always passing laws about the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, and more; yet many of these lawmakers such as Greg Hughes, Chris Buttars, Speaker Curtis, and many others are clearly not living their religion either. It’s time we take morality out of it! Enough. You always hear people saying that it’s a sign of the times that we’ve taking “under God” out of the pledge of Allegiance and taking prayer out of schools. First, Under God was added to the pledge in 1954 (not by the founding fathers like Governor Palin thinks). Second which God? Which God should our children pray to? If this was India, would you really want your children to by forced to pray to Vishnu or Shiva? Or if this was Iran, would you want your children to pray to Allah? Would you want your children to be told in school that Jesus was not the Messiah? Why should we force our God and our prayer on others then? Whatever happened to “worshipping God how, where, or what” they want to? Hey I love prayer and I do it daily, and couldn’t live without it, but I don’t want my children to be taught to pray to someone else’s God in public school.

Now the arguments for prop 8 and against gay marriage in general are:

#1 Gay marriage violates the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman (funny thing that polygamy never enters into this argument, weren’t my maternal ancestors prosecuted for a definition of marriage alternative to a man and a woman by substituting women?)

#2 Gay marriage destroys families and by a greater extension society since family is the foundation of society

#3 Gay marriage is a sin

#4 Gay marriage will lead to the end of the world (aren’t some throwing around the end of the world as we know it in 10 years?)

#5 Gay marriage hurts our rights and priveledges

Ugh.

So here is why this language bothers me. No one is saying the fundamental fear, the real reason why my Church has joined this coalition. The real fear is that if gay marriage becomes a reality and a constitutional amendment, a Church can be held unconstitutional by choosing not to perform gay marriage. That’s the real fear.

Otherwise, the arguments don’t stand.

#2: Because honestly, I know many many gay couples who have been together for 10, 15, 20, even 50+ years. They are stable and are contributing to the stability of society. They treat each other with love, they are forming a family unit providing stability to our way of life. They are good parents of children, and good parents of animals (important in my book!).

#1: Gay marriage does not threaten my marriage to Joel. We’re still very happy thank you, and I don’t see how it will threaten how we communicate and relate with each other. In fact I have learned a lot about healthy marriages and relationships from my friends in gay marriages and/or partnerships. Yes I believe that marriage can be eternal, and I absolutely believe in the beautiful relationship that results when the sexes are equally partnered. I believe that most likely eternal, religious marriage will always just be between man and woman. But in terms of earthly marriage and how it is defined in the legal code, people have the right to commit to be with whomever they want to. Yes Californian homosexuals might receive many of the rights I’ve mentioned before of tax breaks, common property, healthcare, etc. but prop 8 denies them the right of public commitment before the law.

Whether or not gay marriage is a sin should not even be used as a reason. We’ve been told not to judge, that God will be the judger and if we judge others we’ll be held accountable. Live your covenants, and don’t make other people live covenants they haven’t made with God. Please keep religion out of defining what marriage is in law. Like Jon said, “Get religion out of our government and get government out of our religions.” I personally think that using religion to justify why certain laws should or should not exist will lead to #4, and not gay marriage. We keep heading down this path, and we’ll all be forced to be Born Agains, or Evangelical, or Muslim, or Mormon, or Catholic, or Jewish, or Atheists. We’ll be taught in our schools what is doctrine and what is not. We’ll be told how we should practice our religion. Do you want that? I don’t and I will fight till my dying day to keep government out of religion and religion out of government.

So the real fear is #5, that it hurts our rights because it’s possible that the Church could be forced to perform gay marriage in our temples. Catholics are afraid of performing gay marriage in temples, or being forced to give their orphans to gay couples.

This is what makes me angry about what CA Latter-day Saints are being asked to do. Everyone, including our leaders, just lose arguments 1-4 because they don’t stand and let’s just address #5. The Protect Marriage Coalition certainly isn’t. Why are we part of it? We aren’t operating under a limited light and knowledge in regards to 1-4. We know it as well as everyone else. Instead, work towards laws that maintain the separation of Church and state, allow a church to define marriage however it wants, to definite family however it wants, and allow gay and straight people to get married, to have civil unions, and to do that in a Church that wants to offer gay and straight marriage, or only straight marriage, or whatever marriage, or gay and straight marriage by a Justice of the Peace. So let’s just leave this Protect Marriage Coalition and do the real right thing here. Let’s live true to our religious and American views of equality as well as the separation of Church and State. Let’s write a law that insures equal rights, equal families, equal marriage, and maintain Church and State at the same time and the right for a Religion to practice how, where, and when it may. Passing Prop 8 is not going to do that, and is going to violate a lot of principles that we hold dear.

And now for the thing that upsets me most. Not only do I dearly believe in the separation of Church and State, and not only is that a part of my scriptural doctrine, but the Church has always made a big deal about never telling it’s members who to vote for and how to vote. Fundamental stance for us, and here we are telling CA saints how to vote and why they should vote that way. And it’s not just Californians telling other Californians how to vote, but it’s Idahoans and BYU students, and institutes across the country.

We’re using words that don’t spread tolerance, that make our gay brothers and sisters hate themselves. We’re using arguments that are false. We are not showing our best Christian selves. We are not showing our best American selves. My relief society president, for whom I serve as first councilor, actually banned the entire topic of homosexuality from our Relief Society because in her words, “you never know who is gay and who isn’t and this Relief Society will not be the place where they decide to hate themselves forever or permanently leave the church and hate Mormons.” We are making people permanently hate us.

And lastly, if we’re going to go ahead and get messy with telling people how to vote and getting all involved with elections, what about doing something about poverty? We’re told to have “no poor among us” and yet there are 400,000 Utahns without healthcare. If we put this much effort into living our religious beliefs, we’d be comforting everyone we could, we’d have empathy for people who don’t believe the way we do, we’d eradicate poverty and starvation in a heart beat, there’d be peace on earth. This is mostly what makes me unhappy about what’s happening with Prop 8. Let’s do some real good, not make people feel bad about themselves.

I didn’t plan on making prop 8 a big issue. I have always been vocal about what I think, I thought everyone knew where I stood on this issue, and it is outside my stewardship as a resident of Utah to tell Californians how to vote. But I read Elder Ballard’s and Elder Cook’s talks and they encouraged me to go viral with how I felt about prop 8 so I followed my priesthood leadership and did just that. This is not only how I feel rationally when I reason through equality on the doctrinal and governmental level, but it is what I feel is right. It is what is communicated to my soul, what the “plain and precious voice” says to me.

Now respond or argue, don’t. Think about what I said, don’t. Change your mind, don’t. I’m a big fan of free agency and you have the right to agree with me 100%, 90%, 80%, 50%, 40%, or 0%. And I love you all still the same, and I hope you love me the same and don’t worry about my choices or beliefs. You worry about yours, and I’ll worry about mine. And together we won’t collectively worry about the rest of America or the world. We’ll just love each other and get rid of monstrosities like having poverty in the 21st century. And like I said before, I’m open minded enough to think that we’re all right to varying degrees. I hope some of you can admit that too about my beliefs.

I thought about posting a response to the LDS Church’s letter to CA wards encouraging members to support the constitutional amendment fight with their money and/or efforts. But I came across this letter from Jeffrey Nielsen, the former BYU professor that made headlines a couple of years ago for opposing the federal marriage amendment after the church asked members, from the pulpit, to support it, and thought he expressed it much better than I could in my current emotional state:

Open Letter to California Mormons

by Jeffrey S. Nielsen
24 June 2008

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.

To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument, no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to the great progress in civil rights we’ve made in our country respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our religious leaders’ encroachment into political matters. In fact, a growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60’s when they opposed equal rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70’s when they opposed legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse democracy without reasonable justification, then members, especially faithful members, of that religious organization have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically harm another person. After all, religious values must be something an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether state of federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy. Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.

I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents. I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the unreasonable and unjust call to discriminate against our gay and lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

So, I was really surprised to see this clip floating around the internet. Bill O’Reilly takes Family Law attorney Don Schweitzer to task over not being able to actually explain why he’s opposed to gay marriage, without invoking religion.

OREILLY: “You’ve got to go beyond religion if you want to win the fight against gay marriage. You’ve got to go into a reason why this is not good for the state of California. Now what would that reason be?”

[redlasso id=”9ca7efa6-5a1d-4443-97be-00cd871b6726″]

Here’s the best part of the discussion (which I found at Republic of T’s place), in case you don’t have time to watch the whole thing:

O’REILLY: …What’s the the reason that you oppose gay marriage?

SCHWEITZER: I don’t oppose, uh, a civil union. We already have that. We’ve had that for three years.

O’REILLY: (Talking over Schweitzer.) Alright, alright … Gay marriage, Mr. Schweitzer, why do you oppose that?

SCHWEITZER: I only oppose the defintion of marriage applying to same-sex marriage, because it’s an age-old definition. It’s like naming one thing from another.

(Crosstalk.)

O’REILLY: But are … Isn’t change good? This is a year of change? Everybody wants change?

SCHWEITZER: Well, that’s a decision for the people, and the people determined that they don’t want it. Year’s ago there was a referendum, and the people spoke, and the California Supreme Court overruled the people’s voice, in this regard…

O’REILLY: So you really don’t don’t have a good reason for me about why you oppose gay marriage.

SCHWEITZER: Yes I do. I think the reason is that the people want a definition making a distinction between gay marriages and …

O’REILLY: Why do they want that distinction?

SCHWEITZER: Because of the fact that it is different. It is just a different distinction. They’re two different relationships. And they don’t want to be grouped together in the same type of relationship.

O’REILLY: Isn’t that bigoted?

SCHWEITZER: No. No, it’s like describing Summer from Winter. They’re two different things.

O’REILLY: I don’t think that’s gonna cut it.

SCHWEITZER: How is that bigoted, Bill?

O’REILLY: I’m not saying it’s bigoted. I just asked the question. I mean, if it’s … Look. I think you guy are going to have to come up with a cogent reason to convince independents, who are going to make the decision on this, because it is now getting closer, why gay marriage isn’t good for California. And you really haven’t done it tonight.

SCHWEITZER: OK. Well, I beg to differ with you, and I think the people will speak in November. They’re gonna say that we just want the definition. They’re not gonna say that it’s…’

O’REILLY: “We just want it.” OK. Maybe you’re right, but I think that there’s got to be a more pointed definition.

Wow…if the blowhards can see it, maybe the tide is turning. There IS no reason, other than religious discrimination, to oppose gay marriage. And we used to be FOR freedom of religion in this country.

So, the other day I was reading letters to the editor at the Deseret News (this isn’t as bad as reading the reader comments, though people still say some pretty silly things sometimes). And I came across this letter which was a response to this letter.

The first letter asks a question that I have often asked myself, not just about Obama but other Democratic candidates, and not just for LDS members but for all Christians:

What is it about the Obama message that is so off-putting to LDS Utahns? Actually I would think it is the exact message to which we LDS members would gravitate in great numbers. Why have we strayed from our emotional and spiritual roots?

The response from the 2nd letter writer is thus:

Let’s see, maybe it’s because his views are opposite the core of the LDS faith? His stances on abortion and gay marriage are just two issues.

Ah, now I understand.

Except I don’t, really. Even before I became dedicated to gay rights issues (and came out), even when I was a faithful LDS member, I gravitated towards Democratic candidates because I agreed more with their stances than with their Republican counterparts. I think LDS people in general, and the larger Christian community, have fallen too easily for the point of view first argued in the early 80s during the rise of the Religious Right, that abortion and gay marriage/rights are the only two “values” issues that matter.

Why, for instance, does killing an unborn fetus trump killing adults in a war that even many Republicans, the Legislature, independent analysts and most other countries in the world recognize as being started under false pretenses and exaggerated threats? I’m not saying I don’t understand and even agree with people who believe abortion is wrong – but seriously, at this moment in our history, can we really afford to vote for someone who will continue this war and probably start a new one with Iran, mainly because he says he’s pro-life?

Why does preventing gay couples from getting married trump the fact that the number of children living in poverty increased by more than 11 percent between 2000 and 2005. Can we really call ourselves Christians when there is so much needless suffering in our country? Why isn’t more attention paid to the fact that the percent of all children who lack health insurance increased for the first time in nearly a decade in 2005—from 10.8% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2005.

Why not consider electing a man who is not among the nations top 1% wealthiest individuals, and who will therefore hopefully fight for the smallest and weakest among us, those children who need more help than another corporate bailout will provide?

It just feels very hypocritical to me to fixate on abortion and gay marriage, and call yourself a Christian voter. There is a movement among some evangelicals to start focusing on other values, such as poverty and war, but it doesn’t have much political traction yet. Though some are predicting that this is the year we’ll see a shift among that voting base.

The other thing that I think keeps many Republicans still solidly voting Republican (but wasn’t mentioned by the letter-writer above) is fear of socialism. This is also something, from a Mormon perspective, that I don’t quite understand. Mormons believe in the law of consecration, which is basically a form of socialism – pooling collective resources that are then re-dispersed based on need. I’m not saying I think socialism is better for our country, in our current situation, than capitalism – but I do wonder why LDS people in general are so afraid of the idea, and particularly in relation to Obama. Why do the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys only have to say “socialism” in regard to Obama to put so many people off? Just because he’s for mandated health coverage doesn’t mean he’s going to turn the country into communist Russia.

I guess it just seems like the Christian right, for the most part, has been sold a bill of goods about manifesting their values in their voting patterns. If you read the four Gospels, the books that actually focus on Jesus’ personal ministry, there is no mention of abortion or gay marriage. There are admonitions not to sin, or to repent and sin no more, but there are countless more admonitions to care for the hungry and poor, to turn the other cheek, to be kind and loving to one another. Jesus himself outlined what should be most important:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
–Matthew 22:34-40

I’m not sure how that translates into the current religious-political environment, where working to outlaw abortion and gay marriage seem to be the only laws or commandments that matter.

I’m not saying I don’t understand the moral argument behind the anti-abortion and anti-gay stances. All i’m saying is – aren’t there more important things that we, as Christians, should be voting to protect?