Gay Marriage debate at sunstone

Gay Marriage debate at sunstone

I thought this blog post about Gay Marriage on The Rains Came Down was quite excellent and reflects what I’ve been feeling about Gay Marriage lately. (Though I think she is a bit more conservative on the issue then I am as I do think that since the Supreme Courts Loving V. Virginia decision that Marriage is considered a fundamental civil right on par with voting for instance.) At one point I was an ardent Gay Marriage supporter and remained so even after I joined the church. This is an issue that I’ve gradually moderated and become more conservative on particularly because of some of the vicious rhetoric by Gay Rights Activists. The viciousness and pettiness of  boycotting efforts against individual small contributors to Prop 8 was reprehensible.

I attended a panel at Sunstone entitled SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: A CALL TO QUIET CONVERSATIONS AND PUBLIC DEBATES by REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY of the Interfaith Alliance. I found his talk solid for the most part but somewhat flawed. Gaddy argued first of all that we should treat Gay Marriage as if its purely a legal issue and take religion out of it altogether. This is of course a common argument for those favoring Gay Marriage because taking religion out of the issue altogether almost invariably favors Gay Marriage. Yet, when in dialogue with other individuals we can not merely expect them to drop their most deeply held values. Gaddy speaks about the importance of dialogue with those that disagree with him, but also describes the pro-gay marriage side as on the side of the constitution and the right side of history while describing those opposed as backwards and opposed to the constitution. This rhetoric is not inviting to dialogue. A true commitment to dialogue would mean building first on where we can find common ground. Most Americans support Civil Unions with full marriage rights granted to gay couples. Most Americans oppose discrimination and other forms of hatred (though tempered by the rights of religious individuals to preserve their values). In my view these are the things that should be fought for rather than taking a divisive strategy of forcing Gay Marriage onto a population that does not support it and is not ready for it.

Gaddy also advanced the disconcerting argument that that Gay Marriage will have NO impact on religious freedom. Certainly much of the rhetoric in the Prop 8 campaign was inaccurate and even flat out fraudulent. The church will certainly not be required to perform gay temple marriages. Yet, there are significant legal consequences involved. Already in places that allow commitment ceremonies or civil unions, individuals have been sued for trying to exercise their moral values and refuse to take photographs, for instance. Orthodox Jewish School Yeshiva University has been required to opened up its married dorms to gay couples. There are many other similar cases.  It may be that we can decide that the rights of gay couples to marry outweigh these harms, or that religious conscience rights can be protected even as we promote Gay Marriage, but it is disingenuous to suggest that there are no relevant rights issues. Gaddy’s Interfaith Alliance is an organization that has stood up for religious freedom in such areas and that is commendable. Yet, making it seem like there are no relevant issues is deceptive at best.

I’ve also recently begun reading the extensive debate between Stanley Kurtz of the Weekly Standard who argues that Gay Marriage and a range of other factors contributed to the death of marriage as we know it in parts of Europe, and Andrew Sullivan who has for a very long time championed the conservative case for Gay Marriage. I find this debate fascinating and not at all resolved or clear in favor of Gay Marriage.

Another key empirical question for me is whether legalized Gay Marriage and increased acceptance for homosexuality merely takes already openly Gay People out of a more promiscuous lifestyle and puts them into monogamous and more stable families, or whether this acceptance will lead more people that are marginally attracted to males (Probably true bisexuals) to choose to enter into gay relationships rather than equally fulfilling heterosexual ones. I think that practically if we are dealing with a fixed population of Gay individuals then marriage is a far more ideal state. However, it does not seem that we have any good way to empirically measure this question. It seems that this is a worthwhile question to be asked.

My personal belief is that for those men not of our church that are attracted to males and can not develop meaningful relationships with those of the opposite sex, that it may be better for them to enter into a loving stable monogamous relationship with a gay partner. Clearly, they can gain many of the benefits of maturity, dedication and perspective that we can in heterosexual relationships. Yet, the questions remains of the impact of that acceptance on the marginal case as well as the impact on the growth of the church and our missionary work. My view on the topic rests and falls on the strength or weakness of the conservative case for gay marriage.

I think this post conveys some of my uncertainty over the topic. I am uncomfortable with the labeling of people of conscience as bigots and homophobes. I am sick of the lack of effort to build consensus on common ground and to efforts to punish and smear those that disagree. I think there are valid empirical question that could sway my view towards either side but I’ve not seen convincing evidence. I think Gay Marriage is likely inevitable but I don’t think states that oppose it should be forced into it. Instead, the change must come gradually as states adopt Gay Marriage and we watch the impact over time.


7 thoughts on “Gay Marriage debate at sunstone

  1. Pingback: Another Step in the Prop 8 Saga « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  2. I agree in that I do not think Gaddy’s argument is all that tenable or realistic. However, although I recognize that his rhetoric certainly isn’t conducive to finding common ground, I’m beginning to feel like this is simply because there *isn’t* common ground. There is a chasm, and there is compromise that neither side wants. The deeply held moral values simply are not that compatible.

    As I wrote on my site, there are going to be issues with seeing gay marriages/relationships as a sort of compromise buffer for those that “can not develop meaningful relationships with those of the opposite sex” yet should be avoided by bisexuals who can.

    I certainly think there is something objectionable that I didn’t even address on my site. Your empirical key question is whether increased acceptance of homosexuality will merely take *openly* gay people out of promiscuous lifestyles into monogamous families…what this makes me wonder is…would you consider it a “negative” side effect of *closeted* gay people were persuaded by increased acceptance to move out of *closeted singleness* to monogamous families?

    It seems to me that whenever we look at whether homosexuality is a “stable” thing or whether it is “increasing” or “decreasing,” we have to take into consideration that there could be a stable population, yet people who have the *courage* and *support* to be out and uncloseted can depend on, of course, the courage and support available.

  3. I don’t think that’s my sole empirical key. I am very interested in the purported effects of changes in marriage structure on things such as percent of children born out of wedlock and etc. The argument that has stuck out to me is that in the status quo Gay Marriage may exacerbate already existing problems with marriage in the United States. I am not sure there is a good solution and I used to be of the mind that excluding gay couples from marriage makes the situation worse.

    My speculation on the impact on those with borderline attraction was purely speculative and not perfectly worded by any stretch of the word. I am still figuring out my exact feelings on the matter. I know that there are people that undoubtedly are very high/low on a Kinsey scale and they certainly do not have any attractions for the opposite gender. It is also clear that there are people that choose to act on their attractions if society is more open and accepting. Whether those individuals choose an orientation or merely are now free to act on an orientation that otherwise would have been repressed in a more heteronormative society is unclear. There’s also likely a non-trivial group of individuals that experiment as a form of rebellion against social norms and I don’t know how to account for those individuals.

    My feeling is that this is a complex issue that needs to be looked at seriously. I am not wedded to any one empirical or moral measure necessarily except perhaps to my belief that heterosexual families are of eternal significance. That does not have to translate into political plans as I am willing to separate my ideals from reality, but this perspective is going to impact my personal perspective.

    My post was written a bit more hastily than I would like and I may go back and edit some of the less than clear or ideal wording.

  4. Yes, it is true that you had said that was just ‘another’ key empirical question.

    I guess I feel as to the other empirical question (e.g., children born out of wedlock, etc.,) there should be more efforts to fight these directly. But not too many people are willing to actively campaign against these things. Not too many people are willing to actively campaign for adoption by straight couples when they fight against adoption by gay couples, for example. I feel that withdrawing support for hypothetical empirical questions when there currently exist very real empirical facts regarding undesirables that have yet to be addressed is…I dunno.

    I guess my thoughts regarding those who experiment to rebel is this — I can experiment to rebel in a number of ways, but things that I do not *like* or *appreciate*? I won’t stick with them. So, ultimately, I cannot see anyone “turning” gay in such a manner. To the extent that someone already *has* attractions, I do not see the value in hiding or repressing attractions that are not as strong, and “tolerating” those who simply do not have attractions to the opposite gender…but then again, I guess this is just because we have very different ideals about what an *ideal* relationship is.

    • I think the key word in what you write is ‘ideal’. I do view heterosexual marriage and relationships as more ideal because there are certain blessings one can only receive ( as far as we know) in that context. I do not view homosexual relationships as sinful or bad. I do not view homosexuality as a sin for non-priesthood or endowed Mormons if it is done in the context of a loving and committed relationship/Civil Union/Gay Marriage if such a thing is granted. I don’t have any anti-gay animosity except that so many Mormons seem to have been made to feel that they have no choice but to act on same gender attraction due to the arguments of the gay rights community. For me, it is a matter of Good, Better and Best. My concern is that there may be some people that are diverted from what is best because of the allure of what is good for time rather than all eternity.

    • and all I’m saying is that I don’t think the “ideals” work out that way. I do not feel as if something that brings such sublime and tremendous joy in this mortality will be a compromise away from “what is good for…all eternity.” Love is love. I’m supposing that if we are to (dis)cover anything in the future, it is that we were supposed to realize its universality and infinity rather than quibble about who loved whom.

  5. That’s fine and I think it’s something we can continue to disagree on without it necessarily impacting our views on gay marriage at all. I don’t even know my feelings on Gay Marriage at the moment on balance I probably am now a marginal supporter (Because the legal arguments against prop-8 were far far far far far stronger and I am ultimately a law school bound person that desires to study the constitution). I am wary of the lack of thought on one side of the consequences of such a move as well as the hyperbole on the other side linking it to all manner of evil. It is a significant change that we may in the end approve or disapprove of but I think it need to be examined without accusations of homophobia or bigotry.

    Let me put it this way: If the accusations of the Pro Prop-8 Side were accurate and gay marriage really did destroy heterosexual marriage and force the church to perform temple marriages and all of those absurd things would you still support it? There is the matter of principle but I think in that case principle would be outweighed by consequences. A legal system that can not even consider consequences but must blindly push for principle come what may is one that is blind and broken. That’s why we have legal standards such as rational basis or strict scrutiny to at least allow some minimal cases where rights may be violated if there is an absolutely essential need. The Prop 8 arguments were stupid and their case pathetic and thus this is not relevant in the particular Prop 8 trial going on now. I think there are at least some serious concerns, however.

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