Salvaging Our Humanity (and our Faith) from the Wreckage of Politics

Anybody who has been following the progress of Proposition 8 through the courts knew that the least likely outcome of the Supreme Court decision would be the one officially hoped for in the amicus brief filed by the Church, i.e., overturning the lower court rulings that struck down the referendum. So faithful Saints are faced with the proposition of increased alienation from the emerging American consensus that gay couples should be treated just the same as everybody else. Having to defend the Church’s position to equality-minded neighbors and friends and family will be increasingly embarrassing and difficult for ordinary Saints. I empathize with the fear and consternation this creates for many.

It has been a lifelong process for me to come to terms with being gay; figuring out what my desires are, and figuring out how they fit into the larger constellations of relationships and meanings in my life. Fighting for — and now achieving — the political right to marry is a piece of a much larger puzzle. It has moral dimensions related to love and commitment and family. My marriage acquires significance to the extent that it represents a commitment made within a network of commitments (covenants?) that connect me to family, to community, and to Heavenly Parents. In other words, I agree with opponents of same-sex marriage on at least one thing; the spiritual dimensions of marriage should not be disconnected from the legal and political dimensions of marriage.

Our political system allows us to manage conflict (sublimate violence?) through political conventions (through our constitution). But we can’t solve the most fundamental spiritual and moral problems through the use of political force. The Mormonism I was raised in (and still believe in) taught me that moral right is not established through majority votes.

If the opponents of same-sex marriage cannot make a convincing moral and spiritual case against it that persuades gay men and lesbians, legally penalizing us for entering into committed relationships with one another won’t solve the problem. The growing acceptance of same-sex marriage seems at least to be proving that its opponents are not making their case. Invoking moral outrage and the collapse of “civilization” and of “traditional values” stopped working a long time ago.

But if supporters of same-sex marriage want more than a half victory, we will have no less of an obligation to continue to build a social consensus in morally and spiritually compelling terms. In other words, we cannot shame our opponents for opposing us, we can’t resort to calling them bigots, we can’t ignore their fears or hopes. We need to continue to talk to one another. And we need to pray for increasing light and knowledge for the whole Church, for us and for our political opponents.

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