And Also Works

January 15, 2004 | 15 comments
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And Also by Works
I’m impressed by how much energy goes into this site. All this erudition. All this argument. All this heat and light, even as the entries trail away into some “sub-thread.” I keep waiting for one of these discussions to cohere, for the statements to galvanize the group to action. It’s a matter of style, I guess. I like projects. What shall we do about this? is my basic question.

I suppose everyone is too busy by definition to take on a cause, so I am suggesting only three modest projects for this legal powerhouse.

1. A Mormon Anti-Defamation League. How about defending the Church against the comments no one would ever make about the Blacks and the Jews. An article in an African newspaper today called the Church racist. To simplify this effort, how about limiting the response to letters to the editor when there is cause. Short, articulate responses could begin to make people think twice about their offhand remarks. Why not show the Church how helpful, instead of troublesome, intellectuals can be.

2. The Times today noted that Bush may champion a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as heterosexual. This politically-motivated possibility seems like a very bad idea to me. As I recall Rex Lee’s arguments against the ERA back in the past, they were mostly that the result could not be known, that it would either make too much difference or not enough. I think the potential for damage is greater here. I’d like to see this possibility debated independently before the Church gets stuck supporting some very difficult position in support of the Christian Right.

3. I live in an eruv. My urban area on NYC’s Upper West Side is enclosed by a wire or string boundary that I have never seen. This demarcation allows the extension of various symbolic arrangements from the private domain of Jewish households into public areas so that they can take part in activities normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath. I do not begrudge the Jews this eruv, although it encloses my space. I don’t accept the need or efficacy of their boundary, but I do not mind it. How is this different from our doing temple work for the Jews? If they do not accept any meaning in it, how does this impinge on them? Could this case be made? I’d like to see all this fuss about temple records countered in some way.

I am sure that there are better causes; these are just what occur to me today. Why not go somewhere with all this energy?

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15 Responses to And Also Works

  1. Russell Arben Fox on January 15, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    “As I recall Rex Lee’s arguments against the ERA back in the past…”

    Rex Lee argued against the ERA? Really? I’ve never heard that before. Did he just make anti-ERA comments to friends and fellow academics in private settings, or did he actually ever speak out or publish something? I find the latter unlikely; given all the attention swirling around BYU and President Lee back in the early 90s, it seems that any indication that he was or had ever been anything less than orthodox would have at one point or another come to light. But maybe I’m wrong. Provide some details, if you don’t mind Claudia. The church’s campaign against the ERA has become, in many ways, the template for all subsequent campaigns; it’d be interesting and useful to know what comments a man like Lee might have made contrary to the church’s position from the inside.

  2. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    I must admit that I’ve always been uncomfortable with activism and activists. I think when the activism is for us, a group who doesn’t exactly suffer *real* persecution, it gets a bit silly. It really doesn’t bother me much when someone ignorant of Mormonism says ignorant things. Personally I think that we are already far too sensitive to anti-Mormonism and critics. Activism seems to play into that.

    I think we’d be better off taking all that energy and doing charity for our neighbors. (Or just getting to know them better)

  3. Michelle on January 15, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    Rex Lee wrote wrote a book on the ERA — A Lawyer Looks at the Equal Rights Amendment — http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0842518835/qid=1074211440/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-5126718-4319119?v=glance&s=books (he also wrote A Lawyer Looks at the Constitution). I haven’t read either yet.

    Interestingly, the Hawaii court quoted from A Lawyers Looks at the ERA in Baehr v. Miike, in support of its conclusion that denying homosexual marriage was discrimination on the basis of sex. http://216.239.41.104/search?q=cache:bftsMMKQaVAJ:www.qrd.org/qrd/usa/legal/hawaii/baehr/1997/answering.brief.of.plaintiff.appellee-05.30.97+Rex+E.+Lee,+A+Lawyer+Looks+at+the+Equal+Rights+Amendment&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

  4. Greg on January 15, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the link, Michelle. To save people the scrolling, here’s the relevant part from Hawai’i case (footnotes omitted):

    Mildred Loving was prohibited by Virginia law from marrying Richard Loving because of race. Ninia Baehr is prohibited by H.R.S. 572-1 from marrying Genora Dancel because of sex. H.R.S. 572-1 is as much a sex-based classification as Virginia’s miscegenation law was a race-based classification.

    This fact was recognized by Rex E. Lee, the former U.S. Solicitor General, when he wrote:
    “Laws prohibiting homosexual marriages are the classic case of discrimination based on sex. Again, they prohibit men, solely because they are men, from doing what women are permitted to do: marry other men, and the proposition that such laws are based on a characteristic unique to one sex is insupportable. Neither the Singer opinion nor . . . anyone else has ever attempted to support it with anything more solid than the bare fact of its assertion.”

    Rex E. Lee, A Lawyer Looks at the Equal Rights Amendment, Brigham Young University Press at 65 (1980) (emphasis added).

    It is ironic that although Rex E. Lee served as president of Brigham Young University and Dean of the Law School, one of the very few law reviews critical of this court’s decision in Baehr is by a BYU law professor. Lynn D. Wardle, A Critical Analysis of constitutional Claims for Same-Sex Marriage, 1 B.Y.U.L. Rev. 1 (1996). Professor Wardle’s major complaint was that almost every law review, article, essay, note or comment surveyed was in agreement with this court’s holding in Baehr.

  5. Matt Evans on January 15, 2004 at 10:29 pm

    Undoubtedly Rex Lee made his point about the prohibitions on homosexual marriage being dependent upon discrimination based on sex in order TO SHOW WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR GOVERNMENT TO BE ABLE TO DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF SEX!

    He obviously thought his readers believed prohibitions against homosexual marriage were unassailable, so he could raise the threat of homosexual marriage to show the obhorrent excesses of the ERA.

    What a difference 22 years makes!

  6. Matt Evans on January 15, 2004 at 10:44 pm

    I wholeheartedly concur with Claudia’s thought that we should be engaged in important causes.

    I welcome support for Operation Give (http://www.operationgive.org), an organization I founded with an army reservist in Iraq to collect and distribute toys and necessities to the children of Iraq.

    I could also use help with Created Equal (http://www.createdequal.org), a group I founded to advocate for fetal rights. I’m especially interested in sponsoring amicus briefs to present to cases involving fetal rights that *do not* conflict with the purported rights of the mother. (i.e., the Laci and Connor Peterson case).

    If you’re a student, check out my website at http://www.smileyourmomchoselife.org, too. It has some good resources and shows how one person can change opinions. (Several of my liberal friends at Harvard Law School said they were much less willing to support abortion after my campaign. None of them converted, but getting them on the fence was a step in the right direction.)

    It’s also important that we rally support to preserve marriage from attempts to redefine it. And contra Claudia, I strongly support the constitutional amendment to preserve the definition of marriage. Depending on which of the potential versions is selected, I expect the church will throw it’s weight behind the effort, and will call on members to campaign for its passage.

  7. lyle on January 16, 2004 at 12:08 am

    Russell:

    I’m confused. Rex Lee “argued against the ERA”. Since this was the Church’s position…it seems fairly orthodox. What am I missing?

    thanks…

  8. lyle on January 16, 2004 at 12:08 am

    Russell:

    I’m confused. Rex Lee “argued against the ERA”. Since this was the Church’s position…it seems fairly orthodox. What am I missing?

    thanks…

  9. Matt Evans on January 16, 2004 at 1:28 am

    Lyle,

    From the context of Rex Lee’s quote above (the one Greg found) it’s apparent that Lee was arguing *against* the ERA. If he had been arguing in favor of the ERA, then his statement about homosexual marriage would only make sense if he opposed laws prohibiting homosexual marriage. Given the impossibility of BYU’s dean and Reagan’s SG advocating for gay marriage in 1981, it’s clear that Lee opposed the ERA.

  10. Matt Evans on January 16, 2004 at 2:03 am

    Serendipity! I was searching for somthing else, but found this article, “The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment:
    A Moral Issue” on lds.org. It’s from the March 1980 Ensign. The article also has statements by Rex Lee opposing the ERA.

    ============================

    What would be the impact of the ERA on homosexual marriages?

    In hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Paul A. Freund of Harvard Law School testified: “Indeed if the law must be as undiscriminating concerning sex as it is toward race, it would follow that laws outlawing wedlock between members of the same sex would be as invalid as laws forbidding miscegenation [interracial marriages]” (Senate Report 92-689, p. 47).

    Passage of the ERA would carry with it the risk of extending constitutional protection to immoral same-sex—lesbian and homosexual—marriages. The argument of a homosexual male, for example, would be: “If a woman can legally marry a man, then equal treatment demands that I be allowed to do the same.” Under the ERA, states could be forced to legally recognize and protect such marriages. A result would be that any children brought to such a marriage by either partner or adopted by the couple could legally be raised in a homosexual home. While it cannot be stated with certainty whether this or any other consequence will result from the vague language of the amendment, the possibility cannot be avoided.

  11. Adam Greenwood on January 16, 2004 at 8:05 am

    I love your Mormon Anti-Defamation League. It sounds like a good work, especially the way you’ve suggested it as an exercise in gentle correction rather than whiny reproof. The name also has a comic-book quality (no offense) that appeals to me.

    Ditto for the argument about the eruv. With no disrespect meant for Clark’s distaste for activism, I think a good model might be, someone with a decent amount of credentials and also personal experience writes an editorial explaining in simple terms the Mormon position, why we mean no harm by it, and comparing it to their personal experience with the eruv, ending in a rousing call for mutual forbearance. Then, when someone reads a local newspaper article on the subject (does anyone here beside me read the local papers? Not that I read them that often), one can contact the editorial board and ask them to consider a guest editorial. Newspapers frequently accept guest editorials in just this way, so this would be nothing new for them.

    As to your gay marriage proposal, looking at Matt’s comments should show that he and I are a vocal minority who hope that the Church does precisely what you say it shouldn’t (and who doubtless would have been against the ERA, back in the day), so the possibility of something like a consensus leading to action on this board is slim. Sad but true.

    I guess my own hopes for this board are more modest (I do have some wild, crazy, immodest hopes but I’ll keep them to myself). I want to learn something I might not elsewhere. That usually doesn’t happen in the long threads that attract the most energy, but it does happen.

  12. lyle on January 16, 2004 at 10:17 am

    matt: thanks for the info; great net info seeking talent!

    I also like the Mormon ADL idea.
    I never knew that the homosexuality issue was linked to the ERA. Perhaps this is a better explanation of the reason why the Church killed the ERA?

  13. Scott on January 16, 2004 at 10:30 am

    I don’t relish the MADL idea, which I think borrows from an unhealthy, un-Christian, and unsuccessful model for activism.

    I’m not sure whether the argument from eruvim works. The relationship between Jews and gentiles (and gentiles’ property) within an eruv is pretty complex. That’s one to take up with a rabbi. My hunch is that the analogy would be so strained as to lose any persuasive value (at least among orthodox Jews).

    Scott

  14. Russell Arben Fox on January 16, 2004 at 11:09 am

    Uh, oops. Let me start over…the church opposed passage of the Equal Rights Amendment…Rex Lee argued against passage of the Equal Rights Amendment…thus meaning Rex Lee and the church were in agreement…meaning my original statement was nonsense. Right. Got it. My apologies for derailing Claudia’s intelligent comments. This is what happens when you’re functioning on less than four hours of sleep a night.

  15. Renee on January 18, 2004 at 11:26 am

    I don’t know that the people here can be galvanized to any one cause. There is disagreement on fundamental issues where each one of us thinks our answer is the obvious answer. Getting this group together would be like herding cats.

    A call to action could certainly be made to each of our respective spheres – our families, our neighborhoods. Communitywise, we could effect radical chance by simply participating. There are a significant number of people, in and out of the church, who coccoon themselves. This has destroyed, and continues to destroy our communities because of 1) all we avoid, as though averting our eyes will make problems go away and 2) we do not reach out to create good.