Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage: experiences from Europe

October 29, 2013 | 136 comments
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A Dutch Mormon non-same-sex marriage: a proud father with his daughter
The involvement of the LDS church in the issue of same sex marriage in the United States runs very deep and is highly emotional. The battle for proposition 8 was intense, highly visible and centrally directed and seemed at the time to result in a repeal of the liberty for same sex partners to formally and legally marry in California. At the time it drew a lot of attention in Europe as well, reflected in major articles in journals, newspapers and magazines. One of these was Time Magazine, the European version, reporting on the massive investment the Church did in California to further the cause of proposition 8. Also church members in the Netherlands became aware of it, and some joined in. Ironically, quite a few of them thought that the Church had ordained that prop 8 should be defeated, so prayers were sent to heaven to block that evil proposition 8. It seems the Lord listened to them in the end …
During the prop 8 debates, apostle Ballard addressed a meeting of European church leaders. He asked whether representatives of the Dutch stakes were present. Two were there; one of them, hardened in Church administrative debates, immediately ducked away behind a large neighbor, but the other one happily raised his arm: ‘Present!’ He then was severely rebuked by elder Ballard, because the Netherlands were the first to legalize same sex marriages and why had he not opposed that piece of legislation? And what was he planning to do to have that law repealed? Luckily, the apostle did not give him much time for an answer, so the chastised Stake President could quietly lick his wounds. In fact, his answers would have been easy, though probably not overly appreciated. The first question, why was there no opposition, could be answered with the counter question why the church leadership never gave any directives in the issue, when it really mattered in Europe. Why only when it played in California, many years later?
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Brides need attention
Some history, as the Netherlands were the first in this global movement. The movement started in the ‘80s, which resulted in a provisional trial in the Court of Amsterdam. Their verdict in 1989 was that the law did not stipulate that marriage was uniquely meant for a man and a woman, but that clearly the legislator meant it that way. The movement continued to gather steam, and in 1994 about a 100 municipalities had opened provisional marriage registers for same sex couples. From 1998 onwards same sex couples could engage in a ‘registered partnership’, a form of ‘marriage light’ that was already available for traditional couples as well. Important as this partnership is in the Netherlands, it was not enough; the notion of equality before the law reigns supreme – as in the US – and from 1 April 2001 two men or two women could legally marry in the Netherlands, for the first time in the world.
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Dutch Mormons are as family oriented as any. The one with the sunspot is the author
Why was there no opposition from the Dutch LDS church? I was stake president when the movement took off, and it simply never occurred to us, for two reasons. First, the minute Dutch LDS contingent would make no difference, and we are used to being a political non-entity. Some Christian churches were opposing the bill, but mainly those churches we did not want to be associated with. The mainline churches did not put up much of a fight either, realizing that this was a race that had been run already. When it came to the actual bill, the Roman Catholic Church had lost all political credibility by the storm of abuse accusations against its clergy. In 2001 over 70% of Dutch population fully agreed with this new liberty; at present it is over 80%. The second reason is that about the same percentage holds for the Dutch Church members: there would never be any ground support for a Dutch church action against the bill. Maybe, if the top leadership would have pressed, some more members would have been willing to rally for this cause, but from Salt Lake there was only a deafening silence. On the whole, the Dutch members reflected the general attitude towards the issue, and most would not have been moved in the opposite direction by any leadership. At prop 8 time I wrote in a published comment on the Time Magazine article mentioned above: ‘It is misleading to ignore church members who do not agree with the action engineered by the church leadership pro proposition 8. Both in the USA and especially in Europe, many faithful LDS are in favor of same sex marriages, at least see no reason why the advantages of legal marriage should be withheld from people with a different sexual orientation.’

The answer to the second question – what are you going to do about it now? – would first repeat that the large majority of Dutch LDS have no issue with this extension of civil rights and diminishing discrimination. But, more important, at the time of Prop 8, and even more today five years later, one thing has become crystal clear: the legalization of same sex marriage has made no difference at all for the marriages in the Netherlands. The impact of the new openness on the marriages between a man and a woman has been absolutely zero. It is simply not an issue, neither in the Netherlands, nor in Belgium, where it was legalized on 13-2-2003 (at long last we beat our southern neighbors in something, if not in football). At present 2% of all contracted legal marriage are same sex, with a slight preponderance in woman-woman, which is nullified by a higher divorce ratio. So 98% of all marriages are traditional in the sense of man x woman. These figures regard civil unions, which are mandatory before any religious celebration. Religious organizations are fully free to solemnize these unions or to refuse same sex marriages in their own ranks; at no point in the discussions has there been any talk of forcing churches to adopt the same ruling. Freedom of religion is inviolate, as is the separation of church and state, as it is in the USA.
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Our own territory, not under any threat.
The main dynamics in Dutch marriages are similar to those of the USA: an increase in divorce frequency ( over 1/3 ends in divorce, less than in the USA), a later marriage date (the mean age for the first pregnancy in Netherlands is 29.3 years, higher than in the USA) and more cohabitation contracts as first phase of the marriage. These dynamics do affect marriage as such, but are completely independent of same sex option. After 2001 these trends have continued without any change. (Whether they do form a genuine threat for marriage as an institution is another matter). Taking out same sex marriage as the moral scapegoat of our generation is highly demagogic, and zooms in on latent or overt homophobia to the detriment of basic rights and liberties. When the Baptist minister Albert Mohler Jr. said at BYU on October 21, 2013: ‘The moral revolution we are now witnessing on the issue of homosexuality is without precedent in human history in terms of its scale and velocity,’ he did not fight a real enemy, but like Don Quixote mistook a windmill for a real giant. In this case it seems to be a Dutch windmill, larger than the Spanish version.
Historically such a statement as Mohler’s is nonsense, socially it is void. Sociological theory predicts that when two parties battle over an issue, that issue becomes more important, gaining in stature and symbolic value. That is what is happening with marriage as well. The issue of marriage has never been more at the front of people’s minds than it is now, and the institution of marriage benefits from it. To that extent, the Church exertion on Proposition 8 might have benefited marriage as such, whatever its eventual political (lack of) success. I understand that president Uchtdorf barred any further action such as the church endeavored in favor of proposition 8, and if so the final outcome of the Californian struggle bears him out. On June 26 2013 the Supreme Court in fact nullified the Prop 8 action, and California joined the ranks of the ‘states and nations with marriage liberty’. From the Netherlands we bid California a hearty welcome!

136 Responses to Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage: experiences from Europe

  1. Howard on October 29, 2013 at 7:53 am

    2%? All this has been about a 2% “threat”? Conservative paronia driven by homophobia.

  2. Irenaeus on October 29, 2013 at 8:45 am

    The title of the post is a red herring. I don’t consider same-sex marriage an “attack” on my or anyone else’s marriage, though supporters tend to word it that way, I suppose, to strengthen their case.

    Marriage is also not a civil right. It is not a right at all, as rights are not granted by government. The question boils down to whether it is discriminatory in way that is not rational (which is the legal test). All laws discriminate on the basis of behavior and impose one view of morality over another (it doesn’t matter that that moral position is considered “obvious”–it’s still the enforcement of a majority moral code on the rest of society).

    What laws cannot do under the 14th Amendment (U.S. Constitution) is discriminate on the basis of personhood (no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”). While I don’t have time to go into depth here, there is a rational basis for state support for heterosexual marriage as a fundamental unit of society, including its propagation into the future.

    The recent history of many European nations, Russia, and others suffering from current and future population declines that threaten social institutions and for which their respective governments are now providing tax incentives for couples that procreate is a case in point.

    Social Security & Medicare are obvious programs here in the U.S. that are solvent only under demographic conditions that keep the society “bottom heavy”; i.e., that ensure the number of workers entering the workforce is sufficient to support the (increasingly massive) social welfare programs that transfer wealth from workers to non-workers, especially the elderly. The number of workers to retirees has been steadily dropping since Social Security was first implemented, and is now projected to decline from over 100 to 1 when it started to close to 2 to 1 with current demographic trends–an unsustainable level. And this ignores the other major social programs and government functions such as national defense that depend on a workforce capable of supporting those (massive) current and, especially, future projected expenditures.

    The point is that society has a compelling interest in promoting heterosexual marriage that does not exist for homosexual marriage. Society can choose to support same-sex marriage, but it is under no obligation to do so, and if it is done under the guise of “equality” based on love between persons (without regard for the inherent differences in behavior that differentiate the legal basis for recognizing certain relationships as having specific societal relevance), it certainly can’t be limited to either two people, or two people of the same or opposite sex.

    And, just a clarification. The Supreme Court did not “in fact nullif[y] the Prop 8 action.” It claimed that those who put Proposition 8 on the ballot did not have “standing” (a legal requirement) to challenge the lower court ruling which meant the point was moot for the Supreme Court–they didn’t rule on the issue themselves, they merely let the lower court ruling stand. I’d add that it’s somewhat troubling that a democratic society which passes a state constitutional amendment (as in the California case) now has no way of appealing court decisions that nullify the will of the people as expressed in a plebiscite in accord with the means specifically provided in the California constitution as the only way in which the people can amend that document. I find it quite astounding, actually.

  3. Irenaeus on October 29, 2013 at 8:50 am

    And then, of course, there’s the “hate speech” (it’s in quotes because it’s an overused term meant to intimidate discussion without having to address the actual issue): “Conservative paronia driven by homophobia.” Argumentum ad hominem is what one uses when one is unable to argue the actual merits of a case.

  4. Mark B. on October 29, 2013 at 8:58 am

    The title of this post is also belied by the author’s admission that “Whether they do form a genuine threat for marriage as an institution is another matter.”

    In fact, it seems that one might summarize the post in a few words: The battle for marriage has long since been lost, as evidenced by high rates of divorce and of cohabitation by non-married persons. Therefore, any efforts to continue that battle on the matter of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples are futile. We just shouldn’t be too concerned about it.

    Which brings us back to that nasty little parenthetical in the author’s penultimate paragraph.

  5. John L on October 29, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Irenaeus, I don’t agree that the title is a red herring. The term didn’t come from the pro-gay-marriage activists. While you personally don’t consider gay marriage an attack on your marriage, many anti-gay-marriage activists do. See, for instance, this article by Dr. James Dobson:

    http://www.ccctucson.org/PDF/Eleven%20Arguments%20against%20Same-Sex%20Marriage.pdf

    It specifically talks about how gay marriage will “destroy the traditional family.” He also talks about how destroying marriage is “…the ultimate goal of activists.” The name of the Defense of Marriage Act speaks to that, as well.

  6. DavidH on October 29, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I don’t see same sex marriage as an attack or redefinition of marriage. I see it as an exception (for 2% of marriages) to the general rule or pattern that marriage is between opposite sex partners and where there is the possibility of biological reproduction. The general rule or pattern is not changed by admitting an exception.

  7. Jeremiah S on October 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Same-sex marriage will, at most, be extended to 10% of society. It seems that defenders of marriage would be much more effective working on the heterosexual divorce and cohabitation problem (90% of society) than on constraining the rights of a minority group.

  8. Jax on October 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Jeremiah,

    The defenders of marriage DID work against divorce and the changes for no-fault divorce that make it so common and easy today. We lost that battle as well. Not because we were wrong, but because doing the wrong thing is just so easy for so many. Same deal for SSM. For a great many people it is easier to just accept somthing wrong rather than stand up to protect something good.

    Here is a link to a story about the LGBT activist Masha Gessen who states quite unequivocally that the real goal is to destroy marriage all together, and that all the other talk saying it isn’t is a lie- that their entire approach is to lie about their real objective. So when people say that marriage is under attack, it is because an enemy has reared its head and declared that they are attacking it.

  9. IDIAT on October 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    There won’t be a meeting of the minds as long as some people believe marriage is a right as opposed to those who think it is a state sanctioned species of civil contract. Viewed as a right, you would think there would be few impediments, and therefore polygamy, incest and other alternative forms of coupling would be acceptable. Viewed as a privileged contract, one can understand why the government has placed constraints upon the desires of otherwise consenting adults.

  10. Lorian on October 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Irenaeus states that the dependency of social structure upon citizens being encouraged to bear children is, if anything, an argument which would speak in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples, since laws which protect same-sex couples and their families, make it easier and safer for same-sex couples to create families of their own, whether by giving birth to children through the same fertility treatments and options open to opposite-sex couples, or by adopting and raising the unwanted children of heterosexuals in loving, same-sex-parented homes.

    To me, that’s a win for society. A home where the parents are allowed to be civilly married is likely to be far more stable. Legal and social mechanisms put in place to protect and support the stability of opposite-sex marriages work equally well in stabilizing and supporting the marriages of same-sex couples. Homosexual persons experience the same biological imperatives to have and raise children as do heterosexual persons, and legal recognition of and protection for their relationships makes it safer and easier to fulfill this biological imperative.

    That said, with homosexually-oriented people making up, as a compromise number between high and low estimates, perhaps 5% of the population, it will not make a massive difference in birth rates in this country whether we procreate or not. Still, many of us, such as my wife and myself, are doing our share (we’ve replaced ourselves in the population of the next generation, having brought two children into the world).

    And on the other side of the coin, denying marriage equality to same-sex couples does nothing to increase the birth rate, since most homosexually-oriented people today do not enter into misguided “mixed-orientation marriages,” nor are they encouraged to do so by responsible religious leaders or psychological counselors. The idea that denying marriage equality to same-sex couples will do anything to increase the birth rate is simply a huge red herring.

  11. Lorian on October 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Sorry, forgot to subscribe to the thread.

  12. Jeremiah S on October 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Jax,

    I don’t for one minute believe that the fight to strengthen marriages and families is lost. There is plenty we can do to help couples resolve their problems so that they can stay together, to reduce child and spousal abuse, and to make sure that all children have a good home.

    Masha Gessen is an extremist. There are plenty of gays and lesbians who genuinely want marriage for the same reasons that heterosexuals do. It is misleading to argue that all LGBT folks are in some secret club that has a unified, nefarious objective to destroy society.

  13. Jax on October 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Jeremiah,

    I hope the fight isn’t lost; and I’m grieved it is being fought on a political landscape. We should be able to govern our own lives sufficiently to not need the gov’t to regulate divorce/etc. Rather than making divorce hard, we should be helping people make marriage easier. Rather than make divorce illegal, we should be making it obsolete by destroying the desire to set a spouse aside. It’d be great if we could stop people from wanting to perform all immoral acts. But since we can’t force people to want to do the correct and moral things, we have (had) rules to contrain their behavior. Unfortunately we have lost the political battle over the rules around sexuality/divorce/abortion/etc. Maybe we can win it in the hearts of many individuals, but I’m afraid we’ll never correct the mistakes we’ve made in these areas.

    And it is not misleading to say that there is a secret club that has a nefarious objective… the people in the secret club have stated that it exists! It would be misleading to say that “all LGBT folks” are involved, but that basically means that those not involved directly with the secret group are blindly carrying their goals forward. They may have different hopes for the results, but that doesn’t change the destructive nature of their activities.

  14. Walter van Beek on October 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Dear commentators
    Of course I expected varied reactions, so I am quite pleased. Some issues have been cleared up, like the exact ruling of the Supreme court. I do not think my title is a red herring, for both inside the LDS church and other Christian denominations, including Roman Catholic, same sex marriage has been singled out for a focused attack. Read elder Oaks’ last conference talk. My point is simple: experiences from Europe, i.c. the Netherlands, show that allotting legal status to same-sex marriage does not pose a threat to the traditional marriage. Indeed, the impact of divorce is much larger, and possibly also of cohabitation, but the latter is debatable (in another blog). The Church in 2008 set out the legalisation of same sex marriage as the enemy, and paid quite heavily for it in public relations fall out. My point is that it is a scarecrow (if that is the word) and that it is wise not to do this again. We should not dilute our energy attacking marginal issues, but central ones. Hence the windmills.
    Marriage is not a right, it is a kind of union present and recognized in all cultures and societies, for the procreation and legitimation of children. But the legal registration and official recognition of marriage is a right, as that entails a lot of rights and duties that are self evident in a nation ruled by law. And that is what the battle is about.
    Walter van Beek

  15. Ken on October 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Fabulous! Anybody with a contrary opinion is a bigot! Thank you, Brother Walter.

  16. IDIAT on October 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Interesting nuance on the “right” to marry. I don’t agree that forming a union and then demanding recognition of it is a right protected by our laws. Otherwise all unions–even polygamous unions and incestuous unions, could equally demand recognition. I do think we’re fighting a losing battle and that our time and energy might be better spent elsewhere. But until my leaders ask me to spend it elsewhere I’ll follow their lead.

  17. Marcia on October 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    The dangers of Amsterdam are well known. The drug and sex trade is rampant making the city difficult to enjoy safely. We are warned that Europe is in moral decline and their cultures are at risk. Birthrates and church attendance continues to wane except among Middle Eastern immigrants. I wonder if the “Free Thinking” Europeans will regret turning away from their christian roots when perhaps within a few generations they find themselves bound to Islamic law by force and violence.

    There are simple messages we must share as Latter-Day-Saints. Homosexual behavior is a sin. Through Christ there is redemption. We love all people no matter what their transgressions may be.
    I am proud of my own work with Prop. 8. Religious liberty and free speech are now threatened by the hammer of the LGBT lobby. It gave me the opportunity to share Jesus’ law of marriage with my community. Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    You may be on the “losing” side but the outcomes such as saving souls is worth the fight! Though we lose the battle in the end the Lord wins!

  18. Frank Pellett on October 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    WaltervanBeek:”allotting legal status to same-sex marriage does not pose a threat to the traditional marriage. Indeed, the impact of divorce is much larger, and possibly also of cohabitation, but the latter is debatable (in another blog).”

    This seems to be saying that same-sex marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, just not as big as divorce and cohabitation, so we shouldn’t worry about it but instead should be concentrating on these other things. It’s like complaints that petty thieves are being persecuted when there are murderers about.

    All of the threats to marriage are, and should be, worked against. SSM is just the fight with the most attention right now. Some may see it as a “lost cause”, but that doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. It is not a scarecrow, or distraction, from the “real” work that needs to be done. It’s all important.

  19. Bryan in VA on October 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Alexander Pope is apropos here…

    Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
    As to be hated needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

  20. Manuel V on October 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    The title is not a red-herring.

    The spokespeople of the Church used the term “violence,” as “it does violence to marriage,” to describe effects of same sex marriages. It is a cowardly used term, but the Church did use it.

  21. daniel parkinson on October 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Walter, Could we re-publish this essay at NoMoreStrangers.org? We often re-publish pieces like this from the Mormon blogoshere, as it reaches a different audience and it is also available in the future as a resource. It would include a link to the original post. Let me know at danielparkinson@yahoo.com

  22. Steve Smith on October 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the info on the Netherlands, Walter. That was very interesting. I thought it was funny how some LDS members in the Netherlands thought that the church was against Prop 8. But alas, the title of this article is not a red herring. It accurately describes the content; the legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands had virtually no social or political impact. It didn’t deny any individual or organization their rights, and if anything it ended up protecting more civil rights.

  23. European Saint on October 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm
  24. Steve Smith on October 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    “The dangers of Amsterdam are well known. The drug and sex trade is rampant making the city difficult to enjoy safely.”

    I’m sorry, but that comment just made me laugh. Have you been to Amsterdam Marcia? The crime rate is quite low there. In fact, the Netherlands has recently started closing prisons due to the lack of prisoners: http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/article2246821.ece/Netherlands_to_close_prisons_for_lack_of_criminals.

    You might be surprised to know that the drug and sex trade is much higher in US cities than in Amsterdam. Plus the Netherlands is only 5.5% Muslim, many of whom are quite assimilated to Dutch culture and language and the vast majority of whom are staunchly against radical Islam. So your fears about an Islamic Europe are unfounded.

  25. Diederik Linders on October 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for this article Br. van Beek. I love listening to your talks and now it was a pleasure to an article. I like the way you place the emphasize on matter that really matter. Whether the laws of the land accept Same Sex Marriage (SSM) doesn’t influence whether the Lord does. We know the Lord’s stance on marriage and we should be helping those marriages to be succesful. All the money the church put into battling SSM could have be been much better spend on programs to help strengthening temple marriages.

    Marcia put it very well, even though she didn’t mean it in the sense I will. The whole work of the church is indeed into saving souls. Do we do it by trying to battle SSM? I think not. And I am happy to see that the Brethren are starting to see that too. I’m happy they are redirecting time, energy and money from battling SSM to loving and accepting our gay brothers and sisters. Battling SSM as a legal right is not going to save any souls. I have two uncles that have been together for over 30 years, about two years ago they got married. Did that legal marriage change anything for them? No, nothing. They went about doing the exact same things as before their marriage. If people with same sex attraction want to be together, they will be together whatever the law says. Married or unmarried, it doesn’t matter. We are not going to save them by keeping them from marrying.

    Yes, we should be focussing on saving souls? I suggest we do that to look out for people that need help, that have questions or doubt. That don’t know how to strengthen or save their marriage.

    In closing I’d like to adress one more thing as a reaction to the thing Marcia said about Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a safer city than most American cities, those are simple facts. Don’t believe everything Fox News says.

  26. Ben on October 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    You assume gay marriage is equivalent to heterosexual marriage. This gay author disagrees.
    http://gawker.com/master-bedroom-extra-closet-the-truth-about-gay-marri-514348538

    If he’s right, then it represents a cultural wedge that would formalize a separation of marriage from sexual fidelity to one’s spouse. (Sure, heterosexuals started it, but at least there’s still enough cultural weight against it that it’s shameful.)

    A disappointingly dismissive post.

  27. European Saint on October 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Elder Ballard, Elder Oaks, Albert Mohler Jr. — all guilty of constructing a straw man, fear mongering, etc., in your view. But you have less to lose, Walter van Beek, as you do not appear to believe in the importance of the traditional family in the first place. If you did, I sincerely believe you would be concerned right now (but you don’t feel the wind if you are simply letting it push you where it will).

  28. Clyde on October 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I am so glad to have European intellectuals set us straight when the Brethren go off track. I sat in a meeting with Elder Ballard where he made it quite clear that the support of Proposition 8 was under the direction of the Lord. I think I’ll stick with the Brethren.

  29. Wilfried on October 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for the post, Walter. Indeed, the Dutch beat the Belgians by one year.

    Not all European countries followed the same rhythm in approving SSM. For the Netherlands and Belgium it came early and the process went fast, because the legislators viewed it primarily from a judicial standpoint: there was no legal ground to refuse it on the basis of equality – gender is a discriminatory factor. The Belgian Catholic church let its MP’s vote according to their own conscience. France, though known as a liberal country, had a much harder time with it, because the debate started much earlier as a demand from the socialist party and the right wing fought against it out of principle and for political recuperation. SSM was approved only this year in France, as well as in the U.K. Spain also faced a conservative opposition, massively supported by the Catholic church, but they lost (SSM approved in 2005). Portugal followed in 2010. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark approved SSM between 2009 and 2012, but in Finland the debate continues. Germany recognizes civil unions, but the pressure is on for full marriage (some churches, provocatively, do marry gays and lesbians to heighten the pressure on the state). Italy protects LGBT-couples rights, but the struggle goes on for full marriage equality. East European countries are less inclined to approve SSM and in Russia LGBT are being persecuted. And if we move to Islamic and some African nations like Uganda…

    Main point is what Walter indicates: once approved, SSM, which pertains to a tiny minority, becomes a non-issue. Life just goes on. Or, perhaps, the concept and privilege of marriage is being valued more than before.

  30. Lorian on October 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Ben, how funny that *you* appear to assume that whoever wrote that Gawker article speaks for “all gay people,” or even for a significant sample.

    I suppose that I can assume that Hugh Hefner represents you and your marriage? Or that articles I read in Cosmopolitan Magazine represent your wife’s view of marriage and sexuality?

    Please don’t presume to paint gay people or our relationships with a broad brush. We are as individual as you, and our relationships are as moral, as committed and as principled as heterosexual marriages — which is to say that it runs the gamut. Just as there are heterosexuals who believe in “open relationships” — sleeping around, polyamory, cheating on spouses — so, I’m sure, there are same-sex relationships which represent that sort of behavior. But there are many, many of us in committed, lasting, loving relationships lasting a lifetime.

    If you don’t want to be judged by anyone else’s behavior than your own, then don’t judge me by some article you read in someone else’s blog, ‘kay?

  31. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I understand that president Uchtdorf barred any further action such as the church endeavored in favor of proposition 8 [...]

    Walter, where did you hear this?

    i’ve yet to see any explaination for why the Church chose not to offer any organized resistance in states such as WA and HI where there are large Mormon populations. does it really come down to the transition from Hinckley to Monson?

  32. European Saint on October 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    “I understand that president Uchtdorf barred any further action such as the church endeavored in favor of proposition 8 [...]”

    As Aerosmith once sang, “Dream On.” Whatever fits your narrative, right? I am sure President Uchtdorf would not appreciate having (erroneous) ideas/words attributed to him. Go back and listen to this past General Conference, or the one before that, or the one before that (etc.). The Brethren have differing views in many areas, I am sure; I would submit that the importance of the traditional family — for us as members and for the societies in which we live — is not one of them.

  33. Caffeine Drinker on October 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I support separation of church and state.

  34. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    @ Frank Pellett #18

    All of the threats to marriage are, and should be, worked against. SSM is just the fight with the most attention right now. Some may see it as a “lost cause”, but that doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. It is not a scarecrow, or distraction, from the “real” work that needs to be done. It’s all important.

    Frank, how do you feel about the way the Church is currently fighting this cause in Hawaii? i.e. no organized effort, no public allocation of resources, etc.

  35. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    @ Clyde #28

    I am so glad to have European intellectuals set us straight [...]

    and i’m sure Elder Uchtdorf is glad to do it.

  36. Ned Quimby on October 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    “I understand that president Uchtdorf barred any further action such as the church endeavored in favor of proposition 8 [...]”

    I, too, am interested in the provenance of this morsel.

  37. Steve Smith on October 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    “But you have less to lose, Walter van Beek, as you do not appear to believe in the importance of the traditional family in the first place”

    On what basis are you claiming that Walter is against “traditional marriage,” European Saint? If anything, Walter seems to be differentiating between “gay marriage” and “traditional marriage.”

  38. jennifer Reuben on October 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Yes the country we call Holland has a lower crime rate but that is like concerning apples and pears. The lists of acts considered crimes is so different from the USA. Oh, and yes, I have been there and as more than a tourist.

  39. European Saint on October 29, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Walter van Beek, Steve Smith, and so many others within the faith promote “gay marriage” as a good for society (this OP says it is “not an attack” — but hidden scarcely beneath the surface is the idea that it is a good). By so doing, you promote radically altering the “traditional” definition of marriage. And by so doing, you (knowingly or not): (1) promote the idea that “gender is irrelevant to everything except adults’ sexual and romantic desires” (Maggie Gallagher); (2) contribute to a society where Christians are increasingly seen as bigots; (3) elevate the notions of individualism, self-expression and near-limitless freedom far beyond the need to look after children’s (or society’s) interests; (4) promote the idea that “mothers and fathers aren’t important to their children’s well-being” (Gallagher); and (5) lend further fuel to the secular fire that now burns in our various countries (Caffeine Drinker “[supports] separation of church and state”… but to what degree? Some ideology always wins out as the “rational” one that society puts forward, and the fact that in public debates we are increasingly dismissing so-called moral/religious arguments from the outset because they are “tainted” by religion is merely proof of our embracing some degree of scientism and moral relativism, if not atheism or something worse). But I am sure you will disagree, Steve.

  40. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 29, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Here in the US, the legalization of same sex marriage has fueled actions by government agencies to punish people who decline to be involved in same sex weddings. The State of Washington has penalized a florist in my hometown for declining to do special arrangements for a gay wedding, and the State of Arizona has punished a photographer for declining to be the official photographer for a same sex “commitment ceremony” in a state that does not even rexognize same sex marriage. Declinging to make a same sex wedding cake has resulted ina bakery being driven out of business. Military chaplains who decline to support same sex marriage are being punished, as well as soldiers who voice their opposition to it. Maybe this is just a nasty kind of homosexual movement that we have in the US, including people who defaced LDS Churches in California after they were defeated in the Proposition 8 election.

    The majority on the US Supreme Court who ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (which had been signed by President Clinton and supported by 80% of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in both major parties) proclaimed that the law was invalid, not because it violated any clear part of the Constitution, but because it was “motivated by hatred toward homosexuals” (a feat of long distance mass mindreading across time that is literally mindboggling in revealing the megalomania of some of the Justices, who now believe they are omniscient). That kind of ludicrous and mendacious reasoning is destroying all respect for the Supreme Court as an institution, along with its second failure to uphold democracy, in the Proposition 8 vote, using a technicality to nullify the “voice of the people”, along with every other popular initiative enacted by referendum in the future.

    It is absolutely clear now that the LDS Church opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment was prophetic. If the ERA had been enacted, it would be cited as explicit justification for saying there is no legally cognizable difference between men and women, so that if a man can marry a woman, a man can marry a man. I believe it is clear that just that result was a goal of homosexuals who supported the ERA.

    As we move further into the future, the prophetic nature of the Book of Mormon becomes more clear, including its warning about the corruption of government and judges, and the fact that it can lead to the dissolution of society.

    In California, some very serious people have proposed that anyone who cannot wholeheartedly support same sex marriage must be banned from becoming a state judge. It is just a couple of steps past that to bans on holding any public office, or any public employment, or serving on juries, for anyone who refuses to swear allegiance to the supreme deity of same sex marriage.

    In the US, same sex marriage is being used as a club to destroy religious freedom and freedom of association and simple democracy.

  41. skeptical on October 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    “I understand that President Uchtdorf barred any further action such as the church endeavored in favor of proposition 8, and if so the final outcome of the Californian struggle bears him out.”

    [Citation needed.]

  42. Steve Smith on October 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    European Saint, it isn’t that I disagree, it is that you aren’t making much sense. Really not sure what you mean by 1. 2) Millions and millions of Christians support gay marriage, so no they aren’t all bigots. 3) I believe in the protections of certain individual rights as well as children’s. I don’t understand how legalizing gay marriage affects children’s rights. Please explain. 4) Loving and kind parents are extremely important to a child’s well-being. Once again, not sure how legalized gay marriage affects that. 5) Basically all of the religious freedoms that you enjoy now, you would appear to enjoy after the legalization of gay marriage, as evidenced by the case of gay marriage in the Netherlands.

    I think you need to calm down a bit, think things out rationally, and provide some evidence to back your claims. You seem to be a bit angry over the fact that Walter isn’t frothing at the mouth about legalized gay marriage.

  43. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    European Saint, if you and yours don’t want to be “increasingly seen as bigots”, then there is an easy solution: don’t act like bigots.

  44. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    @ Raymond Takashi Swenson #40

    Here in the US, the legalization of same sex marriage has fueled actions by government agencies to punish people who decline to be involved in same sex weddings. The State of Washington has penalized a florist in my hometown for declining to do special arrangements for a gay wedding [...]

    as with literally-every-single-other-alleged-example of gay marriage limiting religious liberty, that’s false.

    AP 6/28/2013:
    “The Washington state attorney general’s office sued the shop owner, Baronelle Stutzman, saying she violated consumer protection law by refusing service in March to longtime customers Freed and Robert Ingersoll.”

    that law would be Title 49.60.030 (Freedom from discrimination), not the marriage statute. and thanks to Scalia’s wise majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, people in the US cannot use their religious faith as an excuse to flout state law.

  45. palerobber on October 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    …adding, for clarity, the protected class in Washington’s anti-discrimination law is sexual orientation, not marital status. so the florist would have been equally in violation of state law before the passage of marriage equality in WA.

  46. stephenchardy on October 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Raymond Takashi Swenson:

    No matter what my beliefs are about the morality of SSM, it isn’t clear to me what the basis is for forcing that view onto others. One person’s religious freedom can become another person’s discrimination. Brigham Young had very strong views about inter-racial marriage. So, let’s replace our discussions about SSM with our views about inter-racial marriage. Do you believe that those people who view inter-racial marriage as being against God’s natural order should be able to bar mixed race couples from their private places of business? From hotels and restaurants? From photography services and bakeries? From purchasing homes in expensive neighborhoods? I think that we have found that if such owners were not forced to open their services to all, then it could lead, in some communities, to mixed-race couples being unable to live a normal life. Is that what you wish for SSM couples? Do you think that we should allow them to be banished from living as normal citizens?

    As a physician, I treat people every day who have different values than me; who have made decisions that I find hard to understand. But I honor their choices, even when I don’t copy them. We all have to accept that SS couples are going to be living around us. We have to understand that allowing someone to purchase a product from us does not make us responsible for how that product is used.

    We live our lives across the tension of opposing rights and values. I would wish to have you, and others like you, at least understand that the decision to deny SS couples basic access to services (in the name of religious freedom) is discriminatory. It gives religion a bad name. I assume that you “support” people around you by interacting with them and respecting them, even when they do things that you would never yourself do.

  47. David Saunders on October 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Clyde says support of Proposition 8 was “under the direction of The Lord”. Were some new tablets dug up in California? Tax exempt churches orchestrating political campaigns is what caused the LDS such criticism.

  48. Steve Martin on October 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Same sex marriage is an affront to God and it is damaging to society, apart from how God views it. That which you support, you will have more of. The ideal for kids and for society is one man, one woman marriage.

    Look at the side effects that are already taking place. Too many to list here. Just one example is in California where a new law allows children to use either bathroom, depending on what gender they ‘feel like’ that day.

    And what is to stop two men and three women from all getting married (a fivesome)?

    If “love” is all that matters. There is no logical reason to stop such harmful practices.

  49. Geoff - A on October 30, 2013 at 1:27 am

    As a person who lives outside the US, and where over 80% of people under 40 have no problem with gay marriage, the problem I see with conservative US culture being seen as part of the church, is that, we then reduce the pool of potential converts from those who would accept the Gospel, to those who would not only accept the Gospel but also the culture that comes with it.

    There is no revelation opposing gay marriage. It is purely culture and in 10 years time will be like the opposition to inter racial marriage of 30 years ago. Gone/unimportant.

    So why do we drive people away from the Gospel with culture that is temporary and changeable?

    Thankyou Walter for showing us what it will look like when the culture is gone.

  50. Derek on October 30, 2013 at 5:03 am

    Being a gay Mormon who is now married to my same-sex partner and having served a full and honorable mission in the Netherlands I am so glad to have been directed to this article. I tell my very Mormon family who all live in the bubble of Mormonism in America this all of the time. To be honest I now live back in Europe because of this very issue. I don’t understand why Americans don’t get that the two can live together perfectly. As a gay Mormon you will never find me banging down the doors of the temple to get married there. I will however always be glad that I could get the legal rights. Gays don’t necessarily want a religious wedding if that religion doesn’t want to grant it to them. We just want to be recognized as a married couple is all.

  51. Rameumptom on October 30, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I think the OP’s comment is a red herring, in that it focuses only on one component of marriage’s affect on society. Not mentioned is that the decline of marriage and the importance of family in Europe has decimated populations there. They now struggle with immigration, mainly Muslims (and many of them radical), who have disrupted economies in France, Netherlands, and elsewhere with riots and violence. The loss of traditional family in Europe means that in 50 years, Europe will mainly be a Muslim continent, no longer the Christian society it once was.
    That they seem to not recognize (or refuse to recognize) their dilemma and think that LGBT unions will somehow provide them with a long term survival plan, is worse than thinking Obamacare will provide everyone with cheaper and better medical care here in the USA.

    In 1492, Spain finally succeeded in thrusting Islam out of Western Europe. Now, it seems, the continent will finally succumb to Islam because they did not keep traditional marriage alive.

  52. Walter van Beek on October 30, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Dear commentators
    Hard to react on all comments, just a few. I was touched by Derek’s remarks, and I do hope I can contribute something to make life better for our homosexual brothers and sisters. It is not my orientation, but neither my heterosexual orientation nor their homosexual one has been a choice. Also the remark that there never has been a revelation on homosexuality is important. As for my ‘correcting the Brethren’, inspiration comes from above but also from below, a fact already recognized by Joseph Smith. I consider myself definitely as ‘below’, and thus feel free to inform the leaders of the situation on the ground. As a leader one is always confronted with the tendency of people to pass on the good news only, and shield the ‘One Up There’ from awkward information. One apostle visiting our stake once told me that it was quite difficult for them to know what actually was happening at the grass roots. And what is actually happening with SSM in Europe is preciously little, that is an observation that needs to be communicated. I like the comment ‘one person’s religious freedom can become another person’s discrimination’, that cuts to the heart of wanting our particular norms encased in general law. If, as some commentators think, SSM is damaging to society, the damage is very hard to spot.
    Walter

  53. IDIAT on October 30, 2013 at 9:42 am

    There’s never been a revelation on homosexuality? Are you talking about a voice from heaven, or something added to the standard works? Section 21.4.10 from Handbook 2 seems pretty clear that prophets, seers and revelators have declared sexual relations between two people of the same gender to be sinful. Your reasoning would have us all doing illegal drugs since they aren’t expressly mentioned in D&C 89, and therefore it’s not “revealed” as being against the WOW. Give me a break. I’m okay with arguing over whether our moral beliefs should spill over into the public sphere. But don’t try to say there’s been no revelation on homosexuality. That is just plain wrong.

  54. Trevor on October 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

    It’s always interesting to hear from LDS perspectives outside the U.S., in particular when Mormons here are often unable to disentangle their religious views from their politics.

  55. Steve Smith on October 30, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Rameumptom (51), I must correct your misconceptions about Western Europe. If anything, immigrants, Muslim or not, help provide cheap labor thereby benefiting the economies of Western Europe. Whatever economic crises Europe has faced haven’t been a result of immigration. While there have been some uprisings of the poor class immigrants in France, they have been very few and well managed. Muslims actually constitute a very small population of Europe. The country where they are most highly concentrated is France at 7%. The vast majority of them are staunch opponents of radical Islam.

    Lastly, celebrating a Crusade-inspired, violent ethnic cleansing such as the reconquista of Spain is very unbecoming. Do you think other ethnic cleansings have been good as well? Was it Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing of Albanians from Kosovo a good policy to make Serbia more Serbian? Was Bulgaria’s ethnic cleansing of Turks a good policy in order to make Bulgaria more Bulgarian? Watch your words.

  56. Howard on October 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Every word from prophets, seers and revelators is not revelation and when one considers SWK’s description of the process it becomes clear that very little is. Opinion is not revelation. Inspiration is not revelation because it is far more man than God. Revelation is revelation and since Joseph there has been very little of it.

  57. Sarah Familia on October 30, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Another timely reminder of how heavily the local cultural/political climate plays into religious beliefs. Thanks for the perspective, Walter.

    I was particularly intrigued by this sentence: “Some Christian churches were opposing the bill, but mainly those churches we did not want to be associated with.”

    Here in the United States, the majority of Mormons tend to identify politically with the social conservatives of the religious right. Is this not true in the Netherlands (or Belgium, if you want to chime in too, Wilfried)? Who are the “churches [you] did not want to be associated with”? And how do they compare to the Christian churches in the U.S. that are the base of the religious right? Are Mormons in the Benelux as politically monolithic as in the United States? If so, with which political group do they tend to align?

  58. Wilfried on October 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Sarah Familia (57), the Mormon membership in Europe is very diverse, both politically and ethnically (2/3 of present converts come now from outside Europe). Research in Belgium and France shows that members represent the full spectrum of parties, from far left to far right, with a majority in the middle (which for Americans would be viewed as Democrats). In Belgium many of the early converts came from a more socialist background, as these were the most alienated from Catholicism and thus more open to adopt a new religion. It also may explain why many members have so little problems with SSM as they had already rejected the tenets of a religious right.

  59. Peter LLC on October 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Not mentioned is that the decline of marriage and the importance of family in Europe has decimated populations there.

    I don’t think the data support such a strong claim.

    At least the demographics of the country I call home don’t reflect a decline in marriage and the importance of families but a decrease of large families and an increase in families that deviate from what I presume is your nuclear standard.

    For example, between 1961 and 2001, the number of “families” has actually increased. This includes an increase in the number of families without children, of course, but also in the number of families with one child and two children; families with three children are about the same. Families with four or more children have declined significantly, however.

    Of these families, the number based around married couples remains basically constant, which means that we are seeing more non-married couples living in the same household as well as single parent families. We can debate whether this is a good, bad or indifferent development, but what the numbers clearly do not show is a decline in the importance of family.

    During the same period, the fertility rate has about halved, but in the last ten years it has been on an upward trend and is projected to stay that way through 2030. Also, the current birth rate it where it was during the 1930s. In fact, it was the first 3 decades of the 20th centuries that saw the most dramatic decline in the birthrate.

    This suggests to me that the factors responsible for “decimating families” were not moral decay and support for gay marriage but the rise in industrialization, wage labor, public social security and the decline of the role of the Catholic church as the gateway to fertility. In the 21st century, emancipation no doubt plays a role in keeping fertility rates low, as do labor market structures and policies that make it difficult to reconcile work and family life.

    Obviously this is an incomplete picture, but I think the outlines are clear enough: family remains the norm and core of society.

  60. Blake on October 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    It seems to me that this post misses the essential difference between the United States and much of Europe. The US has never had a State religion. Here is why this difference is essential: marriage is essentially a religious act. The Civil Government has authority only to perform civil ceremonies; not marriages which are essentially religious in nature.

    I do not want my government involved in recognizing and promoting any religious ceremonies. I regard the pretense to perform marriages by the civil government to be a violation of the Separation of Church and State. The LDS Church has long been accepting of gay union, or civil unions, but it does not accept gay marriage.

    That is why the essential distinction is trampled when we speak of Europe where State religions have historically abounded. The distinction between Church and State has been to the detriment of religion — and one of the reasons why Europe is in secular, post-Christian stage.

    So here is the damage to marriage by recognizing gay marriage — it places on par what is essentially a religious act with a civil ceremony that has no meaning other than giving legal access to what could be accomplished by a civil contract and is on par with common law marriage where no ceremony is ever performed. A marriage is much more than that.

    So here is the bottom line: get the State out of the marriage business. Have the perform only civil unions and then the Church would and does already fully support such unions. Let’s not call a marriage what is merely a civil act and can never be anything more because civil government can only do civil ceremonies.

    The damage done to marriage by gay marriage is the same as the damage done to marriage by the State pretending to do marriages that are not and can never be marriages.

  61. palerobber on October 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    @Blake

    So here is the damage to marriage by recognizing gay marriage — it places on par what is essentially a religious act with a civil ceremony that has no meaning other than giving legal access to what could be accomplished by a civil contract [...]

    so your entire argument rests on the (obviously) false premise that gay people are somehow incapable of being religious believers, and getting married by clergy in “what is essentially a religious act”.

    how odd.

  62. Caffeine Drinker on October 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    “In 1492, Spain finally succeeded in thrusting Islam out of Western Europe. Now, it seems, the continent will finally succumb to Islam because they did not keep traditional marriage alive.”

    Racist, asinine.

  63. Wilfried on October 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Blake (60), with all due respect, but countries in “much of Europe” do not have a State religion. I understand your reasoning as viewed from the U.S., since in the U.S. a recognized church minister has the legal authority to marry two persons. It reinforces the idea that marriage belongs to the religious realm and that churches have the authority to decide who can marry.

    However, nearly all countries belonging to the Christian realm, which includes Europe, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australasia, and Oceania, recognize only civil marriage as legally valid and this has been so in most of these countries since the 19th century. Same in a number of Asian countries, such as Japan. Civil marriage must precede any religious wedding, which is only an optional ceremony to solemnize the event, not a legal marriage.

    This system guarantees uniform administrative registration and avoids interfaith issues (and the civil marriage event can be quite ceremonial and festive too). Only in a few countries, a religious representative who has received the authority of a civil servant, can combine the civil marriage with the religious part.

    So, semantic discussion aside, your argument can also be turned around: marriage belongs only to the civil realm, and the couple can next ask their church to complement it with a religious ceremony. I would not be suprised if the Church would move into that direction in the U.S. (civil authority marries, church “seals”), because that is the way it has to be done in the vast majority of the countries where we have members. It would also solve the painful problem of non-members or members without a temple recommend who are excluded of attending the marriage.

  64. Steve Smith on October 30, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    palerobber, Blake basically just came out in favor of gay marriage in his last comment. He said that gay couples and straight couples desiring to enter into a lasting union should be given equal status before the law. Colloquially these civil unions would likely be referred to as marriage, even though they wouldn’t technically be regarded as such by the state. Since we are free to establish and belong to whatever religion we please here in the US, gay couples desiring to be married in a religious service already have plenty to choose from, such as the Episcopalian Church.

  65. Steve Smith on October 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Blake, perhaps consider rephrasing “the LDS Church has long been accepting of gay union, or civil unions.” The LDS church fought against legalizing civil unions for gay couples in Hawaii in the 1990s. It has only been very very recently that the church has decided to not fight against the legalization of civil unions for gay couples. And saying that the LDS church “accepts” these civil unions is a gross exaggeration. It has merely adopted of a position of taking no action against them. The LDS church is very far from condoning gay relationships. Gays who have a boyfriend or girlfriend of the same gender in the LDS church face likely discipline by local leaderships.

  66. Jax on October 30, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    The LDS church is very far from condoning gay relationships.

    And I think the vast majority of the church supports them in that! Thank Heaven!!!

  67. Blake on October 31, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Wilfried: “Civil marriage” is precisely the oxymoron that I was addressing. There is no such thing. Marriage began and remains a religious ceremony and was only hijacked later by governments and then divorced from its meaning. It is this divorce that is the harm. What church do is related to the sacrament of marriage — it began that way and the fact that governments around the world have hijacked it and called it marriage does not make it so any more than the fact that governments say that the cost it is imposing a it is a penalty and not a tax.

    And yes, from my UScentric point of view, having civil governments doing marriages rather than just civil ceremonies smacks of a government purporting to engage in religious ceremonies.

    Steve Smith: You are partly correct that the Church originally opposed civil unions; but has expressly stated that it does not oppose civil unions: “the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.” http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090307123712AAqK3Uw Indeed, the Church has supported non-discrimination measures against gays in SLC.

    The Church’s view that homosexual intercourse and sex is sinful is well-established. But it does not oppose civil unions as such.

  68. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 1:00 am

    @Blake – Wilfried is actually correct that marriage was a social/civil institution long before it was a religious one. It did not become a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church (which was the dominant Christian church throughout most of Europe and much of the rest of the world) until the Council of Trent, roughly corresponding to the Protestant Reformation. Prior to that time, the church granted annulments of marriage, oversaw or forbid the divorce of civil marriages, and sometimes took a role in helping to arrange or approve marriages of important members of the aristocracy, with a view to controlling the alignments of various governments and assuring that lands and inheritances were arranged and allied in a manner which best suited the Roman Catholic Church’s political goals.

    Marriages of commoners before this time were most usually a matter of social arrangement and interest. They involved alignments between local families, and the exchange of animals, goods or property, but not necessarily any blessing by any religious authority. In fact, during certain periods of time, a couple could not be legally married (notice the term, “legally”? Implying, “under the law,” meaning civil government) until the woman had demonstrated that she was fertile by becoming pregnant.

    The church (your church, my church, the Roman Catholic Church, ANY church) does not have claim on the institution of *civil* marriage (which is separate and distinct from the institution of the religious blessing of marriage, though many in this country, like yourself, are understandably confused because of the fact that our nation’s government allows religious clergy to be licensed by the state to formalize civil marriages in the context of a religious blessing of marriage for the sake of convenience for couples who wish to engage in both institutions within the same ceremony.

    I agree with Steve that it would be far better and less confusing to do away with the licensing of ministers, priests, and other religious leaders to solemnize civil marriages and simply hold two separate ceremonies (for those who wish to have a religious blessing, ordinance or sacrament of marriage). But there is no grounds for reserving the word, “marriage,” for the exclusive use of religious institutions. It was not coined by churches and was never owned by churches.

  69. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Blake #67 –

    Wilfried: “Civil marriage” is precisely the oxymoron that I was addressing. There is no such thing. Marriage began and remains a religious ceremony and was only hijacked later by governments and then divorced from its meaning.

    Blake, you are extremely misinformed. You need to do some solid historical research before you continue this line of argument.

  70. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Blake said:

    The Church’s view that homosexual intercourse and sex is sinful is well-established. But it does not oppose civil unions as such.

    Then why has nearly every state law and state constitutional amendment the church has supported included not only a ban on marriage between persons of the same sex, but also civil unions?

    In Utah, for instance, the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality which was passed in 2004 with the full cooperation and approval of the LDS Church also states: “no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect.”

    That doesn’t sound to me like the church supports civil unions. I’ve seen zero evidence that it does and a great deal that it does not.

  71. IDIAT on October 31, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Lorian #69 – remind me again what civil authority existed when Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden? Or, for that matter, in countless other times when no kind of civil government existed? We can use secular sources to point to the Code of Hammurabi, to customs and practices of people as they formed tribes and communities. But according to our beliefs, marriage began in a religious setting irrespective of a consideration of obligations towards children and property rights.

  72. Bryan in VA on October 31, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I’m disappointed by the commenters who say that banning SSM is not marriage equality. A law allowing any adult to marry an adult of the opposite gender is marriage equality. Such a marriage law applies equally to all even if the restriction is disapproved of by some. It’s full-blown equality!

  73. Tim on October 31, 2013 at 10:52 am

    “I’m disappointed by the commenters who say that banning SSM is not marriage equality. A law allowing any adult to marry an adult of the same race is marriage equality. Such a marriage law applies equally to all even if the restriction is disapproved of by some. It’s full-blown equality!”

    See the similarity? See the problem?

    I fully support a system with both a civil marriage (open to any two consenting and non-married adults) and a religious marriage.

  74. Tim on October 31, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Replace SSM with “interracial marriage…”

  75. Peter LLC on October 31, 2013 at 11:21 am

    As a member of a tiny religious minority (Mormon) who lives and married in Europe, I, for one, am glad Bismarck and others wrested “marriage” from the clutches of the Roman Catholic church.

    Perhaps ironically for those who bemoan the decline of the importance of “marriage” in Europe, the complete legal irrelevance of religious ceremonies in Germany (since 2009; see below) is what allows Mormons to “marry” in the temple for the eternities without having to marry for time first (or at all, for that matter, but see below).

    *Background: From 1874 to 2008, religious ceremonies could not be performed before the civil marriage. Now they can and don’t even need to be followed up by a civil marriage, though one would remain unmarried in the eyes of the state with all the civil (dis)advantages that entails.

  76. Wilfried on October 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    What this interesting debate reveals, above all, is the challenge to view the matter from the standpoint of the worldwide church. Walter’s post reminds us that “this is not an American church”. In its efforts at correlation (same Church handbook for the whole world), the church must find ways to accomodate its marital policies to the legal frameworks of some 150 countries. It’s likely this is on the agenda of the First Presidency and the Twelve. With more than half of the members outside of the U.S., the international perspective starts to weigh in more and more.

  77. Mark B. on October 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    If Tim cannot tell the difference between an interracial marriage of a man and a woman, and a “marriage” of two persons of the same sex, then I’m afraid no amount of persuasion or argument can help him.

  78. Bryan in VA on October 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Tim @73 and 74…

    How someone got their skin color has nothing to do with their behavior. Marriage is 100% behavior. So I see no similarity in the least between racial descrimination and banning SSM. I’m suprised that anyone does.

  79. Phillip C Smith on October 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    What of the law of chastity, understood over the centuries by prophets of God and believers as reserving sexual relations exclusively to take place within legal unions between a man and a woman? Is our Heavenly Father the author of this law? If so, how can one reconcile this law with extramarital heterosexual and homosexual situations? What are the social consequences, measured by valid scientific research, of the violation of this law?

    Throughout all of this dialogue, I hope that civility and kindness among those commenting on this issue can be maintained.

  80. Steve Smith on October 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Bryan in VA, now that gay marriage has been legalized in 14 US states, it is a question of marriage equality. If a legally married gay couple from New York moves to Florida and becomes residents of the state, their union won’t be considered a marriage there, and as such they won’t be entitled to the privileges of marriage that they would be in the state of New York. So in essence their marriage is being discriminated against. Doesn’t seem very fair and equal to me. It was sort of the same thing with blacks from the north moving to the south in the days of segregation.

  81. Jax on October 31, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Steve, that sounds like a great argument to stop gay marriage in all states!

  82. Mark B. on October 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Your problem, Steve Smith, is that your argument suggests that a change in New York’s law can convert something that is not a marriage into a marriage. We could argue that a horse has five legs, so long as the tail is counted as a leg, but only a fool–or a person whose passion has overcome his reason–would believe that the horse really has five legs. If Florida decides that a union of two people of the same sex, whatever it might be, is not a marriage (and thousands of years of history, sacred and profane, says it is not, and so do the laws of nature), then your New York couple is left arguing that the horse has five legs.

  83. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Phillip #79 –

    What of the law of chastity, understood over the centuries by prophets of God and believers as reserving sexual relations exclusively to take place within legal unions between a man and a woman?

    Do you not realize that this is *your* personal religious belief, and that there are many, many millions of people in this world, and in this country, who do not share your religious beliefs, and cannot (and should not) be bound by law to live by your beliefs? Do you want to be bound by law to live by *other* people’s religious beliefs? Do you want to be forced to stop eating pork because Jews and Muslims believe eating pork is sinful? Do you want to be forced to chant “hare Krishna, hare Rama” over and over again because followers of Krishna believe this is the proper way to worship? Do you want to be compelled to attend Mass every Sunday and holy day, and make your confession to a Roman Catholic priest, because this is what Roman Catholics believe is the right way to live?

    Unless you want to be compelled by law to believe in and follow the religious beliefs of all of your fellow citizens, don’t be too anxious to use the force of law to compel them to live by yours.

    What are the social consequences, measured by valid scientific research, of the violation of this law?

    None, Phillip. There are no negative social consequences measured by scientific research of allowing same-sex couples civil marriage equality. Not one.

  84. Cameron N on October 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Good thing scientific research (especially social scientific research) is infallible, Lorian. =)

  85. Mark B. on October 31, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Social science is hopelessly limited by the small number of subjects available for testing. For example, the New York Times this week reported on a recent study about kissing in which the “researchers” based their conclusions on a total of 800 responses to an on-line survey. What a joke! 800 online survey responses constitutes “scientific research”??

    With regard to the social consequences of calling same-sex couplings “marriages” and granting them the same societal concern and protection that have been accorded to opposite sex couples for thousands of years (in both religious and non-religious societies), it is ludicrous to suggest that any kind of scientific research has proven anything. We simply don’t know, and cannot know at this point in the world’s history.

    In that light, glib assurances that there are no “negative social consequences” are not particularly reassuring.

  86. Steve Smith on October 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Mark B., laws of nature and physics don’t define marriage, people do. Marriage is a strictly social construct.

    IDIAT (71), the LDS church has no set doctrine about the origins of marriage, nor does it regarding the origins of human beings (other than to say that human beings are all God’s children). Hence, you cannot say that “according to our [LDS] beliefs, marriage began in a religious setting.” That’s simply your belief. Also, suppose the LDS version of the Adam and Eve story were literally true and the only people in existence at that time were God, JC, Adam, Eve, and Lucifer. Wouldn’t God be acting as a civil authority then?

    James Strang (81), it would also be a great argument to make racial segregation the law in all fifty states.

  87. Steve Smith on October 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Mark B., the lack of negative social consequences of legalized gay marriage was precisely the topic of the OP. It seems like you want us to believe that legalizing gay marriage has social consequences simply because you insist that it does. Pray tell, what are these negative social consequences that legalized gay marriage is having on society? Would you mind mentioning some specifics?

  88. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    IDIAT #71 –

    remind me again what civil authority existed when Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden? Or, for that matter, in countless other times when no kind of civil government existed? We can use secular sources to point to the Code of Hammurabi, to customs and practices of people as they formed tribes and communities. But according to our beliefs, marriage began in a religious setting irrespective of a consideration of obligations towards children and property rights.

    IDIAT, Adam and Eve represent our human ancestors. Prior to the establishment of formal “governments,” humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies which eventually settled into agricultural communities as humans learned to domesticate animals and crops. In these early societies, government likely consisted, as it still does in hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies existent today, in the form of tribal councils and elders. Marriages in such societies are very much a social institution. Many are arranged by families as a means of exchanging loyalties, property and responsibility. This is the manner in which marriage originated. This is the type of marriage described in Biblical descriptions of early Jewish society (witness Jacob bargaining with Laban to marry Rachel and Leah in exchange for years of work taking care of Laban’s flocks, and Laban transferring ownership of some of those flocks to Jacob. Laban was the civil authority who gave Jacob approval to marry Rachel and Leah.

    The Code of Hammurabi is an *excellent* example of how marriage customs developed at the societal level. While some religions have had rituals used in celebration of marriages, most marriages until very recent centuries, have consisted of an exchange of property between men (fathers and husbands), with the woman having very little say in the matter, being essentially a slave who moves from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband. What we do *not* see is any consistent view of marriage as a religious ritual in and of itself on any consistent basis until the past few centuries. We certainly don’t see one single religion creating marriage from whole cloth, and we don’t see religious blessings of marriage which predate social/civil constructs of marriage.

    Marriage is not the “property” of religion. Religions have created rituals to bless marriages, to petition for blessings of fertility and prosperity for couples and their children. To suggest that societies have no right to create civil marriage contracts with concurrent civil rights, protections and benefits for whatever couples the society deems qualified to participate in such a contract, is baseless.

  89. Jax on October 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Marriage is not the “property” of religion.

    No, but if you’re LDS then you ought to believe that

    that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

    We don’t believe that marriage was a “creation” by religions. Or that marriage is just a set of rituals to be satisfied. We do believe

    Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.

    So anything the disrupts that eternal plan would be problematic of a true disciple. God’s mission, and by extension our mission as well, is to save souls. Where are the negative social impacts??

    Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

    Maybe they aren’t here yet, or maybe you don’t see them yet, but any LDS person with even a little bit of faith should realize that there will be negative impacts as foretold by prophets. Prophets, as taught repeatedly, are the watchmen upon the towers… and why do you put people on towers? So they can see what is coming even when it is a long way off. That’s why we sustain them as “seers” (see-ers) – they can see what is coming when others cannot. If you want specifics (Steve Smith #87) then go read the prophets!

    Part of the LDS person’s responsibility regarding marriage is this:

    We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

    And how do we know that “family” doesn’t include SSM? Because that is defined earlier in the document as a man and wife, not simply as any two adults who are committed to each other. Why man and wife?

    Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity

    Because any other pairing of parents destroys the entitlement that God intends for his children to have – a Father and a Mother. I don’t care how loving, devoted, special any SSM couple is, because as an LDS person we have a duty to support those civil/societal measures that help bring about God’s purposes. SSM does not do that! Therefore we are called upon to support measures that strengthen marriage as between a man and woman. We are definitely NOT called to support the opposite.

    Regardless of the fact that the church currently takes no measures to stop actions supporting SSM by its members, how could an LDS person act in direct contradiction to the Plan of Salvation laid out in the scriptures, in the temple, and by modern prophets and think they are doing the right thing? It totally defies reason!

  90. Bryan in VA on October 31, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Steve Smith @80

    Steve Smith, now that gambling has been legalized in Nevada, it is a question of gambling equality. If a gambler from Nevada moves to Utah and becomes a resident of the state, the gambling won’t be considered legitimate there, and as such the gambler won’t be entitled to the privileges of gambling that they would be in the state of Nevada. So in essence the gambler is being discriminated against. Doesn’t seem very fair and equal to me.

    Since the US has segregated public restrooms do you favor “public restroom equality” so that we don’t discriminate in public restroom usage based on gender?

  91. Steve Smith on October 31, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Bryan in VA, your original point in comment #72 was that marriage equality exists in spite of some states banning SSM. Then I pointed out that the fact that since a romantic union between two people of the same gender may be recognized by state law as a marriage (provided the two same-gender parties so desire to enter into such a contract) in some states but not in others, that this is evidence that marriage inequality does in fact exist in the US. Gay marriages won’t be treated equally in the US. Then your most recent comment (#90) suggests that you do believe that marriage inequality exists, but that it is justifiable much like discriminating against gamblers and maintaining separate but equal public restrooms based on gender differences. In essence, you’ve contradicted yourself and have indirectly conceded that I was right; there is marriage inequality in the US. Let’s leave the question of whether marriage inequality is right or wrong for another debate.

  92. Steve Smith on October 31, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Jax, still no specific points as to how gay marriage will harm society, huh? I guess the OP was right. Believe what you want to about what God does or doesn’t dictate and about whether gay marriage should be recognized by the LDS church. All that is really beyond the scope of the OP, and I haven’t brought those issues up at all. As for my discipleship towards God, I’ll let God be the judge of that. And yes, I know that LDS church leaders have encouraged members to support measures against gay marriage, but they haven’t made it a requirement, nor have they threatened disciplinary action against members for whatever political beliefs they hold. I’m also aware of what the LDS leaders believe regarding marriage and God’s plan and I don’t seek to correct them on that. But I’ve never been held before any sort of questioning as to my beliefs about gay marriage at church. So as far as I know, assuming you hold a temple recommend, you and I are equal in terms of our standings in the LDS church.

  93. Lorian on October 31, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Jax, you seem to go through life assuming that everyone around you is LDS and should be required to live by the directives of LDS prophets. Sorry, but that’s not how it works in this country. The President of the church is not the President of the United States. The Q12 and Q70 are not the Senate and House of Representatives.

    Really, do you honestly want to live by the laws of whatever religion decides to force its beliefs upon the country?

    You may believe that you know what is best for everyone around you because a religious leader you trust said it was so, but that doesn’t mean that you *get* to force everyone around you to do what you think is best for them. Nor does it even necessarily mean that what you *think* is best for them actually *is* best for them.

    You seem to have forgotten the concept of “agency.” You say that because your church teaches that every child should have a male parent and a female parent in the home, this means that this is how it should be for every family and every home, regardless of whether they believe in your prophet and your church or not. You wish to *force* others by means of secular civil law to comply with your religious beliefs. In doing so, you run roughshod over others’ agency.

  94. Wilfried on November 1, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Amen, Lorian (93). Not forcing the beliefs of one church on others is the crux of the matter. That is what Walter conveys from the Netherlands and what I can confirm from Belgium. I support what the Mormon church asks because I am a Mormon, but I feel it would improper to deny others their right to live by their standards.

    I admire non-Mormons like you who visit T&S and help us understand their standpoint.

  95. Mark B. on November 1, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Others of course may live by whatever standards they desire, and that is our doctrine. But suggesting that one has a “right” to live by his standards begs the question whether such a right exists in the first place. There is no “right” to marry, and there certainly isn’t a right to require the state to recognize any particular type of relationship as a marriage.

    As to the negative social consequences of calling same-sex relationships marriage, I don’t think you, Steve Smith, or the writer of the OP, or anybody else, for that matter, is in a position to say at this point what those consequences will be. The proponents of such a radical redefinition of marriage should bear the burden, it seems, of proving that there won’t be any.

  96. Talmage on November 1, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Obviously, Jax, the scriptures are very clear that homosexual physical intimacy is a sin in the eyes of God, and any member of the Church who claims to believe they are the inspired word of God cannot condone homosexual behaviour as anything other than sinful. However, whether something should be regarded as sinful and whether it should be regarded as illegal are two totally different things. You state that: “as an LDS person we have a duty to support those civil/societal measures that help bring about God’s purposes.” Not necessarily. As members of the Church, we have a duty to live our lives according to God’s purposes and invite others to do the same, but the key word in that phrase is ‘invite.’ Not compel, legally or otherwise. If we truly had a duty to support those civil/societal measures that help bring about God’s purposes, we would be campaigning for laws to enforce attendance at LDS Church services on a Sunday, outlawing premarital sex and making the consumption of tea and coffee a crime. Obviously, this is not God’s will. You see, “God’s purposes” can actually be summarised into just one purpose: To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. The fact is, eternal life (exaltation) is not something which can be forced upon anybody, because it doesn’t just come from keeping the commandments, it comes from keeping the commandments VOLUNTARILY – because we want to, as a result of the mighty change which God has wrought in our hearts. If we were to force everybody to follow LDS teachings on marriage and the family, the result would be misery for all involved, because tyranny and compulsion is a force of Satan, not of Christ. God governs not by force, but by the power of His holy Priesthood, which is: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness.” The way to convince homosexual couples of the error of their ways is not to deny them legal recognition, but rather to lead by example and gentle persuasion. The fact is, if a homosexual couple are in a committed relationship, they may be living in sin, but they deserve to have that sinful relationship legally recognised by the Government nonetheless.

  97. Talmage on November 1, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Personally, I would like to remove Government from the question of marriage altogether. Marriage is primarily a religious concept, consisting of God’s endorsement and approval of a couple’s relationship. That is a religious question, not something for civil Governments to hand out. However, for practical purposes, there must be some kind of legal status given to couples in a committed, long-term relationship, and this legal status should not be withheld from same-sex couples based on specifically religious principles, because God has clearly ordained a separation between church and state (see Doctrine and Covenants 134:4). A same-sex couple should have their union recognised by the law, but this does not equate to their union being blessed or ordained by God.

  98. Mark B. on November 1, 2013 at 10:42 am

    “However, for practical purposes, there must be some kind of legal status given to couples in a committed, long-term relationship,”

    This is a statement for which there is no support either in logic or experience.

  99. Steve Smith on November 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Mark B., I believe that the opponents of gay marriage bear the burden of providing evidence of how legalizing gay marriage will have a negative social impact. Supporters don’t bear the burden of providing evidence that it won’t. The fact that you can’t point to any concrete evidence of gay marriage’s negative social impact shows that you are in a weak position.

    Also, the issue of legalizing gay marriage actually isn’t so much about marriage rights as it is the right to discriminate. Courts have the right, if not the duty, to discriminate against two blood siblings who want to marry or a 14 year-old who wants to marry. But the courts can cite a just cause in barring those types of marriages. Incest is recognized by all of human society as wrong. Plus there is evidence that children born to incest tend to suffer severe cognitive problems. A minor is still developing biologically and cognitively and is not in a position to make sound marriage decisions for themselves. One’s sexual orientation in and of itself, much like one’s race, gender, and ethnicity, causes no demonstrable harm to society at large. Gay romantic relationships in and of themselves also appear to cause no demonstrable harm to society. Also, they are not inherently inferior or superior to straight romantic relationships. Hence, the courts have no justification, and therefore no right, to bar two people of the same gender, who are of age, consenting, cognitively sound, not of the same nuclear family, and not already in another marriage contract, to enter into a marriage contract.

  100. Mark B. on November 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Steve Smith: the proponents of so-called same-sex marriage are the ones proposing a radical change in the organization of society. Since they’re the moving party, let them bear the burden of proving that it will not harm society.

    Laws and individuals discriminate all the time. There is nothing wrong with discrimination, so long as there is a valid basis for the discrimination. People only think it’s wrong because 50 years ago it was just too much trouble to say “racial discrimination” every time, so they shortened it to “discrimination” and now everybody can faint in unison whenever someone is accused of doing it.

    And there is a perfectly valid basis for discriminating in favor of marriage, and against same-sex unions that some want to call marriage. Opposite sex unions are the only unions that can ever produce children, and children are necessary in order to carry on the human race. No amount of same-sex sexual activity will ever produce a child, and there is no need to accord same-sex unions any governmental protection for the benefit of either a child or a spouse who is burdened with a child in the event that the union is dissolved.

  101. Steve Smith on November 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Mark B., you’re still leaving the question of demonstrable harm that gay marriage is or will supposedly cause unanswered. Since when do courts bear the burden of showing why an action is right? They bear the burden of showing why an action is wrong and in having just cause in barring certain behaviors. Hence it is incumbent upon opponents of gay marriage to show what exactly the just cause is of barring gay marriage.

    You’re right that the courts do maintain the right to discriminate in some cases. We must discriminate against the blind by not allowing them to obtain driver’s licenses. But we have just cause in doing so, since they would endanger other drivers. But what exactly is the just cause of barring gay couples from marrying? It can’t be because they can’t physically reproduce. Then we would have to bar post-fertile and infertile couples from marrying. Plus it isn’t required by law that people marry in order to have children. Lastly, hundreds of thousands of gay couples are already recognized as the legal guardians of both adopted and biological children. So you could actually make quite a cogent case that denying those same-sex couples the option of marrying actually disadvantages those children.

    But you’re also ignoring the fact that currently 14 states which make up over one hundred thousand people or one-third of the US population consider a romantic union between two people of the same gender to be marriage. So, yes, an increasing number of courts and legislatures are expanding the definition of marriage to apply to gay couples. But there is no natural definition of marriage, and it has altered over time. Many US citizens used to believe that a romantic union between a black person and white person could not be considered a marriage and that the just cause for denying them marriage was because they could produce cognitively normal children. They were wrong. But to this day some twenty percent of Mississipians still don’t consider that a valid marriage. But no one cares about what they think.

  102. Mark B. on November 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I’ll concede. If a person truly believes that a tail is a leg, then for him horses really do have five legs.

  103. Steve Smith on November 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Exactly, how dare those courts consider interracial unions a “marriage.”

  104. Tim on November 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    “No amount of same-sex sexual activity will ever produce a child…”

    Unless, of course, you’re a member of an all-female species of lizard (The same-sex sexual activity often being necessary to stimulate the asexual reproduction).

    My grandfather remarried when he was in his 80′s (his new wife was around the same age). Should we bar 80-year-old women from marrying? Certainly no producing of children going on there. How about when we reach the point (probably not all that far off) where we can combine the genes from two eggs and produce a new child–a child who has two biological mothers? Or is the production of a child only valid when it’s done the “natural” way?

  105. wondering on November 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    For an explanation of why wedding photographers and wedding cake bakers SHOULD be allowed to discriminate, read this, co-authored by Dale Carpenter (a law professor who is himself gay, and has been advocating for gay marriage rights for over a decade.)

    http://www.volokh.com/2012/11/02/amicus-brief-in-elane-photography-v-willock-the-new-mexico-wedding-photography-case/

  106. Mark B. on November 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Well, Tim, let me know when the state begins performing weddings for lizards, and I’ll sign up to celebrate the first one. And your octogenarian wedding still looks like a marriage–of the kind that is critical to the continuation of the human species. It follows, and reinforces, the pattern that the law in nearly all societies (until the past 20 years) has privileged.

    And, Steve, if you can’t see the enormous conceptual gulf you’re crossing (on the flimsiest of bridges, I might add) when you move from marriages (whether interracial or polygamous or dynastic or arranged or modern, romantic love based marriage) to same sex unions, far be it from me to help you understand. It’s not a difference of degree, as in the change from arranged marriages to “romantic love” marriages or in the ending of the prohibition on interracial marriage, but a difference in kind.

    And, take your racial discrimination card and stick it back where it came from.

  107. Steve Smith on November 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Mark B., there is no “natural” definition of marriage, as you seem to believe. It is a completely social construct. What marriage is and isn’t has varied across space and time. And as the OP points out, there is no evidence that the legalization of the gay marriage will, by itself, have any impact on population growth rates. But the fact of the matter is that you’re still stuck in the 1990s and it’s 2013 when marriage has already been redefined by courts and legislatures throughout much of the world to include allowances for same-sex couples to have their romantic union recognized as marriage if they so desire. So if you got a job today at a New York state marriage-license-issuing court, it wouldn’t matter what your personal definition of marriage was, you would be acting illegally to deny two people of the same gender a marriage license. Of course you are within your rights, like a minority of Mississippians, to not recognize some particular romantic union as a marriage and deny whomever you want to the privilege of having their union honored as a marriage in your own private religion. But this discussion is getting a bit repetitive at this point, so I think I’ll bow out now and give you the last word and part by dedicating a segment of a song the lyrics of which, at least the part from 1:56-2:20, I find to be very apropos to those like you who think that there is a valid case against legalizing gay marriage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDq5mzIrA7A.

  108. Jax on November 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Talmage in 96 says: “However, whether something should be regarded as sinful and whether it should be regarded as illegal are two totally different things. You state that: “as an LDS person we have a duty to support those civil/societal measures that help bring about God’s purposes.” Not necessarily.”

    I guess you and I differ in our reading of this passage:

    We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

    LDS hierarchy calling upon us to promote measures (which include legal measures, passage of laws) designed to maintian and strengthen the family, which they defined as a man and woman. That is a call not just to the LDS, but to everyone in gov’t, to support marriage as a man and woman. I guess we could disagree about whether this ‘call’ represents a duty on your part… but I think to say that it doesn’t would mean you either aren’t an officer of government, or that you don’t consider yourself to be a responsible citizen. But at least we could maybe agree upon that!

  109. stephenchardy on November 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    But, what if we think that supporting SSM is in fact something that will “maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society?” Can more than one kind of family be supported? Do we want to strengthen single parent homes? Divorced homes? Homes of those who lost a parent to illness or war? Or do we only support and strengthen heterosexual two-parent homes? A committed SS couple may be strengthened in their commitment each other and their commitment to raise a child by the benefits of marriage.

  110. Jax on November 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    But, what if we think that supporting SSM is in fact something that will “maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society?”

    Well, Stephenchardy, answer it yourself. If you think one thing and the ‘Prophets, Seers, and Revelators’ think something completely opposite and ‘call upon’ you to support them, with the totally mundane social problems of bringing “upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets” hanging in the balance… what would you do?

    Can more than one kind of family be supported? Do we want to strengthen single parent homes? Divorced homes? Homes of those who lost a parent to illness or war? Or do we only support and strengthen heterosexual two-parent homes?

    Well, an ideal family structure has been set forth by the brethren. Obviously many (most?) fail to meet that ideal. What do we do? We should help support them to become more ideal, to help them make changes that move them toward the goal. So we work to help people avoid divorce if possible to overcome differences… we help them get one if serious abuse is taking place. We help the widow(er) mourn and units have been established to help them fellowship with others who might be in similar positions; and with whom they could possibly find a spouse again. We help people make decisions that don’t lead to out of wedlock births, help those that do make wise decisions for their futures and for the futures of their child(ren). We strengthen everyone the best we know how and help them move closer to the ideal, and closer to God. The first step for a SS couple in moving toward the ideal would be stop involvement with a SS partner. We have been called upon to promote measures that will help strengthen the ideal. We should help strengthen the weak against their weakness, not strengthen them IN their weakness.

  111. Wilfried on November 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Jax (110), I respect your conviction.

    But suppose you have a son who is gay. He finds the partner of his life. The couple is devoted, loving, and does everything to make the relation work, like thousands of gay couples do, in spite of the challenges some force onto them. Or you have a daughter who… How will you handle it?

    Nowadays, when parents are faced with this situation and are willing to learn more about homosexual feelings and to get to know gays and lesbians, then in most cases prejudices fade, reconciliation follows, and often these parents become advocates for SSM. Because, indeed, family is paramount.

  112. Jax on November 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Wilfried,

    You left out my wife! What happens if she starts having attractions towards another man?? Or me? toward another woman?

    Obviously those would be sinful relationships and worthy of condemnation… SS relationships fall under the same category of “sinful” don’t you think?

    What will I do? I’ll try to strengthen and encourage my kids more toward the ideal and away from the sinful (see my previous post). I won’t encourange them to marry a SS partner under any circumstances, just as I’d encourage everyone everywhere to give up their sinful passions and desires, and to keep their passions within the bounds the Lord has set.

  113. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Jax, if your wife sleeps with another woman *or* another man, that is adultery. The sin is adultery, not homosexuality. The Bible nowhere condemns committed, loving same-sex relationships. It condemns adultery, prostitution, idolatry, temple orgies, and all forms of sexual exploitation. For heterosexuals and homosexuals, alike.

  114. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 12:41 am

    But again, what the Bible does or does not say is irrelevant when it comes to civil recognition of marriages. The government does not determine who should or should not have rights based upon the Bible, any more than it bases such distinctions on the Quran, Bhagavad Gita,
    Book of Mormon, or any other religion’s holy book.

  115. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 12:47 am

    wondering #105 – Why is it that whenever anyone advocates for a discriminatory position, they always seem to trot out some person to “vouch” for their idea who is affirmed to belong to the class of people who will face discrimination if their idea prevails?

    “Yeah, I don’t think restaurants should be forced to serve black people. And neither does my friend, Bill, here, and he’s black, you see.”

    “Yeah, I don’t think states should have to marry interracial couples. And neither do my friends Joe and Teresa, here, and they’re an interracial couple!”

    “Yeah, I don’t think doctors should be forced to treat Muslim patients, and neither does my friend Ahmed, here, and he’s a Muslim.”

    Not a really useful or credible argument. Even if you can find one member of a discriminated minority who claims to be content with his/her minority status and the continuation of said discrimination, it does not justify that discrimination’s continuance.

    “Yeah, I don’t think people in my neighborhood should be forced to sell their houses to Mormons, and neither does my friend Judy, here, and she’s a Mormon.” See what I mean? Uh-uh. Not a good argument.

  116. Pratt on November 2, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Why is it that the Government plays any role at all in the question of marriage? Why is it necessary for Governments to issue marriage permits and decide who may or may not be married? Doing so holds certain types of relationships up as an ideal or standard and implies that relationships which do not conform to this standard are inferior and less desirable in the eyes of society.

    Now, I think the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the institutional Church are clear regarding what God’s ideal relationship is, and, yes, it consists of a man and a woman. Therefore, I personally believe, as a Latter-day Saint, that relationships which do not conform to this standard (including homosexual relationships) are inferior to the Lord’s ideal. However, my reasons for believing this are purely religious. The fact is, homosexual relationships have been around for a long time, without causing any significant or noticeable damage to society. Now, that isn’t to say these relationships don’t cause significant spiritual harm to the individuals involved – but holding up a heterosexual relationship as superior or more beneficial to society than a homosexual one is actually rather difficult to justify in non-religious terms and, based on my reading of the Doctrine and Covenants 134, I believe that specific religious teachings should never be used as the basis for civil laws.

    Of course, I also believe that “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus, I believe that a Christ-centred marriage is superior to one which is not Christ-centred, but I do not believe that my personal religious view on this is sufficient reason for the Government or the courts to legally endorse the superiority of Christian marriages or deny marriage permits to anyone who can’t prove their home is Christ-centred. My personal ideal of marriage is not necessarily the same ideal which many other people in society will share. In fact, pretty much anyone outside of the Church is going to have a different criteria for what constitutes an ideal marriage, because my concept of an ideal marriage involves both partners being sealed in the Temple. However, like the heterosexual factor, I don’t feel justified in demanding that society begin denying marriage permits to any couple who isn’t Temple-worthy.

    The point I’m trying to make is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole concept of Governments issuing marriage permits, because it suggests that certain types of relationship are superior to others. Of course, pretty much everyone agrees that some relationships are better than others – but very few people will ever actually completely agree on which relationships they are. Since this issue is one which primarily deals with moral, ethical and spiritual considerations, it makes no sense for the Government to become involved in endorsing a particular model. The question of what constitutes a valid marriage is one which must be decided by individuals, according to the dictates of their own conscience. Let us remove the Government from the issue of marriage entirely, and end the needless discrimination which any kind of civil marriage law necessarily entails.

  117. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Yes, Pratt. The point is that certain types of relationships, namely committed pair-bonds, help to stabilize society and relieve the government of a certain amount of need to see to the well-being of individuals, since individuals in committed relationships/families tend to see to one another’s needs, help to care for and raise one another’s offspring, etc. Society has chosen to reward this caretaking relationship (“in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, as long as you both shall live…”) with particular benefits, protections and incentives, such as certain types of tax breaks/credits (depending, of course, upon whether both parties draw salary or just one, and how much, as well as if there are children involved), the ability to draw one another’s social security after the death of one spouse, protection of inheritance rights, custody of children, and so forth. All told, there are over 1000 rights, benefits and protections at the federal level which apply to legal civil marriage (many of which cannot be obtained by *any* other means than becoming civilly married, so don’t suggest seeing a lawyer to draw up contracts and paperwork — it is expensive and can never obtain for a couple all of the benefits of civil marriage), plus several hundred at the state level.

    That being the case, it is not correct to say that marriage is a “religious institution” and government should “just stay out of it.” Government and society have good reason to be involved in *civil* marriage, and the fact that civil rights have been attached to civil marriage which cannot be obtained without it, *makes* civil marriage a civil right which needs to be available on an equal basis to all couples and their families.

    Same-sex couples provide the same benefits to society as opposite-sex couples. They deserve the same treatment under the law. Religious blessings of marriage are a separate entity from civil marriage, which is solely within the government’s/society’s purview. Churches have the right to determine who they will grant religious blessings of marriage to, not to tell the government who may or may not access the rights and protections of civil marriage.

  118. Jax on November 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Pratt,

    That is a very reasonable position that is totally justified by the facts as they are today. You don’t see any negatives that SS couples cause society, and you think gov’t should keep their nose out of peoples business. I tend to support those positions quite regularly in most discussions, and I think most people agree with you and that position.

    I can’t claim to see a good problem with it except for this: Men who LDS people claim to sustain as “seers” (See-ers), they DO see a problem that it will cause society AND have called upon us to promote measures to promote the “ideal”.

    Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

    We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

    Because of those two things, I can’t understand how any LDS person could support SSM marriages anywhere in the world. I agree and concede that social scientists have no concrete proof that any harm is done to society and also concede that forcing religious views on others is typically a bad thing to do. Because I believe that the names of the men on the bottom of that Proclamation belong to men who truly are Apostles, then I’m will to act on faith that they do see the harm done and that they speak for the Lord in directing us to promote measures that support the ideal marriage, and to not support measures that help “the disintegration of the family.”

    I can see how someone from outside our faith would see that as possibly “extreme”, “radical”, etc. ; but I don’t see how anyone who has been a member for very long sees that position as anything other than “inspired”, “prophetic”, “faithful”, etc.

    I know I’m not alone on this. What I’m stunned at is that so many are willing to be counted as saying, “I support SSM despit prophetic counsel to the contrary.”

  119. Pratt on November 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Lorian: I acknowledge the logic in your argument, and I am aware that the Government provides significant benefits and protections to married couples. Where I am inclined to disagree somewhat is when you say: “Government and society have good reason to be involved in *civil* marriage.” You base this conclusion on the fact that: “individuals in committed relationships/families tend to see to one another’s needs, help to care for and raise one another’s offspring, etc,” which you argue is beneficial to society. Well and good, but the fact is many married couples actually don’t see to one another’s needs or co-operate effectively in raising offspring. Many couples don’t live up to the vows they make at marriage. This presents us with an interesting dilemma: on the one hand,if the Government stays out of marriage completely, then there is no societal incentive for couples to form stable, committed loving relationships which are beneficial and essential to a stable society. But on the other hand, many of the couples which the Government is handing these incentives to actually *aren’t* stable, committed loving relationships. Many fall drastically short of the marriage vows they make, and are marriages more or less only in name – and in law. These couples still receive special legal incentives and protections, but society doesn’t actually have an interest in promoting and protecting these kinds of relationships.

    I see two possible ways of resolving this dilemma: 1) the Government removes itself from the question of marriage altogether or 2) the Government actually legally enforces the terms of the contract which individuals enter into at marriage (ie. in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse etc), rather than just defining marriage as any heterosexual couple who want tax breaks. Personally, I am inclined to prefer the first solution, simply because I think the second leads to a very big, invasive form of Government. In all honesty, I think human beings tend to form loving, caring relationships without incentives from the Government, so I really don’t think it’s completely necessary. I mean, plenty of homosexual couples don’t stop loving and caring for each other simply because the Government isn’t recognising their relationship. I think that human nature is enough of an incentive.

  120. Pratt on November 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Jax: I respect your desire to be faithful to the teachings of the Prophets. I’m also not in the camp who thinks that an official declaration by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (like the Family Proclamation) is not binding upon the members of the Church. I take very seriously the injunction to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” I just don’t think that a law defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman does do much to strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. As you said in an earlier comment, “an ideal family structure has been set forth by the brethren. Obviously many (most?) fail to meet that ideal.” You then state that “We should help support them to become more ideal.” I agree with all of this. But while we as individuals ought to help imperfect families become more ideal, the Family Proclamation does not extend this responsibility to governments. Instead, it extends a different responsibility: to “strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    Let me outline the difference. We, as individuals, should help imperfect families move closer to the ideal – a loving, caring, lifelong heterosexual relationship with children conceived in wedlock, where both partners honour marriage vows with complete fidelity, based on faith in Jesus Christ, prayer, repentance and so on as outlined in the Family Proclamation. The responsibility to help families move towards this ideal clearly lies with us as individual Latter-day Saints rather than with the Government, because the Lord clearly would not approve of the Government taking legal measures to encourage or enforce Christ-centred faith and prayer in a family (as is evidenced by D&C 134). So this responsibility – to help families move towards the Lord’s revealed ideal – lies with individuals, not with the Government.

    The responsibility which the Lord (through the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) has placed upon governments is quite different: rather than helping families to move towards a specific ideal model, they instead have the responsibility to “promote those measures designed to…strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” In other words, they are not expected to specifically define and promote a particular, specific ideal family. They are just encouraged to promote the value of families in general – whether they be single-parent, homosexual, or traditional. Now, as I explained in comment 119, I don’t think that marriage laws are a particularly effective way of doing this, because it is possible to be legally married to someone and yet have a completely cold, selfish and uncaring relationship, leading completely separate lives – which does not fit my definition of a family. Instead, governments can support and promote the value of families (all kinds of families, be they single-parent, homosexual or heterosexual) in other ways, such as ensuring new mothers/fathers are able to take maternity/paternity leave without losing their job, to name just one example.

    So yes, Jax, Prophets and Apostles whom I sustain and respect have declared that the Government does have a responsibility to maintain and strengthen the value of the family in society, but I do not believe it has a responsibility (or a legitimate right) to define it.

  121. Peter LLC on November 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    “Why is it that the Government plays any role at all in the question of marriage?”

    As long as church weddings have civil implications, why wouldn’t the government have a role?

    There are other models out there. As I mentioned up thread, since 2009 in Germany couples are free to perform whatever marriage ceremonies they please with no obliagtion to marry civilly. Of course, there are no civil benefits, but the glvernment stays out of your religious ceremonies. Would that work for you?

  122. Pratt on November 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Peter LLC: basically, yeah. “As long as church weddings have civil implications, why wouldn’t the government have a role?” Good question, but in my case, the answer is simple: I would prefer for church weddings not to have civil implications.

  123. Walter van Beek on November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Dear commentators

    I am quite astonished as to some suggestions in the debate. One is the idea that the government could withdraw from the issue of marriage, and leave it to religion. What religion? Islam, maybe? Then Sharia law will apply, also in the USA. In some religions, like David Koresh Branch Dravidians the ‘prophet’ marries all fertile females, while in others promiscuity becomes legal. And in quite a few religions SSM will fully legal, not to speak of polygyny (we!) or polyandry (Inuit in Alaska). Maybe mainline Christian religions will agree on a common formula. If government wants to honor these latter – and I include us as mainline – then government will have to choose between religions. And I do not have to tell Americans that this is against the Constitution (First Amendment?).
    Also, half of Europe has no religion at all, can they not marry?
    No, when you think this through it becomes quite nonsensical.
    I am afraid that those who advocate this, think only inside Deseret.
    There is no society or culture in history or in the present that did not have rules and norms about what they considered a marriage, and with very good reasons.
    How can the most important institution not imply rights and duties, such as between partners, and between parents and children? If so, how can society, i.c. the government, not be involved in defining under what conditions these rights and duties apply?

  124. Pratt on November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Walter: when I speak of the Government withdrawing from the issue of marriage and leaving it to religion, I mean that marriage should not be something which the Government seeks to control, regulate or interfere with in any way. So yes, Mormon Fundamentalists are fully within their rights to have a sealing ceremony in their temple and consider themselves married to three wives at the same time. I may disagree with their definition of marriage, but it’s really got nothing to do with me, and it has nothing to do with the Government either, provided that all parties are of legal age and give their consent. Same thing applies to the Inuit in Alaska and the Branch Dravidians – if all fertile females genuinely voluntarily choose to enter into a relationship with the ‘prophet’, then they’re entitled to consider themselves married if they want to. I wouldn’t consider that a valid marriage, but what they call their relationship has absolutely nothing to do with me. As for those who have no religion, the same thing applies. If a couple want to have a humanist ceremony, or a purely secular ceremony, or no ceremony at all and just sign some kind of private contract or agreement, or just want to go ahead and call themselves ‘married’, then that is their business and has (you guessed it) nothing to do with me.

  125. IDIAT on November 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Beek #123. It would actually be easy to get the government out of the marriage business. There are already laws on the books that address duties and obligations between people who cohabitate and between birth parents and illegitimate children. You and Lorian seem to want to have your cake and eat it, too. You admit marriage is a valued concept but you don’t want the government restricting the definition of marriage. Why prohibit the bi-sexual from having a male and female spouse? Why prevent the brother and sister from marrying? Why prohibit consenting adults from forming any kind of combination? You can not logically do so at this point in your arguments. No one has said adopt a religious standard. Instead, simply make every man, woman and child the island they really are and do away with the special species of contract called “marriage.” Make every kind of joining a partnership, let the parties contract the way they see fit, and let people seek religious recognition if they so choose. According to all supporters of SSM, this would not have any impact on traditional heterosexual pairings. So let’s just abolish all marriages laws and be done with it. Long live freedom of association and freedom of contract.

  126. IDIAT on November 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Look at this way. When I got married 30 plus years ago, I was unaware of any “government” benefits associated with being married. Since being married, what benefits have I received? 1.Filing jointly on federal and state tax returns. Fine. Do away with the benefit. I didn’t get married expecting a tax break, anyway. 2. Insurable interest, meaning we can get life insurance on each other. Fine. Redraft insurance laws so anyone in a registered “union” can get life insurance on any other member of the union. 3. Health insurance Fine. I think my premium is already based on the number of people in my family. If not, change the insurance laws so they can charge per capita membership in the union. 4. Other benefits? Things such as hospital visitations, and any other “benefits” like retirement, IRA beneficiaries, and the like? Change the laws to refer to members of registered “unions.” Where are those alleged 1,500 or so “benefits” that are floating around? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of them. And they certainly weren’t the reason why I got married in the first place. I would have been perfectly happy if we had simply had a religious ceremony that recognized our commitment to one another. I could have cared less about any supposed “government” benefit or even a government recognition of our marriage. I don’t care what Uncle Sam thinks. I don’t think the SSM movement has ever been about government benefits, because virtually all benefits can be resolved with a power of attorney, a will, and some minor changes in the laws. SSM has always been about moral acceptance.

  127. Jax on November 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    There is no society or culture in history or in the present that did not have rules and norms about what they considered a marriage, and with very good reasons.

    Exactly, and we should try to make sure that those rules/norms are heterosexual couples!

  128. palerobber on November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    @ Blake #67

    Marriage began and remains a religious ceremony and was only hijacked later by governments [...]

    that’s false — marriage began as a private agreement betweem families before it was hijacked by religious and/or state authorities.

    so you’ll have to come up with another rationale for why you want to change the definition of marriage in the US from what it’s been for the last 150 years or so.

    btw, i’m still waiting eagerly to hear your explanation of how gay marriages can never be religious acts.

  129. Jax on November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Why is everyone else concerned with who started marriage first: church or state? Does that knowledge affect/change at all the circumstances currently? Am I the only one who doesn’t care about that? I’m far more concerned about marriage/family today than when/how it existed centuries ago…

  130. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    When I got married 30 plus years ago, I was unaware of any “government” benefits associated with being married.

    Since being married, what benefits have I received? 1.Filing jointly on federal and state tax returns. Fine. Do away with the benefit. I didn’t get married expecting a tax break, anyway.

    That’s fine for you, IDIAT. If you don’t want to receive a deduction for dependents, or the tax breaks available to a head of household filing jointly with a spouse, then feel free to file the EZ form and pay top dollar on your income taxes. The IRS won’t stop you. They’ll be happy to take your money off your hands. But don’t be in such a hurry to give away on others’ behalf a benefit which young families with stay-at-home moms or dads and young children depend upon in order to pay a tax rate which will make their finances do-able. You may not need the money. Others might.

    2. Insurable interest, meaning we can get life insurance on each other. Fine. Redraft insurance laws so anyone in a registered “union” can get life insurance on any other member of the union.

    You are very quick to offer this as a solution to every problem which would be caused by doing away with civil marriages. In essence, what you are saying is, we should dissolve everyone’s civil marriage and reissue the same relationship status and benefits, but call it a “civil union.”

    The problem is that this is silly. It is essentially leaving civil marriage “as is,” but changing the name of it to “civil union.” This proposal implies that it is simply the word, “marriage,” itself, which is the truly important aspect of the institution, and the only part which they are unwilling to share – as though the word “marriage” was created by God, coined in the Bible and exists only within Christianity (or their own small sect of Christianity). Fact is, the word “marriage” comes from Latin roots which predate Christianity and are not religious in nature. The word, “marriage,” as it occurs in the Bible, came from an Old English word first used around the 13th century, CE, derived from a French permutation of the Latin word, maritare. Since “marriage” (or “mariage,” as it was known in Old English) was the first usage of the word, it therefore only appears in the early English translations of the Bible, and, as such, is certainly not the *property* of Christianity.

    The idea that we need to entirely revamp the system of civil marriage in order to keep gay couples from getting their dirty paws on the word, “marriage,” which has no particular special religious significance at all, is kind of ridiculous, IDIAT. Surely it is the *concept* of marriage as a relationship between people and the behaviors and interdependency involved in that relationship which is the essence of marriage and is what you seek to protect, not the *word* “marriage”? Silly to expend so much energy keeping people from calling themselves “married.” Particularly when anyone can do so, anyway. You cannot keep them from saying the word, no matter how hard you may try.

    3. Health insurance Fine. I think my premium is already based on the number of people in my family. If not, change the insurance laws so they can charge per capita membership in the union.

    Interesting. So you would have the laws changed such that anyone could cover any number of people (within their household? Or neighbors down the block? What about unrelated children?) on their family policy? And would this be employer-paid insurance? So people could start insuring their downstairs neighbor if he doesn’t have a policy of his own? Multiple families living in the same residence could all be covered under the same family policy? I’m not sure how this would work, exactly. It sounds like you’re basically advocating for socialized medicine, here, where no one needs to be specifically related to anyone and everyone is just pretty much universally eligible for coverage.

    I could go for a socialized, single-payer medical plan. Sure, I’ll get behind that. No more spousal coverage – just EVERYONE coverage.

    4. Other benefits? Things such as hospital visitations, and any other “benefits” like retirement, IRA beneficiaries, and the like? Change the laws to refer to members of registered “unions.”

    Again with “protecting” an Old English word, “mariage,” at the expense of possibly doing away with all the familial rights and protections many people count on for the well-being of their loved ones.

    Where are those alleged 1,500 or so “benefits” that are floating around? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of them.

    http://www.marriageequality.org/1-138-federal-rights
    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html
    The other 300-400 are granted at the state level and vary from one state to another.

    And they certainly weren’t the reason why I got married in the first place. I would have been perfectly happy if we had simply had a religious ceremony that recognized our commitment to one another. I could have cared less about any supposed “government” benefit or even a government recognition of our marriage. I don’t care what Uncle Sam thinks.

    Of course they weren’t and of course you don’t. Just as millions of gay and lesbian couples across this country have lived together in committed relationships for years upon years without any legal recognition or benefits for their relationships. But that does not make it right that one pair of taxpayers in a relationship which serves the exact same purposes in society receive a set of benefits from the government which are denied to another couple in a relationship which serves the exact same purposes, simply because of a religiously-based bias in favor of one couple over the other.

    Yeah, we live our lives and take care of business, in spite of being unduly burdened under a law which treats us unequally, as second-class citizens. Doesn’t mean it should stay that way. And simply demolishing the institution of civil marriage altogether in order to make sure that The Gays don’t get any is a lot like saying, “I don’t WANNA share my ice cream with my sister, so I’m just gonna throw it on the ground and stomp on it so she won’t get any!!! Waaa!!!”

    In the words of Shel Silverstein, in his poem, Prayer of the Selfish Child:

    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
    And if I die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my toys to break.
    So none of the other kids can use ‘em. . . .
    Amen.

    I don’t think the SSM movement has ever been about government benefits, because virtually all benefits can be resolved with a power of attorney, a will, and some minor changes in the laws.

    Not true, IDIAT. And I see you’ve left out some of the most important benefits, which include those which are for the protection of spouses and families after the death of a loved one. For instance, a spouse whose husband or wife dies can collect at least a portion of the social security payments which would have been due his/her deceased spouse. If you should die before your wife, and she is not vested in Social Security because she has stayed at home and cared for the household and children her whole life, while you have worked and paid money into Social Security your whole life, would you want her left without that money *you earned* for her? Or even if she is vested and so are you, and she dies first, you want the government to just keep all the money *she* paid into Social Security instead of paying it out to you at a time in your life when you need it most?

    And what about employee pensions which only go to a surviving spouse if the employee dies? Spouses should be left without retirement income their spouse earned for them?

    And what about tax deferment upon inheritance? If there are taxes due upon an inheritance left by one spouse to another, they are currently deferred until the death of the surviving spouse. Instead, how about let’s make widows pay those taxes the moment their spouse dies, so that they have to sell the home they’ve lived in together for decades in order to be able to afford to pay the taxes they incurred at the death of their spouse? How about if spouses don’t automatically inherit from one another at all? How about if when you die, your house goes to your surviving blood relatives (or to the state, if you don’t have any surviving blood relatives) and your spouse is simply kicked to the curb?

    There are a lot of very good reasons for the state to endorse and support committed relationships via civil marriage. If you don’t want to be civilly married, then don’t. But don’t just try to selfishly take it away from everyone else because you don’t want to share with a certain group of people you don’t consider your equals.

    SSM has always been about moral acceptance.

    Hm. No. Not *moral* acceptance. I don’t give a crap what you think about whether my nearly-23-year marriage commitment is moral or not. I care *equality* — being treated equally under the *civil* laws of a land in which I am just as much a citizen as you are and in which I pay taxes the same as you do. I do not deserve to have my relationship accorded second-class status simply because your *religious leader* said it ought to be so.

  131. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Sorry — my last blockquote went awry. Hopefully it is still understandable.

  132. Wilfried on November 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I fixed it, Lorian. Hopefully OK?

  133. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Awesome, Wilfried. Thanks!!!

  134. Steve Smith on November 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Walter is right. There is no marriage without government, or at least some sort of a contract-enforcing government-like entity, such as a group of village elders. The idea of ‘getting government out of marriage’ is nothing more than an adolescent libertarian fantasy that really doesn’t make much sense.

    Lorian, thanks for taking on Jax and IDIAT. I’ve sort of lost patience with this debate.

  135. Lorian on November 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    My pleasure, Steve. Thanks for hosting the conversation.

  136. Walter van Beek on November 3, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Thank you all for the comments. I learned a lot, and it is time to move on, so I close the thread.

    Walter van Beek