Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Church and the Gays: A Modest Proposal

This will likely be my last post on this topic for a while, as I have managed to say everything that's been floating around in my head. I believe I have said on this blog earlier that I am in an uncomfortable position. Being gay and in a lover of the LDS Church and its members, I have a foot in two worlds that seem diametrically opposed to each other. However, I firmly believe that there are far too many good people on both sides to keep us apart forever.

But what would a rapproachment look like? I think it has to take into account the core concerns of both communities. The LDS Church's core interest is in protecting their ability to preach, congregate, and worship as they please. The gay community's core concern is making sure that their relationships are on an equal footing with straight relationships in the eyes of the State. Any compromise would have to guarantee religious freedom and civil equality. I have written on this issue quite a bit, and have come to the conclusion that same-sex marriage does not infringe on religious freedom, while creating marriage-like statuses that are called something other than marriage does not lead to civil equality.

With that in mind, here is my idea of a compromise that would cover each side's core concerns:

1. The Church reiterates its religious opinion that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” and that they will continue to only recognize and perform temple and non-temple marriages for opposite sex couples.

2. The Church also notes that marriage is both a secular institution and a religious institution. To the extent that the State would attempt to impose upon the Church the obligation to accept practices that are against its doctrines, the state would be committing a grievous violation of the “sacred freedom of conscience” and the Church would actively resist any efforts to have such an obligation imposed on them.

3. However, the Church also notes that marriage is the institution that the government has chosen to regulate and organize secular society. The Church admits that, even though they may not believe that homosexual behavior is consistent with God’s will, as a matter of good policy and fairness, these relationships should be equal under the law. While the Church had hoped that a parallel institution would protect the rights of same-sex couples wile recognizing the religious importance of marriage, if the civil authorities, including the legislature, electorate, or the judiciary, decide that such a parallel institution cannot be equal, the Church will not oppose the use of the term marriage to describe these relationships for governmental purposes.

4. The Church issues this statement with the full cooperation with Joe Solmonese or some other mucky-muck from a prominent gay-rights group. Said person will make some appropriate conciliatory gesture, including apologies for intemperate rhetoric and lack of civility, the importance of the freedom of conscience, which protects both the Church and the gay community (explicit reference to the 11th article of faith would be appropriate), the mutual commitment to protecting the integrity of all families, and the commitment to work together in unity.

This is just off the top of my head and may be far too weak and capitulatory as far as the Church is concerned. I admit that this may look as though they are bowing to outside pressure, so any and all adjustments to this hypothetical scenario are welcome.


Alan said...

Sounds very reasonable and I honestly can't see it working out any other way than basically as you've described.

OTOH I know there are lots of Mormons who think gay marriage is the greatest apocalyptic issue of their time and think the church will have no choice but to "withdraw from society" if society compels even the slightest accommodation to "the gay agenda." Here's one example of someone who's totally earnest about it:


Chris said...

1) For some reason, I don't think I ever knew you were gay until now.

2) Re your point #2, I think this is the sticking point in the whole fight over same-sex marriage. As you say, the problem is that we have conflated two separate institutions: the civil and the religious institution of marriage.

(My girlfriend's denomination of Christianity, for example, was upset about Prop 8, because they accept same-sex marriage. What we have seen is some faith traditions having their version of certain rituals privileged over others in the law.)

A number of my friends have convinced me that a good way out of this problem is civil unions for EVERYONE. That is, the government stops using the word marriage in reference to any couple, same-sex or opposite-sex. A couple could get a civil union from the government, a marriage from whatever faith tradition they want, neither, or both. As far as the law is concerned, the marriage is irrelevant. This would make the separation of the civil and religious institutions clear.

I realize that this idea will probably never have political traction.

The JL McGregor Family said...

Excellent words, Nate. Thanks.