Church files Amicus Brief against Marriage Equality

So, we’re in the final phase of the Prop 8 battle:  the arguments before the Supreme Court.  This thing should be decided sometime this summer.

The CoJCoL-dS, along with a coalition of other churches (though I suspect the Church put most of the work into the document), have filed their amicus brief.

Looking back at the previous arguments made by Prop 8 supporters, this brief is shorter, the arguments more polished.  The main set of arguments can be summarized thusly:

  • The 14th Amendment (equal protection clause) does not prohibit states from preserving the traditional definition of marriage, because “value” judgments are present in any lawmaking.
  • Only a demeaning view of religion and religious believers would dismiss advocacy for Prop 8 as ignorance, prejudice or animus.
  • Man-and-woman marriage is an axiom of Western civilization, not an attack on gay and lesbian civil rights.  …It is false and overly dramatic to claim same-sex marriage is a “defining civil rights issue of our time.”

The rhetoric of this is telling.  The Church is obviously wanting to take an “objective” approach here, claiming that the hype over gay marriage as a “civil right” is a result of manufactured drama over the years.  I do think this is true to a certain extent, as a lot of money and time goes into gay interests, which affects people’s minds, gay and straight alike.  But it is more dramatic to paint the issue of “redefining marriage” as a “civilizational” issue, since in the end, when the country has gay marriage, Western civilization will be fine.  The only thing that won’t be fine is that the Church will seem more out of touch.

The Church suggests that Prop 8 had a very “narrow and limited” effect, since it was just about the word “marriage” and not about…say, anti-sodomy laws that would throw sodomizers into jail or something.  The Church puts it thusly:  “We intended only to disapprove of same-sex marriage [i.e, affirm traditional marriage], rather than pass judgment on same-sex couples as people.”

This framing of innocent benevolence is silly.  What if I were to say, “I love gay people.  I don’t judge same-sex couples.  But I just don’t want any in my home.”  Is there not obvious animus there?  Same-sex couples are not welcome in the Church as equal participants.  Homosexual relationships result in church discipline.  That’s what I’d call “animus.”  For a lot of Mormons, this puts up a dramatic flag of, “Are you saying you want the Supreme Court to FORCE us to change our beliefs?!  What about the separation of Church and State?!!!”  Uh, no, what I’m saying is that if the Supreme Court says that the state of Utah must allow same-sex marriage, this would be a “narrow and limited” effect.  Your Church will not be forced to do anything, but you might take the opportunity to think more introspectively about the gay animus of your church.

The Church writes that its belief in traditional marriage is a result of serving millions of followers over countless years, upholding faith and family with “seldom a mention of homosexuality.”  Paraphrasing, it says that faith traditions have upheld traditional marriage for centuries before homosexuality was even a recognized orientation, not to mention the move toward same-sex marriage.  Therefore, calling support of traditional marriage “private bias” is “patently false.”

On the contrary, you don’t have to talk about homosexuality everyday to be gay-friendly, but assuming that everyone around you should live up to heterosexual ideals — so much so that your faith makes no room for homosexuality except to dismiss it as “abominable” or as a “trial” is what got you into this mess to begin with, and does account for a great deal of where private bias comes from.  The Church should admit that in recent years, it has had to think more critically about this issue within itself, even as it puts up these national-scale arguments about why the country somehow can’t abide with gay marriage.  (Let’s ask Washington State, Maine and Maryland what they think.)

Of course, the question of child welfare arises.  Here again, the Church clings steadfastly to the idea that children do best when raised by their “biological parents,” and that supporting gay marriage makes marriage solely about the happiness of adults without a concern to children.  Actually, I’m pretty sure children do best when raised by good parents (preferably more than one parent because of the increased sociability factor). “Biological” does not have goodness inherently built into it. In the brief, there is finally an acknowledgement of same-sex parenting data on page 31:  “Admittedly, there is an active debate in the social sciences about whether these common sense judgments [i.e, assumptions about the wrongness of same-sex parenting] are empirically sound.”  The Church will refuse to believe that same-sex parents are good parents (meaning, equal to opposite-sex ones) until it can no longer maintain this position rationally.  In the end, the Church simply has trouble imagining kinship in any way other than its heteropatriarical model.

This is demonstrated by the fact that the Church frames its view as “intergenerational,” claiming that the gay marriage view is “interpersonal” and “individualistic” (a nice way of saying, “selfish”), and that these two views are in tension.  Well, of course they’re in tension if you frame it that way!  Has the Church ever considered the fact that homosexuality is intergenerational, too?  Yeah, gay sex might not make babies, but there are nonetheless same-sex-attracted people over the centuries.  Again, this comes down to wearing heteropatriarical blinders.

In 2010 Judge Walker ruled that excluding marriage from gays is “nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.”  That argument, that gay marriage is actually linked to questions of equality between men and women, is something the Church won’t touch with a 10-foot-pole because it refuses to be introspective about its patriarchy.  Instead, it would rather hide behind this unsubstantiable notion that gay marriage supporters are selfish, “individualistic” and short-sighted — and then apologize for being “abstract” about the way “genderless marriage” in society would affect “core identity.”  Perhaps there is less overt animus and prejudice than there used to be, but this brief sure foregrounds a lot of ignorance.

Anyhow, we’ll see what the Supreme Court does with these arguments.

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7 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    Very useful summary and analysis–thanks.

    re: “genderless marriage”–the church seems to be playing Goldilocks in all of this: I’ve seen the argument from Mormons that feminists think about gender difference too much; advocates of gay marriage (who aren’t expected to be feminists as well, apparently) don’t think about it enough; and only the church thinks about it Just Right. Whatever.

    Don’t know what else to say right now except I hope they get their asses handed to them on a platter, in a series of videos, more articles and petitions than they can count, etc….

  2. Jon says:

    I live in California and saw in my ward and stake exactly what motivated their members’ countless hours of work and significant contribution to passing Prop 8. I heard what they thought because they said it, throughout the entire campaign.

    It was absolutely, clearly, without question, “anti-gay animus” and “a beknighted ‘judgment about the worth of gays and lesbians as a class.'” For this brief to say otherwise is the most deluded fiction and, in my opinion, strips the whole thing of all credibility.

    Where was all this when Mr. Cooper made his case in the federal District Court? Why didn’t he bring it up during trial? The “competing views of marriage” issue was addressed, though. And Judge Walker found that California law had long since lost any gender-based distinctions between spouses or their legal roles or rights, and that children were not a legally essential, intrinsic feature of all marriages.

    That, IMO, is the key point. If there is no longer any gender-based distinction in state law for anything else about marriage or the roles of the spouses, why continue to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples? Civil law is _already_ blind in all other respects to their genders. This horse left the barn years ago and any church which supported the gradual ring of gender-based distinctions from California civil law has only itself to blame for this inevitable, logical result.

    I note that the churches’ brief steadfastly ignores this point. But they can do little else.

  3. Jon says:

    *gradual draining of gender-based distinctions.

    Stupid keyboard lag.

  4. Chris F. says:

    This is brilliant. Thank you Alan.

  5. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    Do you have any comments on the amicus brief in Windsor?
    Hoping someone could translate it for me. As far as I can tell — Religious heteropatriarical theology trumps everything, so “death” taxes for Edith.

  6. Daniel says:

    “Only a demeaning view of religion and religious believers would dismiss advocacy for Prop 8 as ignorance, prejudice or animus.”

    Only a demeaning view of gay people could view their marriages and relationships as antithetical to children, families, society, and government.

  1. February 10, 2013

    […] popular discussion topic was the church’s amicus brief in the Prop 8 case. Also noted: the loyal opposition in the US offering serious criticism, popular […]

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