Final religious amicus brief on US same-sex marriage

I’ve been following the same-sex marriage debate on the legal front since the days of Prop 8. In 2010, Judge Walker gave his damning ruling thata gender restriction on marriage is nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.” Such language struck at the heart of the patriarchy in the positions of maintaining opposite-gender marriage only. The Catholic, Mormon and conservative Protestant faiths do not permit female ordination; because ecclesiastical power flows through men only in these faiths, same-sex marriage is a threat to their patriarchal order.

The Church has filed animus briefs along the way, but now the final one is filed. Silly arguments have come out in recent weeks, for example, the idea that same-sex marriage discriminates against mixed-orientation marriage (because going against one’s “nature” will be demonized — no, people should just have the choice to marry/start a family with their chosen loved one), or that same-sex marriage will lead to 900,000 abortions (because a decrease in “real” marriage results in more out of wedlock pregnancies — what?!).

The LDS Church, however, has signed onto a multifaith coalition amicus brief that steps up the arguments.

So what are the “final” arguments?

1) Opposite-sex marriage is central to a functional society

By our collective experience counseling and serving millions of people over countless years[,] we know from experience the tragedies associated with unwed parenting and marriage breakdown[…] boys, bereft of their fathers or any positive male role model, act out in violence, join gangs, and engage in destructive behavior. We have ministered to those boys in prison where too many are consigned to live out their ruined lives. […] We have seen girls, deprived of the love and affection of a father, fall into insecurity and then promiscuity that results in pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth – thereby repeating the cruel cycle.

2) Support for opposite-sex marriage has nothing to do with animus against gays and lesbians, but rather age-old faith traditions based in rational shepherding.

Homosexuality is remote from core teachings about marriage and family.

3) Religious liberty in the public sphere is threatened

Comparing opposition to same-sex marriage with racism would over time reduce those who believe in traditional marriage to the status of social and political outcasts.

4) Thought-policing

Striking down state marriage laws [on the basis of] animus would be an unprecedented restriction on the exercise of a fundamental right to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process. […] [How can one] suggest that advocacy for same-sex marriage is somehow less moralistic than opposition, when the entire controversy is saturated with moral discourse[?]

5) The essential secular/religious divide

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have rich religious narratives extolling the husband-wife, child-centric meaning of marriage. Many Americans who accept these traditions understand marriage as a gift from God, intended to establish an optimal setting for bearing and rearing children rather than as a means of endorsing adult relationship choices. These beliefs about marriage are not going away.

6) A subversion of democracy

To declare an unprecedented constitutional right to same-sex marriage would deny people of faith who support traditional marriage the liberty to participate as equal citizens in deciding which values and policies will govern their communities.

Well, so there you have it. The Supreme Court justices have their hands full in resolving this matter.

As I skimmed through the document, the word that appeared over and over is “animus.” If anything, these groups do not want the Supreme Court to make same-sex marriage federally legal while also demonizing anti-gay (by which I mean, anti-gay intimacy) faith communities for having some kind of “animus.”

Perhaps it’s not animus at the root, but I do think the foundational problem is ignorance/xenophobia (which historically has created animus). Many of the above arguments demonstrate a basic ignorance about society. For example, faith communities who okay gay marriage also generally centralize traditional views about marriage; they just also recognize that gay people exist.

If we think about how the Church has dealt with homosexuality over the last several decades, it’s been to take baby steps, make sure the boat is not rocked too much, the overarching patriarchal power structure not disrupted. Silly ideas have been formalized: like, the idea that God only creates heterosexual souls. I think a great deal of animus existed toward gays among church leaders prior to the 1990s, and the Bible was cited in an attempt to justify it. Nowadays, the problem is still trying to contain something as if it were “bad”; on the one hand, the Church has supported LGBT rights in the public arena, but on the other hand, talks about “counterfeit lifestyles.” There is just too much cognitive dissonance.

The analogy to racism is interesting. Considering that the Quorum of the Twelve consists of all white, English-speaking hetero married men who claim to sooth-say for God on matters for the entire human species, I see no problem introducing a “special status” of any sort that pushes against this highly problematic structure.

Anyway, feel free to comment here, whatever your position!

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3 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg on why we should allow gay marriage now, when the traditional view has been in place for “millennia”:

    “[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.

    There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t—wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.”

    It’s a very good point that reiterates the logic in Walker’s 2010 ruling.

    Will the Mormon Church hunker down with its “the genders are different, but equal” logic, or will gay marriage + possibility a female president next year lead to actual reflection on the church’s gender hierarchy?

  2. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    Despite who wins the longevity contest, my best guess is the reflection the church see’s in it’s funhouse mirror is an awesome provider who’s humble in every way as He righteously presides.
    If Mormonism emulates the fallen world, however will Mormon women get called from the grave. It wouldn’t be nice to just leave them there, waiting and waiting and waiting.

    How much difference is there actually between Bednar and Uchtdorf? None of apostles of the world wide church look like Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, or Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    And to bring in a Utah connection, nobody in the Mormon hierarchy (despite being possibly related) looks like the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah Carolyn Tanner Irish.
    Or maybe I need better glasses.

  3. Alan says:

    Yes, the Church really does have a spiritual ethos deficiency among its highest ranking. But maybe I just wasn’t inundated enough as a child to see their “greatness,” so it remains invisible to me.

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