Tuesday, August 28, 2012


“We want to help … strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.”
--Gordon B. Hinckley (former prophet, seer, and revelator of the Mormon Chruch)
"And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man."
--Doctrine & Covenants 49:15
I sometimes hesitate to use the word "bigot" to describe those who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons. The sliding scale of discrimination indicates that bigotry is a particularly fierce type of discrimination, which you can look up here. There are degrees of severity. For instance, not all racists think that blacks should be enslaved. Some might just promote segregated schools, or white-only drinking fountains, or maybe just higher wages for those with red hair.
In the early days of the abolition of slavery there were certainly many people who thought slavery was justified (as outlined in the Bible), and many others were opposed to it. Social change only happens when that big fuzzy middle ground consisting of the bulk of the population starts to sway to a new direction. It may have began with some viewing slavery as being exceptionally cruel, and deciding black people should not be enslaved. Later, they may see other manifestations of racism as unjustifiable until eventually blacks are given the right to vote and own property. Even after blacks were allowed to sit at the front of the bus, and businesses were no longer allowed to refuse to hire someone based on their race, some people in the middle still thought blacks were less intelligent than white people. Now, are these racist ideas as extreme as slavery? Does opposition of one aspect of black culture indicate bigotry? I don't think so.
Sure, technically it is racism, but it is not necessarily bigotry. This is how I see many conservative people who, rather than outright condemn homosexuality and gay marriage, promote "traditional marriage." The Big Middle is starting to shift. Even the most conservative churches are modifying their views on homosexuality. For instance, the Mormon Church has stopped trying to "cure" homosexuals, and instead are focusing on chastity before marriage. And for the Mormon Church this is progress. Unfortunately, what they fail to mention is that they are not merely advocating abstinence for everyone, but rather, they are saying heterosexuals should be abstinent before marriage and homosexuals, who can not marry, should be celibate. There is a subtle distinction here. It took me a while to really understand the difference between abstinence and celibacy, but I think I got it.
Let's start with abstinence, which is abstaining from sexual intercourse. In the Mormon Church this means no premarital sex. You can still hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and date, so long as these things do not lead to sex. Mormons, and other conservatives, also tend to include a prohibition on masturbation with abstinence, although, this is not always the case. In the end, the goal is marriage, where you can have sex as much as you want. This is important, as this makes abstinence a temporary condition with a clear end-game.
Celibacy is quite different. Celibacy does not simply prohibit sex. It takes abstinence to a further extreme. Not only can you not have sex, but you also can not date, hold hands, kiss, cuddle, or do anything which would lead to sexual arousal in anyway. Furthermore, while abstinence has a clear goal to get married and start having sex, celibacy is a life-long commitment. No marriage and no sex for your entire life--not even masturbation. This is how the nuns and priests in the Catholic Church live, and many in the Mormon Church have openly criticized them for this practice. Yet, this is exactly how homosexuals need to live in order to remain in good standing with the Mormon Church.
Consider this quote from former president of the Mormon Church, Gordon B. Hinckley: "We love and honor [gays and lesbians] as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married."
I had great respect for Mr. Hinckley, as he was the president of the church while I was on my mission. But this statement shows great ignorance on his part. The rules of conduct for gays and lesbians in the church are not the same as those for heterosexuals. He seeks to equate abstinence with celibacy, when they are clearly different. And this double standard in no way shows "love and honor" to homosexuals. He should have said, "Gays and lesbians are welcome so long as they act straight."
A few months ago a video came out by "an unofficial group of Brigham Young University students, faculty, and friends who wish to strengthen families and the BYU community by providing a place for open, respectful discussions on the topic of same-gender attraction," known as USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction). This video seeks to shed some light on homosexuals in the Mormon Church. At first I was quite excited to watch it. But as I got to the end of the video I realized that they were not saying that "It Gets Better" for homosexuals in the church or that the church is changing its stance on homosexuality, but that there exist some members of the church who sympathize with gays and lesbians, most of whom are themselves gays and lesbians. They are not advocating change, but solidarity in affliction. And still, sadly, this is progress.
I will include some videos from the official "It Gets Better" campaign below, but before I get to that, consider the following video of a middle-aged man who spent 12 years in the Mormon Church's reparative therapy program (i.e. pray away the gay) called Evergreen (I know how much weight testimonies carry in Mormonism).
While I may not call individual members of the Mormon Church "bigots" for opposing gay marriage, the Church itself, which may be calling for the equivalent of segregated drinking fountains rather than slavery, is advocating discrimination as indicated by this quote from Mr. Hinckley (same article as as above):
"Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality. Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family. We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out."
I need to be clear here. Smiley-faced, Biblically-based discrimination can still be bigotry. But I think it is possible to have a good understanding of the nature of homosexuality, and in all other ways support gay rights, but still oppose gay marriage for religious reasons. This is still discrimination based on religiously-charged morality (a moral imposition in my book) and is, therefore, wrong, but I would not necessarily call this bigotry. OK, I'm done splitting hairs.


And now REAL "It Gets Better Project" videos.
Adam Savage:
President Obama:
Stephen Colbert:

No comments: