Wednesday, June 24, 2015


"Their leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, has announced that all inhabitants of the Islamic state of Palestine will be expected to conform to Muslim law. In Bethlehem, it is now proposed that non-Muslims be subjected to the al-Jeziya tax, the historic levy imposed on dhimmis or unbelievers under the old Ottoman Empire. Female employees of the municipality are forbidden to greet male visitors with a handshake. In Gaza, a young woman named Yusra al-Azami was shot dead in April 2005, for the crime of sitting unchaperoned in a car with her fiance. The young man escaped with only a vicious beating. The leaders of the Hamas "vice and virtue" squad justified this casual murder and torture by saying that there had been "suspicion of immoral behavior." In once secular Palestine, mobs of sexually repressed young men are conscripted to snoop around parked cars, and given permission to do what they like."
--Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great.

The discussion of gay marriage started to take off while I was attending BYU (a Mormon university) in the mid 2000's. By the time the infamous "Prop 8" scandal exploded, as it became known that the Mormon Church had milked millions of dollars from members to fight against gay marriage by changing the California state constitution, several arguments for and against gay rights began to circulate around campus.

Those advocating for gay rights (the minority) usually came from a place of equality and agency and the "right to choose." Those against gay rights, in particular gay marriage, usually argued from godly mandates, ill-defined morals and that "butt sex" is gross. As the issue has progressed through each passing presidential election, and now that over half of the states in the US have legalized gay marriage--including Utah--I hear Mormons crying out one argument more than ever: "We have a right to vote according to our conscience."

Yup, you do. Much like the equally vacuous idea that atheists have taken god and prayer out of schools, no one can stop you from doing so. 

While I would prefer a world wherein everyone just agreed with me on every point (seriously, the most peaceful societies are those which produce mass conformity; or so I hear...), I have to concede that voting according to one's conscience is a basic right. But so is abstinence before marriage and suppressing the urge to masturbate--neither of which reflect a healthy attitude towards sexuality, and both are preached by Mormons. Just because someone is exercising a right does not mean they are good at making decisions.

My concern with the argument that one should vote their conscience is that the conscience of these religious fundamentalists (and Mormons are certainly fundamentalists) is telling them that it is OK to impose their religious restrictions on to people not of their faith. Interestingly, Mormons also prohibit the consumption of alcohol, and some would call it immoral and damaging to families (a much stronger case can be made for this than the notion that gay marriage will destroy the family unit); and yet, I don't see any Mormon leaders raising money to universally prohibit alcohol. Their conscience, it seems, only imposes itself on to others selectively and when it is politically advantageous. 

The legal precedent known as the "Lemon Test" requires that all laws must serve a secular purpose (meaning, any given law must be religiously neutral, not favoring or advocating one religion over another, including non-belief). And since all arguments against gay marriage of which I am aware stem from religious prohibitions and serve no established secular purpose, any laws restricting gay marriage are illegal. This is the whole point of the current Supreme Court hearings concerning gay marriage. 

The issues of bigotry, ignorance, sexual repression (which is a form of abuse when forced on to minors), and the moral quagmire of using the argument of "voting one's conscience" to oppress unwilling people not of a particular faith, are all dismantled through education. Teaching people how to process a moral situation (by evaluating potential harm and benefits), rather than listing vague or arbitrary restrictions, will always better serve society. Education is always better than perpetuated ignorance. 

I understand the way many Mormons feel about gay marriage. They are in a tough spot. On the one hand Joseph Smith famously said that he teaches his people correct principles and lets them govern themselves, implying that people--even god's people--should have the ability to make a good or bad choice. 

On the other hand, Mormons are taught to follow their leaders and to not openly criticize or challenge the Church on important matters--even if the criticism is valid. So, when a leader asks members to help fund a campaign to make gay marriage illegal in another state, members are expected to comply and give as much money as possible. Remember, the more a sacrifice hurts, the more god will reward you (look up the documentary "8: The Mormon Proposition" to see what I am referring to). The Mormon principle of agency is being challenged by Mormon leadership and members are caught in the crossfire. 

My own struggle with this led to my leaving Mormonism. I suspect that as the Church continues to take the hard stance that gays should not be allowed to get married, and as the general population of the US and members of the Church “come around” to legalized gay marriage, more and more people will question and leave the Church. And when their pocketbooks are hit hard by declining member donations, the leaders of the Mormon Church will be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century and, much like the issue of blacks and the priesthood in 1978, they will find a way to be "inclusive" of homosexuals. When this public relations move finally happens, they will call it a revelation from god.


Gay couples watching anti-gay ads:

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