Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Is Going to Make All Sorts of People Mad...

Yesterday and today, I've seen tons of people on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else you can post an infographic or change a profile pic touting their views on the debate over same-sex marriage.  Even places where I don't normally go looking for political-type debate - it's there (has anyone checked to see if ESPN has weighed in on the topic? Wouldn't surprise me).  Both sides are bound and determined to paint the other side as some kind of knuckle-dragging demon bent on destroying everything they hold dear.  I tried to ignore it because my view on it is going to have all kinds of pitbulls after me.  Pro-same-sex marriage folks will be mad that I'm bringing religion into it and pro-traditional marriage folks will be mad that I'm admitting that there could be an option for allowing same-sex partners legal protections.  I just can't win with this one.

But with the proliferation of people “seeking awareness” (whatever the hell that means), on the same-sex marriage issue, I just really want to be understood on a few things - as long as both parties are consenting adults, I do not give a flying monkey crap about who you love or who you choose to spend your life with.  I don't want to fight over this just because we may disagree on a few details. My time is too valuable to try to persuade people who are just never going to agree with me anyway.  Besides, I have had way too much experience with friends who don’t share my political or religious views, but who I still consider good people and worth my respect and friendship.  I said this during the past election - my friendships are too valuable to cast aside over something so petty (yes, I said "petty" in reference to political debate. Meaning it's really not that important. Sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches!  I'll have cookies ready for you).

I strongly believe that everyone has the right to choose to live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscience.  I may not agree with what people do, but that’s their choice and I am not the Judge of humanity (and thank goodness that I'm not because I have a list of people who I would smite if given the chance).  If Adam and Steve want to live together and have the state recognize their partnership legally and have all the benefits pertaining thereto, then they are welcome to it.

So, why am I not waving the rainbow flag and jumping up and down with HRC-sanctioned pom-poms?  I’ll tell you why:


About five years ago, I was serving an LDS mission in Florida.  This was right around the time Proposition 8 was a Big Deal in California (conversely, there was a similar measure on the ballot in Florida at the time that also defined marriage as between one man and one woman - funny how all hell didn't break loose after that one was voted into law).  As a missionary, you don’t worry about what’s going on in current events and all that stuff because you've got other things on your mind.  The only reason I knew anything was going on was there were a lot of election signs in people's yards and sometimes church members would tell us things.  As I went along doing my missionary thing, sometimes people would yell at us for reasons I had no clue of at the time (people yelled at us just because we were easy targets anyway - and I paid them no heed.  If they didn't want to talk to me, I didn't want to talk to them - simple as that).

But I remember one encounter distinctly.  It has significantly colored my perception of the pro-gay marriage crowd and I really wish it didn't.  While I and my companion were out talking to people one day, this guy came up to us and started shouting the worst kinds of obscenities for no apparent reason.  All of it was based on the fact that he was gay and supposedly all people from my religion hate gay people (which could not be further from the truth.  There are always a few nuts, but we try to relegate them to the back of the cupboard, with varying degrees of success).  It was probably the most-hate-filled tirade I encountered on my entire 18 month mission (bear in mind - I was in the Bible Belt and met plenty of Evangelicals who were more than happy to go all hellfire and damnation on a pair of Mormon missionaries).  When the guy left, my companion and I just stood there dumbstruck that anyone could be so horrible and say such awful things (and then he turned back and screamed “And I suck a lot of ****!”, just in case there were any five-year-olds that didn't hear him the first time, I guess).

Later, I found out that the LDS Church was being portrayed as on this monolithic crusade against gay marriage and as being so terrible and hateful for it (never mind there were plenty of other groups pumping for traditional marriage and they were never singled out like we were).  So, of course it was okay for people to spray graffiti on the walls outside the Los Angeles Temple.  Of course it was okay for groups to gather at LDS meetinghouses and harass people and their kids trying to go to church on Sundays.  Of course it was okay for people to scream obscenities at sister missionaries who were out trying to share a message of peace and faith and for whom the issue of same-sex marriage was about as important as what some stray cat left on the back porch last night.

Yeah, way to garner sympathy for your cause there.  At the time, I may have been persuaded to your side.  But since you had to go and be a total dipshit about it, that's a great big "Hell-to-the-No!" on that score.

Since that unfortunate episode, I have met some people of goodwill who have made convincing arguments for legalizing same-sex marriage and who are willing to listen to my own concerns over it.  But I've also encountered plenty of people who will spout hate at me at the drop of a hat because I believe in God and they have a preconceived notion of what someone like that thinks.  Now, I realize I can't paint all pro-SSM people with the same brush - just like I hope not everyone paints all pro-traditional marriage people with the same brush they do Westboro Baptist Church (which, they're not a church.  I don't know what cave those creatures crawled out of, but if anyone was the direct polar opposite of "Love one another as I have loved you," they're it).  But it's hard to ignore the negativity when you're honestly trying to be reasonable.

Here is where I'm coming from - For thousands of years, marriage has been a religious sacrament. Somewhere along the line, the state got involved (or this is a holdover from when the state and the church were the same and obviously that’s not the case anymore) and that’s where you get stuff like personal and property rights and spousal benefits and the marriage tax penalty, etc.  But for people of faith, marriage is still a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and God.  God sets the terms and the man and the woman make it work.  It’s bigger than laws devised by humans - more important than a bunch of legalese.  God is the one that sets the definition of marriage, as it is understood in the religious ordinance.  I don’t believe that any mortal institution has the right to change the definition because that definition transcends earthly courts and governments, but I also understand that not everyone feels that way.

Iowahawk said it perfectly over at (read the whole article - it's good stuff) - 

"The problem, I think, is that marriage uniquely represents a religious sacrament that doubles as an official secular legal status. We don't have laws, for example, that recognize someone's baptism or confirmation. Because of that duality of marriage, attempts to expand its definition naturally are seen as an attack on religion, while attempt to restrict its definition are seen as the imposition of religion on society. Everybody gets mad and yells."

Like I said, I have no problem with giving homosexual partners equal benefits and recognition before the law.  But the amount of hate and spew I’ve come into contact personally from those who believe in that cause - I’m just not willing to jump up and start waving placards with them.  Rest assured, I will certainly call out jackholes who profess to love God but still spew insults and condemn others to hell (like they have any right to do that. I mean, really?)  And I have met plenty of respectful people who just come in and say ”Look, we don’t want to infringe on your religious beliefs because we understand those are important and special to you and we don’t want to take any of that away.  But this is important to us the same way your traditions are important to you and all we want is equal legal protection.”  Want to know how best to earn my respect and support? You say that to me and honestly mean it.  You do that and I’m with you!  You can have whatever legal protections and benefits you want!

Bottom Line - I can see where proponents of same-sex marriage are coming from.  I also see where people of religious faith are coming from.  I believe in individual choice and the right to live your life according to your personal conviction (it’s just as essential to my worldview and my lifestyle choices as it is to anyone else's).  So, I’m more than willing to extend that to homosexual couples.  It's the same stance I have with heterosexual couples, frankly - as long as I don't have to hear about it or pay for it, you can do whatever you want with whoever you want!  It's up to you.  Whatever stops everyone yelling.

But if I hear one F-bomb from some jackass who thinks he knows what my opinions are before I even open my mouth, all bets are off.  And I'm still not changing my Twitter avatar over it.

UPDATE: Larry Correia (another favorite author of mine and he happens to be LDS as well) has a brilliant take on this subject.  And I appreciated his paragraph about why Mormons in particular are a bit nervous about the federal government defining marriage (I have personal journals from my ancestors that discuss the time period he's referring to - yeah, it sucked).  I knew this was the case, but it was hard for me to explain it in a concise and well-reasoned way, so I thank him for that.

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