I do not live in California, but I do have friends and family that live there. I have been hearing and reading a bit about this issue and have decided to throw my support into the ring. In doing so I will post two articles that I feel are very well written, as well as two web sites that I support.
“PROPOSITION 8: A CLEAR MESSAGE FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE”
I am going to attempt the impossible: I want to try to discuss Proposition 8 in an honest, equitable manner. To demonstrate the divisiveness of the issue, let me first point out that I could only call it “Proposition 8.” If I’d called it by its original name, “Proposition 8: California Marriage Protection Act,” you would think that I want you to vote “Yes on 8.” After all, who wouldn’t want to protect marriage? If I’d called it by its new name, as determined by California’s attorney general and legislative analyst in July, “Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry,” you would think that I want you to vote “No on 8.” After all, who would want to eliminate someone’s rights? And, to demonstrate how far-reaching its effects, I didn’t even need to call it “California’s Proposition 8.” No matter where this email goes, to any of the 50 states that may have propositions up for vote, I’m confident people
will know which state’s “Proposition 8” I’m talking about.
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times describes the Proposition with poetic imagery: “it is raging like a wind-whipped wildfire in California.” More poetic still…from an article in Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle: “Michelle Sundstrom and her husband gave $30,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and put a sign on their home. But in response, two women parked an SUV in front of their home, with the words ‘Bigots live here’ painted on the windshield. Sundstrom believes such responses must come from deep places of pain-and that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, just not the word marriage. Any animosity toward gays or lesbians is wrong, she said. “There must be such deep, deep, deep hurt; otherwise there couldn’t be so much opposition,” she said. “They’ve lived with this. I guess we’re getting a taste of where they live.”
Wow. Perhaps all this craziness and hate-slinging is actually getting us somewhere. A heterosexual Mormon couple has a “Bigots live here” sign parked in front of their house, and what’s their response? “They’ve lived with this. I guess we’re getting a taste of where they live.” And she didn’t just say “deep hurt.” She said “deep, deep, deep hurt.” I know the depth of that pain. I grew up Mormon and gay back in the 1970s. That was when we were shunned, ridiculed, bruised, battered, and discriminated against by nearly everyone, religious or otherwise. We hid in the closets because it hurt too much to come out. People who did come out were called perverts, child molesters, predators, queer, sick, you name it. For those of us who were Mormon, it was even worse. We were attracted to the same sex, yet Mormon doctrine stated we were supposed to get married only to a member of the opposite sex. It is a direct conflict between the two strongest, most significant desires in life.
When I was in college, I met a woman with whom I thought I’d spend the rest of my life. But after a couple of years, we broke up. That was when I had this feeling, an impression, to talk to my bishop. I had no idea who he was because I hadn’t gone to church in years. That bishop used the power of the priesthood in my behalf, just as the divine plan had been laid out. He met with me for almost three years as I struggled and faltered. Suicide was a very real threat. I feel blessed, or lucky, or both, not to be among the many who have already pulled the trigger.
I wasn’t suicidal because of the Church’s unwavering stance on marriage. I hadn’t been forced to believe, or guilted into it. I had not been brainwashed. My testimony came from the heart. In time, my spiritual identity began to gain strength over my sexual identity. I was finally able to choose the right. But it was a troubling choice. I had no desire, whatsoever, to spend a lifetime with a man – much less an eternity. So that left me with celibacy. To this day, sacrificing same-sex relationships is the greatest sacrifice I have made. Years ago a friend said: “The sacrifice of a loved one for an attempt to live righteously cannot go unnoticed. The loss is real, the sadness is real, in a world where so few things are real.” Now, the sacrifice is being publicly recognized by Church leaders. In a fireside for Latter-day Saints in California, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “There are faithful temple-worthy members of the Church who struggle with this great challenge, often in silence, fear, and great pain.”
Back when I was battling same-sex attractions, I couldn’t find any LDS resources dealing with the issue. I’d insist, “The Church doesn’t understand. They don’t even care enough to help.” Finally I realized that the Church I was criticizing was not just “they”. It was also “I”, and perhaps “I” should quit complaining and start writing. So I did. The title of the book sums it up: Born That Way? A True Story of Overcoming Same-Sex Attraction. Few people were offering hope back then for those who wanted to overcome same-sex attraction. I felt compelled by the spirit to try and provide hope for others with struggles similar to mine.
The secular resources did more harm than good. Back then, the only claims you heard from the “experts” were: “Sexual attractions are a permanent part of who you are. They’re indelible, unchangeable, and unavoidable.” Fortunately, the “experts” are now realizing that, just like other aspects of who we are, sexual attractions are influenced by genetics, environment, upbringing, experiences – all of it. Nature and nurture are no longer pitted against each other.
For almost 20 years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to witness the journey of many people who face this trial. I started in 1990, when Evergreen asked me to help as a volunteer phone counselor. Evergreen is an organization established to help Mormons struggling with same-sex attractions. Over the span of nearly two decades, I’ve seen some of those Latter-day Saints get married in the temple. I’ve seen others work to remain celibate – either because they have not found a spouse or because they have not developed attractions toward the opposite sex. I have also seen those who once had very strong testimonies, who tried desperately to bring their lives into accordance with gospel principles, but finally gave up. At least for now.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT: Some people, no matter what they do or how hard they try, will never find themselves attracted to the opposite sex, in this life. They deserve our utmost respect. So do those who identify as gay or straight or bisexual or none of the above. They all deserve our respect.
No doubt because I have lived both sides of this issue, I am not surprised that the wildfires are raging in California. Also, it’s not difficult for me to understand how the body of the Church has become divided. I’ve felt divided, too. Our family lived in California in 2000, when the Defense of Marriage Act came up for vote the first time. My husband and I had been sealed together for time and all eternity, and our children had been born under the new and everlasting covenant. We, as an eternal family, were and are the direct beneficiaries of the Church’s unwavering stance on marriage. What once created angst so severe I considered suicide led me to a life I never thought possible. One in which I have been happily married – to a man – for 15 years.
However, I know all too well what it’s like to be discriminated against. And the thought of “eliminating” someone else’s rights seems wrong. Up until this week, it seemed to go against my sense of fairness, democracy and justice as a citizen of the United States. It also seemed to run contrary to the core of my faith – the second greatest commandment – to love one another.
Despite my apprehensions in 2000, my husband and I acted in faith and supported Proposition 22 because the prophet asked us to. I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until this week that I was able to reconcile the opposing viewpoints I have continued to debate in my own head. I now understand why the leaders of the Mormon Church have been taking such an active role in all of this. It happened while I was reading a National Public Radio report entitled “When Gay Rights and Religious Liberties Clash”. It says, “In recent years, some states have passed laws giving residents the right to same-sex unions in various forms. Gay couples may marry in Massachusetts and California. There are civil unions and domestic partnerships in Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Oregon.”
I was astonished when I read: “So far, the religious groups are losing.” They listed examples such as Catholic Charities in Massachusetts who had to pull out of the adoption business because they refused to adopt to same-sex couples. Individual rights are being revoked, too. A woman declined to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. She was found guilty of discrimination.
When I read that article, it was like a light bulb went on over my head. More importantly, I felt a spiritual confirmation in my heart that the prophet truly is prophetic. And that was when this impression came to me: It’s not that the Mormon Church is trying to get into politics. It’s that politics is trying to get into the Church. And not just our church. Any church or congregation or individual who believes that only a marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.
I’m sorry I couldn’t see what the prophet could see. I’m sorry I’m not sending this letter until now. I’m sorry for my apathy, for being “lukewarm”. (I thought it was only a matter of time before same-sex marriages became legal everywhere.)
Yes, we’re behind in the polls. Yes, it’s the Friday before Election Day. So PLEASE, email this letter to anyone and everyone you think could benefit from it – as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, someone has to lose with Proposition 8. Somebody’s right to something will be limited after the polls close on Tuesday. I, for one, do not want it to be my right to worship as I please.
P.S. For those who would like to respond to this letter – whether in anger or frustration or support – I will do my best to respond to every email I receive. But please, be patient. All our kids are still at home and I work part time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compelling argument made by Hannah Judd
Many people are unsure about vocalizing their support of the “Yes on 8” campaign to preserve traditional marriage in California. Understandably so. Across California individuals who placed bumper stickers on their cars or displayed political signs in their yards or participated in campaigning for “Yes on 8” have been intimidated because of their political opinion. Thousands of incidents of trespass, theft, property damage, bullying and harassment and even assault towards supporters of “Yes on 8” have been reported.
How does one justify this behavior? The recent acts of intimidation suggest that perhaps the “No on 8” campaign is not being honest when they claim they are only seeking tolerance and “equality for all” as their tagline touts. So let us examine some of their campaign claims further.
Claim #1: If the definition of marriage is not changed to include homosexual relationships, gays are legally discriminated against.
Not so. In 1999 California passed a law regarding domestic partnerships, which says that gay and lesbian domestic partners “shall have the same rights, protections and benefits” as married spouses. However, there may still be some confusion about the law. If for example, you have gay friends who had an unfortunate experience where they found they lacked legal rights when their partner was hospitalized, it is probably because they did not realize it is necessary to apply for a domestic partnership as you would apply for a marriage license. It does not automatically happen simply because an individual is in a sexual relationship with someone else. That individual is still required to go through the steps to make their relationship legally recognized as a domestic partnership. This applies to marriage as well. A person cannot just say he or she is married; he or she must actually go through the hassle of making the relationship legally binding by obtaining a marriage license.
Claim #2: Not changing the word marriage to include homosexual couples is like the “separate but equal” discrimination against blacks.
Not quite. The government still identifies African Americans as African Americans and Caucasians as Caucasians. They did not start calling African Americans Caucasians because African Americans are not Caucasians. What action they took instead was that they granted African Americans the same rights. The 1999 law regarding domestic partnerships means gay unions are treated exactly the same as marriage even though their unique sexual relationship is identified differently.
Claim #3: Everyone is equal.
Incorrect again. “Equal” implies something is the same. There is significant difference between same-gender couples and married heterosexual couples. That difference is procreation. Even little children know it takes a mother and a father to make babies. This fact is no secret. Even gay people often sarcastically refer to married people as “breeders”. By their own words they recognize the fundamental difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples: children.
Furthermore, there is a reason why marriage is not only a “church thing”. There is a reason why the government is involved with a person’s intimate relationships. There is a reason why the legal institution of marriage exists worldwide across cultural and religious boundaries and throughout history, as we know it. That reason is children. Society wants married couples to take legal responsibility for the human beings they might bring into society due to their choice of sexual intercourse. For better or worse, marriage between a man and a woman holds consequences to society that a homosexual relationship simply does not. This inequality is dictated by Mother Nature, not by any man-made law.
Claim #4: Changing the Definition of Marriage Would Give Gays Equal Rights.
How could that be possible? Gay couples have had equal rights in California for nearly a decade now. You cannot have more equal rights than equal rights. Therefore, the goal of equal rights could not be valid. Why then does the homosexual coalition want to have the definition of marriage changed so badly if they already have equal rights? Because changing the definition of marriage would lead to additional rights for them. The homosexual coalition would earn the following powers to promote social acceptance of homosexuality:
1. The power to insist that homosexuality is taught in school as being the exact same as traditional marriage.
2. The power to prosecute and legally punish groups, churches, and individuals who for whatever reason disagree with them and have personal convictions that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
If the government grants one person or group more than equal rights it means less than equal rights for another group or individual. Therefore “No on 8, equality for all!” actually translates into less legal rights for anyone who personally believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Simply put, “No on 8” easily translates into religious intolerance. Perhaps a more appropriate tagline for their campaign should be: “No on 8: equality for all! (Who agree with us)”
“No on 8” has been a hypocritical campaign. Are they sincerely seeking equality and tolerance for all? Hardly. Their actions paint a different scenario. The harassment this group has exhibited during their campaign suggests they have different goals in mind. In Canada and Massachusetts, for example, the definition of marriage is already officially changed. Clergy are routinely being prosecuted in Canada simply for speaking in favor of traditional marriage. After marriage was redefined in Massachusetts, parents were told in court they had no right to be notified and no right to pull their children out of classes where homosexuality was being endorsed, even though it contradicted the parents’ religious convictions. Where is the tolerance for these individuals’ beliefs? Tolerance means you ALLOW others to disagree. It means that you still treat them with respect even if you wholeheartedly disagree. The homosexual coalition is not about tolerance. They are after power.
In short, “No on 8” is not about “equality for all”. Gays already have equal rights under law. They are not discriminated against in any legal way. Their claims that they are discriminated against have no legal basis. And their relationships cannot be considered the same as marriage because homosexual relationships are fundamentally different from traditional marriages as determined by nature. In reality, they simply want to force society to embrace their lifestyle through force of law. Proposition 8 will curtail that effort. This is why individuals who sincerely believe in ” tolerance for all ” support Proposition 8