Did I hear right?
One of the leaders of the Mormon Church, Elder Dallin Oaks, at a recent press conference regarding same sex marriage said, “We teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves.” (I am a member of this church.)
I believe this is an excellent position to take when it comes to the battle over same sex marriage and the benefits available to such couples, issues that are now working their way through legislatures and the court system across America.
So with that, this is what I believe.
I believe that same sex couples who are married should have all the rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples.
I believe that this will become the absolute law of the land, and that in real life not hardly a ripple will be felt as a result of this. Life will go on pretty normally, other than many of us becoming more enlightened to the needs and feelings of this minority group.
I also believe that all voices should be heard in the public square on the issue of gay marriage, both pro and con.
For example, if a particular church voices an opinion contrary to favoring same sex marriage, so be it. If they ask for a religious exemption allowing them to prohibit performing a same sex marriage, let the political and legal process go forward in the effort to gain such an exemption.
In the end I believe few if any exemptions will be granted, but I believe strongly in their right to fight for what they think is right. Why? Democracy, that’s why.
In a democracy, if things are pushed through before all weigh in on an issue at every level, hostility and rejection of the system are fostered.
For me, the most fundamental issue at play here is whether we live in a democracy or not. On every issue, moral or otherwise, every single voice has a right to be heard, every single person has a right to their day in court. Now, more than ever before, this is a fairly simple task.
For example the great equalizer in a democracy is the internet. Every voice can be heard, numerous times, over all time zones, with immediate feedback. With the internet, every spot in America is drenched with opinion (e. g. Reddit). I would have it no other way.
Eventually these opinions find themselves pouring into proposed laws, passed upon by elected officials, appealed if necessary, and ultimately decided upon by a court where all sides of an issue under question are heard.
I’ve had direct and personal experience at all levels of our democratic system. I’m satisfied with how it works.
For example, I felt good about my vote for Barak Obama as president. I won on that one, at least the second time around. On judicial actions, I feel I have been treated fairly. Lawsuits are long drawn out affairs, mostly, but almost always end in settlements. Everyone has their say multiple times. One of the downsides is it burns cash, especially for the person filing a suit.
Issues can go on for years, like with what is presently taking place with the opposition to abortion, even though abortion was legalized nationally in 1973. Other times, they finally get settled for all time, like slavery with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.
Frankly, I don’t believe same sex marriage is burdened by the same moral weight that abortion or slavery was. I have been surprised at how fast the gay marriage issue has been handled in our political and judicial system over the past three to four years.
I likened same sex marriage to interracial marriage which was legalized as the law of the land in 1967 by decision of the Supreme Court. Today, it sounds odd that this was a hotly debated issue 50 years ago. Arguments that favored supporting laws against interracial marriages used the Bible to support it. I have long ago stopped using the Bible to prove anything.
And even more frankly, I am surprised how quickly my own religion has acted on the issue of same sex marriage and the benefits accompanying such a union. My religion thinks that benefits of all kinds should be extended, but they also want religious liberty to be debated right alongside of gay marriage. They want protections and exemptions so that they can continue to prohibit same sex marriage from creeping into their practices.
I have no problem with that. Who could be against that? Do I personally think my religion will prevail? In the long run, probably not very much. In fact, the universal legality of same sex marriage is coming before the Supreme Court in 2015. It will be decided on well-defined arguments. Again history will be made. The legality of gay marriage will be decided for all time in America.
My church has already started the compromise process. Good for it. Where it holds its ground, ultimately, is anyone’s guess, but this much is certain, they will use the democratic process to let its feelings be heard.
Democracy and religion in America can be complicated and messy. The process we have chosen to be governed by is loud and filled with many, many divergent views. I’m glad it’s taking place this way. We’re all learning about how decisions are arrived at in America.
We’re becoming more than an inch deep in understanding how democracy and religion work with and up against one another.
What is the fundamental principle that drives all this?
I’m pretty certain that one’s individual human rights trumps all else.
An organization’s rights are not more fundamental than one’s individual rights. Group rights are not more fundamental than one’s civil rights. One’s religious views do not trump another’s personal freedom to pursue to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sometimes these distinctions can be subtle and nuanced, nevertheless, they are not insurmountable. So let the debate begin anew this year. Let men and women of good will come together to make laws and interpret those laws in each and every case brought before them.