With the news that the State of New York has legalized same-sex marriage, the internets are once again abuzz with talk about equality and rights and tradition and religion. At the risk of my readership, I will wade into these waters with my own thoughts on the subject.
CAVEAT: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yet I am not in any way an official spokesman for that Church. Anything I post here is my own opinion and not official Church doctrine.
First, when discussing the debate about same-sex marriage, I find it necessary to make a clear distinction between morality and legality.
For me that is the crux of this issue. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, by which I mean that I believe that being married is a truly sanctifying experience. Morally, I believe that marriage is an eternal principle which allows men and women, together, to be joined and raise families. As a Latter-day Saint, I believe in eternal or celestial marriage and that the family, as the fundamental unit of society and God‘s Church, can exist throughout eternity. Fathers and Mothers, Husbands and Wives, Men and Women together form a family unit and provide for their children. That is the order which God has ordained.
On the other hand is the legal issue. What rights or power does the government have, and which powers should the government have? I, personally, do not believe that the United States Government has the right to grant a set of benefits or privileges to one group of its citizens and deny them to another. I see nothing about same-sex couples that should allow a government to deny them the right to marry, should they choose. A government must exist to protect its citizens and to protect their rights, all of them, equally. It cannot allow one subset of its citizens to marry, and enjoy the benefits associated with marriage, while denying those benefits to another subset of citizens.
That is the quandary I find myself in. Torn between what I believe about marriage and what is morally right and what I believe about government and what is legally right.
What is the solution? I don’t know. Based on what I believe, it seems that the US Government would have to allow any of its citizens who wish to the right and ability to marry. Or the US Government should not be in the business of marriage at all. If the Government cannot guarantee a civil marriage to anybody who wishes it, it should not grant civil marriages to anybody at all — that should be left exclusively to churches. And then churches can decide who they will allow to marry and who they will deny that privilege to. But it would then be purely a religious matter. And if someone wants to go form a same-sex marrying church, that is their right, and then that church can marry whomever it wishes.
I just do not know. This is a very tough issue, a very touchy subject. We do want to stand up for what we believe is right, but we do not wish to offend any of our brothers or sisters. I believe that a person has the ability to choose what he wants in this life, but that he will be held responsible and accountable to God for his thoughts, words, and deeds (Mosiah 4:30). But “this eternal truth is giv’n, that God will force no man to heaven” (Hymn 240). And if God will force no man to heaven, if God will force no man to be righteous, should the government enact laws that are designed to do just that?
We do have laws restricting pornography and tobacco and alcohol, but that is mostly to protect children, we do not ban them completely. There are laws that restrict marriage to close relatives, but those laws seem to be mostly to help decrease the likelihood of genetic deformations in the children. If that is the primary goal, then why not enact laws that prohibit carriers of certain genetic diseases or disorders from marrying? That would be unthinkable. But these are the sort of questions you have to start asking when the government starts enacting laws that are mostly moral-based. How far can the government go, what right does it have to restrict or prohibit behaviour that does not endanger the rights or lives of other citizens?
I don’t know. What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment, but please be civil. I’d like an open and honest discussion of legality and morality, let’s try for that, okay?
- NY bishops say gay ‘marriage’ law could be used against churches (onecatholicnews.wordpress.com)
- New York Bishops: Marriage Can’t Change (onecatholicnews.wordpress.com)