I have written before about my thoughts on the same-sex marriage issue and where I stand (or at least stood at that time) Once again, though, this issue is forefront in the media, and I have done a lot of thinking about what marriage means. I would like to try and put some of my thoughts into writing, hoping that maybe by so doing I can organize them well enough to understand them and discover where I currently stand on this extremely complex issue. I would also recommend reading this post written by a friend of mine , who writes so much better than I could ever hope to. He explains a lot of what I never knew I was trying to say when discussing this issue with people. It is definitely worth a read.
I will also reference a blog post written by another friend, in which he talks about the difference between marriage and civil unions and makes the point that it is only a semantic difference, but that this semantic difference holds volumes of difference when it comes to meaning. This is because words have meanings and words influence thoughts and actions. And words are so effective at changing the way people think and feel about certain concepts.
Part of what really bothers me about the present debate is how it is referred to: Marriage Equality. Those who want to allow homosexual couples to marry keep talking about marriage equality. And inherent in that is the idea that if one does not believe that homosexual couples should marry they do not believe in equality. It is similar to the abortion debate, with one side calling themselves “Pro-Choice” and the other side calling themselves “Pro-Life”, as if to say that anyone who disagrees with them must be either “Anti-Choice” or “Anti-Life” — which of course no one actually is. So, because I believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, there are those out there who will claim that I believe in Marriage Inequality, that I am anti-equality, or homophobic.
What also makes this whole debate difficult, is that I honestly do believe in many of the arguments made by the other side. When those who believe in marriage being defined as I do, between one man and one woman say that allowing same-sex marriage would destroy the sanctity of marriage, those who want to allow same-sex marriage throw the counter-argument that high divorce rates, ridiculous marriage-based reality television shows, infamously short-lived celebrity marriages and instances of infidelity do more to destroy the sanctity of marriage than would allowing two individuals of the same gender to marry. That is absolutely true, yes, but that does not mean that it would then be okay to allow same-sex marriage. Instead, we should do more to protect the value and worth of marriage and the family in society by standing up against those other practices as well. Those who wish to protect the sanctity of marriage should be just as vocally in favor of protecting the sanctity of marriage from high divorce rates and infidelity as they are in their opposition to same-sex marriage. When they are not, then their use of that argument for not allowing same-sex marriage seems shallow, hollow, and contrived. It is much like Newt Gingrich (the man who is currently on his third wife, a woman he was having an affair with while still married to his second wife, whom he he also had an affair with while still married to his first wife) talking about the importance of fidelity in marriage and the importance of strong, healthy marriages in society. It all sounds just a little hypocritical.
I have also spoken to people who oppose same-sex marriage and are offended with the terminology “Marriage Equality” because they feel that there is not any inequality in marriage laws as they now exist. Homosexuals are allowed to marry just as anyone else is, they are just not allowed to marry someone of their own gender. The government has placed some legal restrictions on who is allowed to marry whom, but as long as individuals abide by those laws, they are still able to marry whomever they choose. I, too, as a heterosexual male, have limitations placed upon me as to whom I can and cannot marry. I am not allowed to marry a woman who is already married, I am not allowed to marry more than one woman at a time, I am not allowed to marry any close blood-relative, etc. Should I, too, rise up and join the Marriage Equality movement to demand equality for all types of marriage situations?
To be honest, what this all comes down to for me is the belief in marriage as something more than just two individuals who decide to live together for a time, to be ended in divorce whenever one of the parties decides they’ve had enough. Marriage is more than just sex and sexual attraction. Marriage is more than just a convenient social agreement. Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man, a woman, and God. Marriage is the foundation of family, which is the foundation of society. Marriage is an eternal principle, by which I mean that marriage has always and will always exist, and that individual marriages may be sealed by the holy priesthood of God so that they will exist for eternity, when husband and wife are faithful to the covenant. Marriage and family are the gifts of God in allowing us to form relationships with others that will continue beyond this mortal life, and marriage and family have the purpose of preparing us for that great eternal realm that we do not yet comprehend. We cannot decide, in our limited understanding, that we can redefine what marriage should be and should allow when we do not yet possess the knowledge and experience of what marriage is intended to prepare us for.
This is a very complex issue, made more so because this deals with the most important aspects of humanity, our relationship with others and who we love, and our relationship with God. Those are most intimate relationships and feelings that we have, so when others start talking about defining and allowing or placing restrictions on these relationships, we are naturally defensive. I hope that we can all learn to love everyone, that we can all learn to listen to everyone and talk these issues out without resorting to, what is essentially name-calling by implementing linguistic leverage, or what my friend calls ‘semantic slavery’ with the terms we use to describe these concepts. I am not in favor of Marriage Inequality simply because I am not in favor of what you have called Marriage Equality. You are not sacrilegious simply because you are not in favor of what I have called the Sacred Covenant of Marriage. We all must learn to live together and function together in society and that can never happen if we are yelling at each other and trying to oppose each other at every step. Compromise can be met, agreements can be made, honest and open discussions can be had.
On this Easter weekend, I remember my Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for all mankind and did not make any distinctions between his Apostles or any sinners with whom he conversed. He was the epitome of love and understanding and forgiveness, yet at the same time He abided by the laws of Heaven and the principles of the Gospel. I hope that I can emulate his great love as I continue to have conversations with friends and others.