Disagree but don't be unkind
Some people have misunderstood the Mormon Church's position on Proposition 8 in California, and our opposition to gay marriage. They think that we are "against homosexuals" -- that we think of "them" as our enemies, and that individuals who have entered into "gay marriages" pose a direct personal threat to us.
The unfortunate thing is that some of those who have this false impression are Mormons.
So let's set the record straight.
1. The Mormon Church has a long and successful history of rejecting social customs in the surrounding culture. We Mormons are pretty good at going our own way. We are as likely to be able to keep our children from embracing gay marriage as we are to keep them from smoking, drinking, or taking drugs.
It's easier, of course, when the surrounding culture is not propagandizing against our values, but we tend to get more stubborn in defense of our faith when we are up against opposition. So our concern in this legal struggle is not for the Church, but for the health and well-being of society at large, of which we are only a part.
2. We do not believe that homosexuals, by entering into a "marriage," are personally hurting anybody. Where the law makes such a thing available, even temporarily, those who "marry" are not our enemies. We believe the law is wrong and the marriage is not, in any meaningful way, what we mean by marriage.
But my family and I are perfectly able to deal with such couples socially and keep them as friends, as long as they show the same respect and understanding for our customs and beliefs as we show for theirs.
I speak from experience: My family and I have close friends who are gay, some of whom have entered into lawful marriages. They know we don't agree that their relationship is the same thing or should have the same legal status as our marriage, but we all accept that strong and clear difference of opinion and move on, continuing to respect and love each other for the values we share.
Only when a gay friend demanded that I agree with his or her point of view or cease to be friends has the friendship ended. What is odd is that in every case they called me intolerant. They misunderstood the meaning of "tolerance."
Tolerance implies disagreement -- it means that even though we don't agree with or approve of each others beliefs or actions, we can still live together amicably. When we agree, we aren't being tolerant, we're being uniform.
It's uniformity or submission these former friends wanted, not tolerance at all.
It makes me sad when people are so intolerant that they cannot bear to be friends with anyone who disapproves of some action or opinion of theirs. But I believe that if we could only be friends with people who never disapprove of something we do, we will end up with "friends" who either don't know us very well, or don't care about us very much.
3. Even if we fail to overturn the current legal movement toward gay marriage, we can treat our opponents politely and kindly, even when they do not extend the same courtesy to us.
4. Only those who try to use the force of law to promote homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage to our children, and who would forbid us to publicly teach and express our belief that marriage is only meaningful between heterosexual couples, move into the category of enemies of freedom. And that will be because of their attempt to suppress religious freedom, freedom of speech and press, and the right of parents to control their children's moral education.
Supporting Proposition 8 in California is a political action, which we undertake as citizens.
Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ -- including our beliefs about marriage and the proper conditions for acts of procreation -- is quite separate.
We do not think that any belief-system, whether it calls itself a religion or not, should be imposed on other people by law -- we won't impose ours on them, and we won't let them impose theirs on us or our families.
Instead, we believe that as long as we are citizens of a free country, changes in the laws and institutions of our society should be made only by common consent, after a free and candid discussion.
There is no place for any Latter-day Saint to be unkind to, or speak slightingly of, those who disagree with us. Just because someone else is engaging in conduct that we believe is wrong does not give us the right to hate them or mistreat them. We preach the gospel of Christ to any who are willing to listen, but we will force our beliefs on no one.
However, we do have the right, as citizens, not as Mormons, to try to persuade our fellow citizens to vote for good laws based on sound principles. We have a right to advocate laws that we believe will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
We would never try to force our beliefs on an unwilling majority, and we hope that our opponents on this issue will have the same respect for democracy and the Constitution.
In fact, I believe that even those who absolutely believe in gay marriage should join us in opposing any law that is forced on an unwilling majority by the dictates of judges. For those that are wise will recognize that once judges are given such power, that power has as much chance of being used against them as for them.
What are the reasons that we, as citizens, oppose gay marriage?
Legalizing gay marriage has huge legal implications far beyond letting same-sex couples enter into marriage contracts. Once "marriage" has been so radically redefined, it will become unlawful and discriminatory for schools or any other public facility to favor, for instance, heterosexual dating or dancing.
Since our culture (like all human cultures throughout all of history) is oriented toward promoting the maximum opportunity for reproductive success for all members of the community, but channeled in a way that will best promote the survival of the community, such a radical change should not be entered into lightly.
Yet serious examination of scientific, historical, and legal issues has been all but drowned out by name-calling and demands for "rights."
Why do we oppose legalizing gay marriage?
1. Homosexuality itself is simply not understood. The available evidence suggests that bisexuality is far more common than exclusive homosexuality, that same-sex attraction may be a phase in some individuals and is merely an option for others.
2. Even where individuals feel they have no option except same-sex attraction, we do not understand the cause. The available evidence argues for at most a genetic contribution, with other -- probably environmental -- causes involved. The best evidence is that children are most likely to be reproductively viable -- i.e., able to mate successfully in circumstances likely to produce children who grow up to be reproductively viable -- when they have two parents, one of the same sex, and one of the opposite sex.
3. Growing up with opposite-sex parents, but in a society that has normalized and actively promotes one-sex marriages, will certainly affect the children of opposite-sex parents, potentially tipping the balance for children whose sexual identity is still formable.
4. Those who promote gay marriage have already shown a disposition to insist on uniformity of thought on the topic, and will certainly attempt to use the power of the state to suppress any attempt to publicly express a preference for heterosexuality, even (or especially) when such a preference has a religious basis, making this a potential religious-freedom and freedom-of-speech-and-press issue as well.
5. Gay marriage has been instituted in three states (so far) only by judicial decree, and without even the pretext that the constitutions involved were ever written with the intention of promoting or allowing gay marriage. This has happened even in a state (California) where a large majority of the people had already rejected gay marriage at the ballot box.
No serious attempt has been made to consider anything more than a general feeling that "tolerance is good" and "discrimination is bad." Yet we are proceeding headlong into a vast social experiment whose consequences, as far as we can see, risk serious damage to many in order to create only the most marginal benefit for a few.
What's the hurry? Why the hostility toward even the slightest opposition? Can't our opponents wait to get their way until they have persuaded a clear majority? Can't they listen to people with ideas that are different from theirs?
Copyright © 2008 by Orson Scott Card
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