We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.This is the 11th of the LDS church's 13 Articles of Faith. I memorized it when I was a child. These articles are supposedly the core of the doctrines of the church. While I was a believing Mormon, this was always an important belief to me because I feel it is quite obvious that people should be allowed to live as they see fit. As a Mormon, I never felt the need to tell other people what religion they should be. Yes, I did serve a proselytizing mission and I did convert people to the LDS church. But I did so with persuasion, not with coercion. Even as an ex-Mormon, I still believe very strongly that people should be allowed to live the way they choose. This is why I am a proponent of freedom of religion. I believe that people should be free to worship any god that they choose and believe any ideology or religion that they choose.
However, it is apparent to me that Mormons have a very narrow interpretation of this article. They do not mean it to include accepting the way other people choose to live their life. Rather, they feel that it only applies to the religion that people wish to believe in. In other words, they are free to believe any religion they like, but they aren't free to live any way they choose to live. The church is making this quite clear by its history of opposing marriage equality.
The most recent debacle is the legalization of marriage equality in Utah. Just before Christmas last year, US District Judge Robert Shelby declared that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was against the United States Constitution. This effectively made it legal for same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses within the state. Subsequently, several county clerks offices refused to issue the licenses even though they were told that to fail to do so would leave them in contempt of court. Of course, this disobedience shows that these Mormons are also going against another one of their Articles of Faith, namely the 12th.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.According to this article, Mormons should obey the law as it is dictated to them by the government officials that they are legally in the jurisdiction of. But that is not what was seen happening in those counties who refused to issue licenses even when ordered to do so by the Federal Court.
The governor asked for an emergency stay on the ruling, effectively stopping same-sex marriage within the state. The stay was denied. It was called for multiple times and denied each time. Finally, the Supreme Court was asked to put a stay and the stay was granted, and so at least until the Tenth Circuit Court has a chance to hear the case, marriage licenses are not being issued to same-sex couples.
What has been done here? Do same-sex marriages affect Mormons in a negative way? The LDS church claims that they do. They claim that the moral fabric of society is being torn apart by redefining marriage. They claim that changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is an attack on the Family. They even go so far as to claim that opposing marriage equality is not being against anyone. They feel like they can love gay people and still use the law to block them from the same rights that heterosexual people currently enjoy.
But what real damage is done to the LDS churches, and other conservative churches and groups who still oppose marriage equality? I submit that there is damage done. It is an injury to their pride. We gay people are showing more and more now that we can be pro-family. We can contribute to society. We can be good, honest, moral people. We can be faithful and monogamous. We can raise children successfully and teach them how to be good people. We can be faithful Christians. We can be so many of the the things that the LDS church and other groups have in the past (and still do) claim that we cannot be. We have been called perverts, sinners, soulless, child molestors, deviants, and all sorts of insulting names to debase and degrade us. And we are proving that these stereotypes are wrong. We are proving that the LDS church is wrong, and they don't like being proven wrong--no one does, really.
We are a threat to their power. We are a threat to the control that they have. They politically control the state of Utah because a majority of the population is LDS. They have their way of doing things and they don't like being told what to do--no one does. They don't like a federal judge telling them that they must issue marriage licenses to gay people. They don't like being told that they should treat same-sex couples equally. They feel it as an attack on their way of life. They feel it as an invasion of the liberal agenda, descending on their homes and churches and forcing them to follow the liberal bandwagon. This is the damage that they sustain. This is the harm that they endure.
And they feel that we gay people don't understand that. They feel that we are intentionally causing this harm to them because we want to push our way of life on them. And I understand why they feel that way. It's easy to interpret things that way, especially when a judge does what Judge Shelby has done. But let's try to take a step back and look at it more objectively. Is the LDS church being forced to perform gay marriages? No. Has there been any instance in any country or state where marriage equality exists of any church that has been forced to perform a gay wedding ceremony? No. And gay marriage has been around for years--for nearly a decade now. It is not part of our agenda to force other people to our way of life. We do not wish to make Mormons take part in the homosexual lifestyle against their will. (Of course, there are gay Mormons, and they certainly should be allowed to do both if they choose.)
It feels as though Utah is being forced because the court ordered them to issue licenses to same-sex couples even when they didn't want to issue those licenses. So, yes, it does seem like force. It does seem like coercion. But it really isn't. If a black man and a white woman came to the county clerk's office and applied for a marriage license, they would be issued one. Even if the clerk personally felt that interracial marriage was an abomination in the sight of God, ey would be required to issue the license. It is not forcing the clerk to believe that interracial marriage is okay. It is not forcing the clerk to enter an interracial marriage. It is merely a non-discrimination policy in place in the government to protect the rights of those citizens who choose to marry someone of a different race. And they do have the right to do so. And so it is with marriage licenses for sam-sex couples. When a same-sex couple goes to a county clerk and asks for a license, they are not asking the clerk to give eir blessing on their marriage. They are not asking the clerk to believe that homosexuality is not a sin. They are not forcing the clerk to enter into a gay marriage. They merely wish to be allowed the same rights and protections under the law as all straight couples are allowed. That is all.
And so, I implore all of my Mormon friends and family, believe in your articles of faith. Follow them. Let people live the life they choose to live. You may not agree with their choices. You may feel like what they are doing is a sin. You may feel like your god does not approve of their behavior. But they do not necessarily believe what you believe. You also believe that people should be free to make their own choices. You believe that people should be allowed to worship any god that they choose, in any way that they choose. You believe that people should be allowed to make their own path in life, and live the way that they see fit. Please show it by supporting marriage equality. Write to Governor Herbert and ask him to stop his fight against marriage equality.
I don't claim to be a prophet. I don't claim to speak to God or be able to see the future in visions or dreams. But I do know what will happen. I know the long-term outcome of this current struggle. Marriage equality will happen nationwide someday. It may be the case that Utah takes this case to the 10th Circuit and even the Supreme Court and wins--that is, reinstates its ban on same-sex marriage. It may be the case that they go to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court decides that marriage should be legal in Utah, or in the entire nation. It may be the case that for years Utah has the ban in place. But, in one way or another--wether through some legislation or Supreme Court ruling--marriage equality will happen. It is inevitable. In every case in the past concerning human rights, it has been this way. People fought to preserve the legality of owning slaves. People fought to keep women from being allowed to vote. People fought integration. People fought interracial marriage. And in every case, the side of liberty won. Slaves were freed, women were granted the right to vote, segregation was abandoned. And so it will be with this issue. Gays will be treated equally. We will be granted the right to marry, nationwide. So in that sense as well, this fight is fruitless. It is a waste of money and resources to appeal and to seek to reverse Judge Shelby's decision. Human rights will continue to expand as the human race grows and matures. This is just one step in the process. One step toward greater equity and mutual acceptance. Please choose to be a part of the progress rather than a hindrance.