I know, I know! I'm sure everybody is sick of talking about it, and quite frankly, so was I. But I've had many thoughts brewing in my head, and I had to step back for a bit before I could write them all down, and now I'm finally in the mood to talk about it again.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, obviously I was an opponent of Proposition 8. That being said, I do feel that as a gay man and a still active Mormon, I can see both sides of the issue and can empathize with both positions somewhat. Although I was disappointed with the passing of Prop. 8, nothing has disappointed me more than the fallout I've seen as a result. For some time I didn't want to talk or write about anything having to do with Prop. 8 because I was just sickened and torn by so much of the behavior I saw on both sides.
First off, I want to say this: as a gay man I would love the right to be legally married to my boyfriend, and I am obviously disappointed by the passing of a gay marriage ban in California. I should be as upset as anyone. But these accusations that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hates gay people are ridiculous. I will not deny that there may a small fraction of people in my church that probably do hate gays, but I do not believe for one minute that the overall percentage of Mormons are fighting gay marriage because they hate gay people. I will not even deny that motivations may be based in fear or ignorance even, but I do not find them to be based in hate, and I'm tired of gay activists accusing the church of hate. I believe Mormons (and other organizations supporting Proposition 8) are simply standing up for what they believe is right just like gay activists are standing up for what they believe is right. Whether each party agrees with each other or not is not the issue to me; my beef is that we need to disagree with each other in a civil and respectful manner or we will never come to any sort of compromise or understanding.
Now please don't think I am absolving the church and its members and leaders of any wrongdoing, either. While I support an organization or individual's right to defend what it believes, I do not necessarily believe that the church or its leaders handled this matter in the best way. Church leaders are well aware of the power they hold over their members. They know a call to action will bring results. I find it a bit underhanded for church leaders to ask its members to "do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of [their] means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," not because the church doesn't have a right to do that (they do), but because of the way in which they did it. My church claims political neutrality and is able to keep a tax-exempt status because the organization itself doesn't donate money to a political cause, yet it asks its members to donate money (without actually explicitly saying those exact words) to a political cause knowing full well they will, and then it's the members who take the heat.
People keep crying that this is a moral issue, not just a political one. Let's assume it is. Why are so many other things like genocide in Darfur, global warming, a needless war in Iraq, etc. not worth having a public stance on? Why are two people who love each other and just want a committed and legal relationship more threatening. If it's the sanctity and eternal nature of marriage, fine, but is it moral for me or my partner to be denied health benefits or the right to see each other in the hospital or property rights or custody rights or what-have-you? If heterosexuals want to keep marriage, fine, but don't deny me the same legal rights you have just because you don't approve of what many people mistakenly believe is a choice and don't treat our relationship as though it's inferior to yours. People may not agree with or understand homosexuality, but don't try to convince me that our homosexual relationships hold any less love, devotion, and commitment than hetreosexual ones do. I'm not saying all do, but then I could say the exact same thing for heterosexual relationships. I pay taxes, I live a normal life, I love my partner. Where is the justice in being denied basic legal rights associated with marriage?
And I'm sorry, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not poltically neutral. They can say they are all they want; that doesn't make it true. I'm not just talking about this particular issue, either. The church holds great power, and they often use it to influence legislation (especially here in Utah) while maintaining the appearance of political neutrality. As I said, the church can stand up for whatever it believes is right. I'm not arguing with that. But I get tired of them claiming political neutrality. I just don't buy it.
I actually think this whole thing is going to backfire. I think it has turned into a public relations nightmare, and I still maintain that the gay civil rights movement will go forward. If anything, this has just made it stronger.
I have been equally disappointed in some gay activists. I know of instances of vandalism, protests that were supposed to be peaceful but ended up being filled with hateful language or acts. I don't think the scare tactic of sending white powder to the LA and Salt Lake Temples as well as a Catholic organization was a cool move. Threatening to boycott Utah is ridiculous to me as most of the people being targeted (Sundance Film Festival and the ski industry) would most likely be sympathizers, not opponents. The act of scrutinizing the donor lists and targeting, harrassing, or boycotting specific individuals causes more harm than good, I think. I don't think targeting specific people for "payback" is the best way to positively influence them to see things from your point of view.
One particular case that has really bothered me was that of a man I know, Scott Eckern, who was Artistic Director for the California Music Theatre for 25 years. He personally donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, and when gay activists found out, gay theatre artists and composers threatened to pull their shows and boycott the theater. Scott, who is a good man, finally decided to resign for the good of the theater. Now, Mormons are threatening to boycott the theater because of what they believe was "forced resignation." Can a man not vote his conscience (even if I don't agree with his position) without fear of retribution? It makes me sick. I've seen the same intolerance from the gay community that they are accusing others of showing them.
On a personal level, I've seen friends of mine refuse to be friends anymore with those who disagreed with them on this matter. I've seen other friends resign their memberships from the LDS Church. All of this is immensely troubling to me. There is so much pettiness and bickering and name-calling and ignorance, it's really saddened me.
Another friend of mine who is leaving the Church (although she's been inactive for years) showed me temple work that had been done on behalf of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun in an attempt to show me the injustice of allowing Hitler and Braun to marry, but not two gay people in a loving, committed relationhip. I agree that it is sad irony that Hitler and Braun would be given an opportunity to accept eternal marriage in the afterlife while I can't even get a civil ceremony in this one, but the fact is the Church has always discouraged the submitting of names of famous people, the church can't control an overzealous member who might have submitted those names, and there is no guarantee in the slightest that the temple work done in this life would give Adolph Hitler or Eva Braun an eternal marriage. Frankly, I think they'd both pass, and that's between them and God anyway. Temple work doesn't mean a free ticket to heaven. One's acts will certainly have an influence on where one ends up. Luckily that's for God to decide, not me. My point is really this: while I understood the intentions of my friend, all it did was make me feel sad because I just felt like it was stirring up trouble.
Are the leaders of the LDS Church perfect? No. Are its members? No. Are gay activists? No. I just wish we all (ALL) would make more of an effort to try to understand and educate each other rather than disrespect and hurt one another. No one will ever listen to what you have to say if you aren't informed and civil about it. I've heard many hurtful, ignorant, and even hateful remarks from people on both sides, and it breaks my heart. I just want us to understand one another and come to some sort of agreement on how we can live together. Maybe that's naive, but it's what I wish. being stuck in the middle is especially hard.