16 December 2008

Skirmish Over, But Analysis Continues

Those of you sick of hearing about Prop 8 will be happier if you click elsewhere before reading further.

If you're still here, then I'll assume it's because you remain interested in the whole packet of issues that congealed as Prop 8 in California. Yesterday I heard a radio interview with someone in the leadership of one of the organizations that's appealed Prop 8 to the California Supreme Court. He said the long-term plan was to overturn Prop 8 and the constitutional amendment in California, whether at the Supreme Court or by another ballot measure in 2010, and then go state by state with similar efforts to repeal their constitutional provisions as well. He took a very long-term view and counted on the fact that a majority of younger voters opposed Prop 8, a trend he expected would remain constant nationwide. Those who spend their time looking for conspiracy theories to explain major events and trends needn't waste their time here; conspiracies are by definition secret, but this plan is very "out" in the open.

That said, today I read a very thought-provoking discussion of the Church's involvement in this issue. It's worth pasting here:

"Singled Out

In the turbulent aftermath of proposition 8’s passage in California, the Church made some noise about being unfairly singled out by gay rights activitists. Whether or not the Church served as a lynchpin in the coalition that pushed the proposition through, its centralization alone makes it a logical target.

But here I’m interested in turning the question around: why have gays been singled out by the Church?

In my opinion, the Church’s strongest argument against gay marriage is that which highlights the importance of maintaining the status of opposite-sexed parents in our image of the ideal family. Maybe there’s some validity to the contention that, given its potential benefits to society, government incentives should adhere to and support this particular ideal, which begins to erode if it loses its singular status.

But there’s a lot that could be done, on the policy front, to support families in various ways. And the Church is not involved in any of it. The utopic vision the Church invokes in the gay marriage debate cuts a remarkably broad swath across society, yet its political focus is bewilderingly narrow. Do gay unions pose a particular threat qualitatively different from–and more virulent to our social fabric–than no-fault divorce laws or absent, deadbeat parents, for example?

Should they so choose (and many do), mothers and fathers are accorded the legal right to sleep around, divorce their partner (if they were married in the first place), and abandon their children in pursuit of their own happiness. Where the needs of the community (here children’s need for involved parents) and the desires of individuals are in tension, the law, it seems to me, largely triumphs individual opportunity. Divorce affects nuclear families directly and immediately in a way that gay marriage can only exert a weak, indirect, nonspecific influence (if at all). Given this context, would it not be consonant with our established values to champion gay marriage? It may be individualistic, but for that very reason it should hold some attraction. After all, why should gays sacrifice themselves by accepting the status of outcast in order to preserve a particular vision of society when others who are disrupting that vision more violently are not being asked to make comparable sacrifices?

Is gay marriage really the most alarming threat to the Church’s current vision of acceptable family arrangements? (And I mean in society at large, not merely among its members, since this is the turf on which gay marriage is being fought.) Is this simply a question of pragmatics–the Church is choosing a battle it thinks it can win, whether or not it is the most important battle to win? Is it a matter of dispositional conservatism, which reflexively recoils from enacting change while throwing its energy into preventing it? Or are there cases in which the Church would (or should) fight to effect change rather than simply hinder it?"

You can read the entire post and discussion here.


Abelard Enigma said...

The protests are not focused on the voters in California - it's focused on the money. And, at least, 50% (possibly as much as 70%) of the money on the YesOn8 campaign came from Mormons. Not to mention the untold hours that were spent by members going door to door, passing out yard signs, calling people, etc.

Members will often counter "but, the money came from individual people - not from the church" which is true. But, most of them donated as a direct result of the LDS church encouraging the saints in California to donate their time and means to help pass proposition 8.

It's also a matter of timing. Before the LDS church got involved, the YesOn8 campaign was trailing by at least 17 points in the polls - and it seemed a foregone conclusion that prop 8 would not pass. Then the LDS church got involved and it ended up passing by a narrow margin.

So, I think it is reasonable to conclude that proposition 8 passed as a direct result of the involvement of the LDS church. In other words, to 'single out' the LDS church as the deciding factor.

Now, whether it's appropriate or not to protest that involvement is a different question.

Bravone said...

I understand the importance of the family unit and marriage. I have a family and am married.

Marriage hopefully adds stability to a relationship and decreases the likelihood of promiscuity. I would tend to think that gay marriage would do the same and thus strengthen society. Could be wrong.

Grant Haws said...

I think the reason Mormons are so afraid of gay marriage is that it would mean they're more similiar to gay people than they'd like to believe. So much rhetoric in the church is about being born to "goodly parents" and the idea that could mean two moms or two dads is horrifying to most Mormons. Achieving the nuclear family is like a trophy in Mormon culture, and it's not a trophy to them if everyone can have that. If all of the anti-gay sentiment in the church was purely doctrinal, it would be much safer to say you're gay in Mormon culture. It is sad to see Christ-like love dropped in favor of extreme religious fanaticism.

Scot said...

That's a great piece. Thanks for sharing it, Alan.

"It may be individualistic, but for that very reason it should hold some attraction. "

I've been a proponent of this type of argument for a while, but I'd also add that gay marriage is not only an individualistic issue. We have children and family who depend on gay couples staying together too. When we, for example, divorce without divorce law the whole society pays for what, say, a once legally married dead beat heterosexual dad would be responsible for.

In fact Several studies have shown that couples who do not have legal marriage, gay couples included, cost society more in tax dollars than those with legal rights and responsibilities, let alone the broader intangible social costs of treating such important human relationships with indifference or hostility.

Simply, I'd say civil marriage, blind to anatomy, is a gain for both individual rights and the society. Not only are we being singled out, we're being put into the wrong crowd, with divorce, in the first place :-).