With a vote coming down in the Nevada Legislature on SJR13 which would replace the ban on same-sex marriage with a provision mandating their allowance, there have been some stories floating about that Senator Mo Denis and Senator Justin Jones, both Mormon Democrats, have some misgivings. Jon Ralston posted this morning with more detail here.
UPDATE 5:30PM: Both Senators, Mo Denis and Justin Jones, voted yes today to add language that would exempt religious organizations and pastors from performing or recognizing same-sex marriages. While that is already a given with the First Amendment, it probably comforts some people who might have misgivings about the law. The bill will be up for a final vote on the Senate Floor on Monday, before it goes to the Assembly.
I happen to be a progressive Mormon myself, so let me set the record straight about why Mormons should support marriage equality.
First, does the Mormon Church believe that marriage is between a man and a woman? Well it does now anyway. If you remember, it used to be a man and multiple women, but that’s beside the point. If you look at canon and statements made by Church leadership in terms of what Mormons should practice, then the answer is yes.
That said, I don’t recall canon or Church leaders anywhere or anytime telling politicians how they should make law. In fact the canon (Article of Faith 12) expressly states:
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
I strongly believe that the moral principles of the LDS faith strongly support the principles in the Constitution; namely that the law shouldn’t treat an entire class of people as second class citizens. To that end, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is clear:
“no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It clearly demands that our government grant all citizens equal treatment under the law. When we aren’t talking about a “protected class” of people, like racial minorities and women where strict scrutiny will apply, the Court simply applies what they call a “rational basis” scrutiny. In other words, a law that treats one person differently than another can only be upheld if it has a rational basis. One could argue that gay people should be a protected class since they have a significant history of discrimination against them. Still, even without the strict scrutiny, I challenge anyone to give me a RATIONAL reason why a gay couple shouldn’t be allowed to marry… and better yet why they can be treated differently than anyone else.
Let’s also consider that gay people aren’t going to stop being gay people. They are going to live with each other, be a part of families, have jobs, and live their lives like anyone else. Not allowing them to marry is just denying them a right the rest of us enjoy. It’s not gay prevention.
Let’s be clear: Allowing civil marriages between gay couples in no way obligates the LDS Church to accept or perform said marriages. These are absolutely separate things. The First Amendment protects their right not to perform said marriage.
Thankfully there are plenty of Mormons who agree with me like Republican Jon Huntsman:
“All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.”
Mitt Romney also made the case that the Mormon faith doesn’t direct its members about how the law should be, even when it comes to abortions:
“The church does not say that a member of our church has to be opposed to allowing choice in our society and therefore there are Mormon Democrats,”
Romney goes on to make the point that the Mormon Church is opposed to sex outside of marriage, but does not pursue law to enforce that on others. Watch the whole video below. Mitt Romney makes my whole argument for me from 9 minutes on:
Today more Mormons know and make friendships with gay people, and are learning that they aren’t a threat to the family unit or anything else for that matter. Indeed, they are members of many of many Mormon families. The fear will reside as understanding grows. In time, I believe the Mormon culture may even embrace gay culture, at least as much as it does any other culture.
For now, let’s just try to uphold the law and the Constitution and protect marriage equality for all.