Friday, August 29, 2008


okay, i hope i can do this post justice. one of the current issues that's been bouncing around my head the last few years has to do with same sex marriage. it's definitely been a topic in the news. as a faithful latter-day-saint i adhere to the belief that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and god. i do not want to make same sex marriage legal, but i also don't want to make an opposite law - i don't like the idea of laws related to something that to me has always been a spiritual or religious issue. i'd rather church and state stay separate - call me an american. so i've been concerned about the same sex marriage agenda that's going on in a few states, in particular, california. i don't really want a law that says marriage is just between man and woman, but i also don't think that marriages should be recognized as marriages between same sex partners. my sister lives in california and has been involved in canvassing the neighborhoods to discuss the issue and hopefully persuade people to vote for proposition 8. it's been a good experience for her, her husband, and her two teenage children. she shared a link with the rest of us so we could read more about the issue. it's published by the lds church, so it makes sense to me. it's kind of long, but i skimmed and scanned and came across this paragraph which i felt clearly expressed what i'd been struggling with in my head. i don't claim to have thought of this on my own, but when i read this it spoke truth to me and i realized it was the reasoning i was seeking:

"When a man and a woman marry with the intention of forming a new family, their success in that endeavor depends on their willingness to renounce the single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment and to sacrifice their time and means to the nurturing and rearing of their children. Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: legally protected because only a male and female together can create new life, and because the rearing of children requires a life-long commitment, which marriage is intended to provide. Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners, for it is not the purpose of government to provide legal protection to every possible way in which individuals may pursue fulfillment. By definition, all same-sex unions are infertile, and two individuals of the same gender, whatever their affections, can never form a marriage devoted to raising their own mutual offspring."

i think what i like best about this paragraph is how it defines the purpose of marriage. marriage is not designed to proclaim your love for another person. people can rent hotair balloons with "i love bob" plastered on the side if they want the world to know how much they care about somebody. marriage is to raise children in a healthy (the best you can) environment. sadly, the sanctity of home and family has been lost by much of society already, and that's probably why same sex marriages seem like a logical option. i also really like the point that government is not supposed to provide legal protection for every form of self fulfillment people might have. that would get crazy messy. anyway, it's also sort of sad that more people haven't discovered the self fulfillment that comes from true self sacrifice. aren't we all struggling with that one?

now that i've posted something possibly controvertial i can only hope that i spoke politely enough. the librarian at school says i'm a great diplomat - here's hoping she's not just being nice.


Sherpa said...

Personally, I have no problem with the church's stance and no problem with gay marriage either. Somehow it just makes sense to me.

plainoldsarah said...

sherpa, i have to say that both have made plenty sense to me in the past. i guess it was when my sister was faced with having to make a decision that i wanted to figure out which side i would choose if i were her. i like having reasons that appeal to my faith as well as my intellect and i really felt like that paragraph did so.

Tom said...

Sarah -

Even if one accepts that a child deserves to have both a mother and father, how does denying marriage equality further that goal?

Also, marriage is not solely for the sake of children. If it were, we would not allow infertile couples to marry.

"Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act..." I agree. So does my soon-to-be husband. We have been together for 10 years and supported each other through the death of parents, several surgeries (we're both fine now) and countless happy times. Marriage increases societal stability. When we marry (in a civil sense) we promise to care for the other, and to take responsibility for any debts the other takes on during the marriage. That motivates us to help make sure our partner makes wise decisions. The more we care for each other, the less likely it is the state will have to step in and do so. Marriage, even those that don't result in children, are good for society.

This is an issue of civil equality. Let me tell you a true story that illustrates my point.

I had an uncle-in-law, a descendant of handcart pioneers. He was a gay man who lived with his partner for more than 35 years. They paid their taxes, were kind to their neighbors and especially kind to their nieces and nephews and enjoyed the status of favorite uncles.

These two men did all they could legally to formalize their relationship, but of course they could not marry.

When my uncle-in-law died of lung cancer, his surviving partner did not receive Social Security survivor benefits, as he would have if they had been married.

What's more, he had to pay a hefty inheritance tax on the 50% of their assets that my uncle bequeathed to him. Again, married couples are exempt from this tax.

Finally, the property tax on the home they shared went way up -- but it would have stayed the same had they been able to marry.

These three things combined meant that my uncle's partner could no longer afford to stay in the house they had shared for more than three decades.

Does this seem fair or equitable to you? But it's exactly the sort of thing that happens to gay people all the time -- simply because they cannot obtain a civil marriage license. In California, civil unions give most rights, but not all. What's more, separate is very rarely equal. Even when it is, it's just not American.

Thank you for your thoughtful approach to this issue.

My best to you and your family.

Sherpa said...

Yeah, I've read that quote before.

Chino Blanco said...

I don't get it. You've written a very thoughtful post, but then you suggest that what gays hope to achieve through marriage is somehow different from what we strive for in our marriages? That's an unkind generalization.

An estimated 65,500 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent. Gay and lesbian parents are raising four percent of all adopted children in the United States.

An estimated 14,100 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents. Gay and lesbian parents are raising three percent of foster children in the United States.

Millions of children in the United States have LGBT parents.

Prop is not denying marriage to "gays" ... Prop 8 is denying marriage to "parents" - not something to be proud of in my book.

plainoldsarah said...

thanks for your story tom. i know it's very important to keep in mind that these are real people who are affected by laws. that's one reason i hate legislating everything - laws tend to dehumanize things and make everything just words in a book.

chino - thank you for your points! again you bring up the very real human part of it. i guess i see prop 8 as defining what marriage is - not denying it necessarily. but also - parents and parental rights are a different issue to me than marriage. i don't want to deny parental rights, but as a school teacher sometimes i feel that parental rights are incorrectly protected over the rights of children. i'm an advocate for children always. still - a totally sticky issue.

thank you all for your great input!