By Hannah Wheelwright
Hi there. I hear that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you oppose same-sex marriage. I want to share some things with you and hear what you think. To begin with though, I’m going to need you to put aside, just while you read this, your reason to oppose same-sex marriage because of what the General Authorities have said about it. I know that’s a big ask, but let’s talk about some facts and logic, and then at the end we can talk about the General Authorities again. Sound good? Okay.
I hear a lot of the same arguments being repeated about same-sex marriage in the Mormon sphere, and I think most, if not all of them, have valid rebuttals. I’m going to separate it out into the moral and legal aspects of the argument. I will edit this post if new claims are made so that it can be a comprehensive listing.
*FYI- This article is mostly geared towards American Mormons.
1. Claim: Marriage has been defined as being between a man and a woman since the dawn of time. It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
Response: “Traditional marriage” has taken on many different forms throughout history.
2. Claim: The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin.
Response: Religious leaders have interpreted the six references to homosexuality in the Bible to mean that homosexuality is a sin. In reality, none of those references are to a committed, loving, consensual same-sex relationship. They instead refer to male rape, prostitution, or are unclear. Thus to establish an entire argument against homosexual relations based on such flimsy references is weak, especially considering all the other laws given in the same passages (no eating shellfish, no wearing cloths woven from different threads, etc) that we do not follow now. For an in-depth study of the six references, see this excellent video- the specific discussion of the references begins at 16:20.
For a similar study that is easily readable, see this site.
3. Claim: Same-sex couples, if allowed to marry, would have to be allowed to adopt children and that is bad.
Response: I disagree. Here are a few reasons why:
- Currently, every state except for Utah and Mississippi allows a single person to adopt children regardless of that person’s sexual orientation, so a single gay person can already adopt a child in many states. If the sexual orientation of an adoptive parent is really a problem, states should be addressing that specifically.
- Studies have been done to determine if children who were adopted by same sex couples have been negatively affected, and they have not. Here’s an anecdotal example:
- Considering all the children that are born to single mothers or to families with an abusive parent- if our problem is that same-sex couples would not be good parents and we feel that we have a legal basis to prohibit them from becoming parents based on some societal good, why are we not legislating parenthood? Who is to say that a stable same-sex couple who are eager to give a child all the love and opportunities in the world would be worse parents than an abusive mother and negligent father or any other kind of unstable, harmful home with heterosexual parents?
4. Claim: Homosexuals are pedophiles, so we should not be making it easier for them to be around children.
5. Claim: Legalizing same-sex marriage implies acceptance of the act of gay sex, which is immoral.
Response: If gay sex (anal sex) is immoral, churches (including the LDS Church) would need to come out and tell heterosexual couples to stop having anal sex. However, regardless of churches and individuals decisions (if you don’t like gay sex, don’t have it. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex), it is not within the legal rights of the government to legislate private behavior, including sexual behavior. So regardless of your personal religious or social beliefs, you cannot legislate someone else’s private acts that do not harm anyone else. See the Supreme Court case Lawrence vs. Texas.
EDIT: This argument also does not take into consideration lesbians, who are also gay but do not practice anal sex, and gay men who are not interested in anal sex.
6. Claim: Being gay is not a sin, but acting on same-sex attraction is a sin, so we should not condone same-sex marriage.
Response: Mormons also believe that drinking alcohol, having pre-marital sex, and buying things on Sunday are also “sins.” Why then do we not legislate those as well? Interestingly, though pre-marital sex is considered an extremely grave sin, by not allowing them to get married, anti-same-sex marriage Mormons encourage same-sex couples to commit this sin.
1. Claim: The government already legislates marriage (anti-polygamy laws, age of consent, etc), so there is no reason why it cannot continue to legislate it by banning same-sex marriage.
Response: Many state governments used that same argument to ban interracial marriage until the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia made such laws illegal. Monogamous marriage between consenting adults has been the standard in the U.S. ever since.
2. Claim: If we allow gays to get married, what will stop people from marrying their hamster?
Response: Short answer- the fact is that as long as marriage is recognized as a union between consenting adults, there is no reason to suppose that people will want to marry their hamsters and sue under the law.
“This is the classic slippery slope argument, and there are multiple problems with it. First off, this makes the assumption that homosexuality is a sexual perversion on par with bestiality or necrophilia. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, and despite what they might have thought in the 50s, we all (should) now understand that homosexuality is not a choice…
Secondly, homosexual marriage, like heterosexual marriage, is a commitment between two willing adults. A marriage between an animal and a human can never be defined in this manner as an animal’s will is unknowable. Homosexual marriages are no more a precedent for marrying your dog (seriously, who thinks of this stuff?) than hetero marriage…
Thirdly… seriously, who wants to marry their dog? Is that contingent of America really big enough to be considered a concern? …Male or female, humans are humans. The leap from homosexual marriage to bestiality isn’t a slippery slope, it’s a jump over the Grand Canyon.”
3. Claim: Same-sex marriage is a novelty- no one was asking for this 40 years ago! – and we don’t know how it would affect things, so we shouldn’t be rushing to legalize it.
Response: Same-sex marriage is only a novelty in the sense that black people not being owned, or women voting is a novelty. Just because it only recently became socially and politically acceptable (not to mention legal) does not mean that it is some silly new thing that can be discredited for being “a novel conception” (as in argued in this amicus brief that the LDS Church and other religious organizations submitted to the Supreme Court as part of the case Hollingsworth vs. Perry, which relates specifically to the Prop 8 battle but which may well determine the legality of same-sex marriage for the entire country).
As for not rushing into things- what rush? Nine states plus D.C. have already legalized same-sex marriage. That’s almost a fifth of the states in the United States. Gay couples and single gay persons have already been adopting children. What is there to still be figured out, and is it so much of a concern that we should be stopping people from marrying while we “figure it out”?
4. Claim: Marriage is about children, not about validating adult relationships.
Response: If this was the case, we would not allow infertile couples or old people to get married.
5. Claim: Okay so maybe we should allow them to be recognized by the state- but how about civil unions?
Response: Civil unions are essentially a separate-but-equal argument. If the only reason you don’t want to allow same-sex couples to get married is because of marriage having some religious or social value, how do you justify this given the principle of separation of church and state in the U.S.?
6. Claim: If same-sex marriage was legal, we’d have to let them get married in our temples.
Response: Heterosexual couples who are not Mormon are already not allowed to get married in our temples, thus demonstrating how the Church can already control who enters its walls. Temples are private property that the owners can control at their pleasure. The Supreme Court has already ruled that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations.
So, those are all the arguments I’ve heard against same-sex marriage. The last remaining one is “the General Authorities have taken a stand against it.” If you choose to hold on to that reason, that’s fine- but as you advocate against same-sex marriage, make it clear that that is your reason. Please do not pretend that you have any other logical or rational basis to stop loving, consensual same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses from the United States government.