Gay members of the Mormon Church and their families learned last week of a letter from Thomas S. Monson, our prophet, to all the "saints" of the church in California. He and his two counselors, known as The First Presidency, who live in Salt Lake City, Utah, have asked that the letter be read in all the pulpits in California today.
California members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, numbering many hundreds of thousands, through this letter are requested to devote their means and time to assure that marriage is legally defined as between a man and a woman. As the Lord's Prophet, Monson is asking all Mormons to support a gay marriage ban on the premise that heterosexual marriage is ordained by God and children are "entitled to be born within this bond of marriage."
It is too bad that he and the church have inserted themselves on the wrong side of this political issue. In fact, advocates of marriage between only a man and a woman are missing the boat, either blindly unaware of or ignoring the damage their stand will do. They believe the church's teachings without question, forgetful of past errors by church leadership which needed correction, such as on the issue of priesthood for blacks.
In fact, it is the ban on gay marriage which harms children, families and basic morality. If marriage is banned for the more than 160,000 same-sex households with one or more children (according to the 2000 census), society will set up new structures for same-sex couples - a patchwork of domestic partnerships, civil unions and partner benefits short of marriage. A cornucopia of non-marital options will be set up for all couples, including heterosexuals. Marriage will be just one of many lifestyle options open to co-habitating couples, and it will lose the primacy and sanctity which it surely deserves. Ironically, the pro-family LDS church will have participated in this tragic erosion of the sanctity and uniqueness of marriage.
On the other hand, if marriage were expanded to include gays, marriage would be exalted as the exclusive means for couples to seek community recognition of their union. Not only would the institution of marriage be strengthened, but the benefits of marriage, including better health, financial well-being and care during old age, would be conferred on countless same-sex couples and their children. Church leaders should be compassionate and brave enough to support this type of evolution, as they did with inclusion of blacks.
As a gay Mormon, I am thankful that in this country we have a system of checks and balances that created a court system to review the decisions of the majority which adversely affect a minority. How many in the Mormon Church have read the decision of the California Supreme Court majority, or even the first 10 pages? It is well and wisely written.
It's interesting that the phrase "activist judges" seems to hold true only when a decision is not one we would have made.
I am hopeful that making The First Presidency's letter public will generate consternation and discussion among many at the audacity of the Mormon Church trying to sway the vote in California in favor of a discriminatory law. I am even more hopeful that the discussion will turn toward the thousands of children and families directly affected by a gay marriage ban, and that many will examine the views they have been taught and embrace a wiser policy on the definition of marriage.
Robert Parker has been a community activist and Mormon Church member for more than 30 years.