Not quite Republican
In 2008, I was fresh off of my LDS mission. Having served for two years as a representative of Jesus Christ and His one true church, I returned to "The Lord's University," Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah.
Presidential elections were coming up. I've never tied myself to any one political party, and there was something about McCain that just didn't sit right with me. The president of the United States should be charismatic and inspirational. Obama clearly beat McCain in this regard. Since I wasn't very well read on the issues, and since Utah is guaranteed to go Republican anyways, I chose not to vote. But my family disliked it when I said I would have voted for Obama.
Proposition 8 and an easy solution
On the same ballot, there was a proposition made to alter the California state constitution to define "marriage" as man and woman only, thus excluding same-sex couples. On my mission I became increasingly aware of my own feelings of same-sex attraction, and lack of opposite-sex attraction. These feelings confused and scared me. The great plan of Happiness, that I had taught countless times as a missionary, held no place for same-sex couples. Why, then, did I fantasize kissing men? It just didn't make sense. I wanted to have my own Eternal Family: a wife and children, because that is what I was taught to want. The Family, a Proclamation to the World, made it quite clear that this is what I should strive for. This document was often called "prophetic," because it seemed to preemptively confront the issue of same-sex marriage. My beloved and favorite prophet, President Hinckley, had died while I was still on my mission. President Monson formed a new First Presidency, and not long after, issued a letter to the wards of California. This occured only days before I retured home from Argentina. The final paragraph was a clear call to action:
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.Source: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/california-and-same-sex-marriage
Now I was at this time living in Utah, not California. But this was the subject of conversation all over BYU campus, and came up sometimes in church meetings. "Satan is trying to destroy the core unit of God's plan: the family." I never quite bought into that one, but I personally had devised a simple solution to this problem.
Just don't call it marriage. Same-sex couples already have plenty of rights and tax benefits and stuff, right? Just call it "domestic partnership," or something, no big deal. I saw nothing wrong with allowing those people to be together. As long as they don't try to usurp the word "marriage," no harm done, right? After all, "marriage" for millenia has meant man and woman. Plus, man plus woman equals babies. It would be a disaster if we suddenly took laws intended for such baby-making relationships and applied them to same-sex couples. Right? So, equipped with a reasonable-sounding alternative, and fueled by religious doctrine -- the words of living prophets (or in Hinckley's case... recently departed) -- I would have voted Yes. Absolutely. My, how things have changed.
If it came up again today, this same sort of proposition, then I would vote No. Absolutely. What changed? Well, rewind a year or two and I would have said Yes, even after some major changes. My testimony of living prophets had faded. I had finally admitted to myself that I was gay. I was in the closet, planning on just toughing it out at BYU and then start a new gay life somewhere, anywhere, outside of Utah. I had not told a soul that I was gay, nor what my plans were. My "alternative" seemed just fine. I craved companionship, but I didn't care what it was called. Love is love, and by any other name, it would still be the same.
So between then and now, what else changed? I started getting to know other gay people. I started reading books about gay people's lives. And then it clicked. Then it made sense. This is important. If you are someone who would vote Yes on Prop 8 today, first tell me how many gay people you actually know and have talked to personally about this.
I've learned that gay rights have a long way to go. I used to think that most states probably afforded gay couples most of the same rights as straight couples. Utah, it turns out, is awful at supplying these rights. Utah law goes out of its way to specifically ban joint adoption by a same-sex couple. Relatively few states supply a full range of rights and protections.
A thought exercise
Imagine if the state of Blah refused to recognize any marriage not performed by a Catholic priest. People married in other states, where the ceremony was performed by, say, a Mormon authority, would not be treated as a married couple in that state. These non-Catholic Unions were considered "unholy" and therefore such couples were deprived the right of joint adoption, and companies offering spousal benefits did not have to extend this to unholy unions. After all, an unholy union is unsuitable for raising children, right? Absurd. The law is blind to religious beliefs, and should only act based on solid evidence.
It should be called marriage
Love is love, whether between Catholics, Mormons, or two people of the same gender. But what you call it matters.
It should be called marriage. To invent a new term would be tantamount to labeling same-sex couples as inferior. And quite frankly, this is exactly what a lot of Americans want. Quite frankly, this is how I saw same-sex couples until just a few months ago. But they don't make babies. They are different. Well, we didn't invent a new term for infertile straight unions. The aged, those who are incapable, and those who choose not to have children. We do not throw them under the bus just because they aren't making babies. Laws that benefit raising children and giving childbirth surely already specify this additional condition. Where is the chaos? Where is the problem with including gay couples under the legal umbrella of marriage?
The problem of perception here is that people view same-sex attraction the wrong way. For a long time, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. "Homosexuality CAN be cured," stated a Mormon pamphlet. It was portrayed as contagious: what if the whole world turned gay? The whole of humanity would be wiped out in one generation! Look what happened to the Roman empire when homosexuality started to spread. How ridiculous.
Sexual orientation is not chosen, nor is it changeable. Being gay cannot be acquired, nor can it be cured. You cannot force yourself to feel the "fireworks" when you become romantically involved. It is a feeling that either happens or it doesn't.
My dear, well-intentioned straight Mormon acquaintances sometimes try to sympathize the wrong way. If you marry someone, and by some tragedy they are paralyzed, you would still care for them even though the sexual element isn't there. We all need to control our sexual urges.
These fail to recognize that at the most fundamental level, homosexuality is different. Falling in love with the "wrong" person isn't so bad, as long as you know you at least have the capability of falling in love with the "right" person. Gays are told that everyone they fall in love with is wrong. You should either forge a platonic heterosexual marriage, or live alone. Those who oppose same-sex marriage consider gay unions to be "inferior" to these other two options. They cannot see that love is love. Just because my natural loving inclinations don't match yours doesn't make it any less true love.
Some accuse gays of trying to force other people to accept them. If we give the gays "marriage," then they will wave their marriage certificates in our faces. We will have to let our school-going children be subjected to teachers that say that Gay is OK. Gays only want "marriage" in order to push the "gay agenda." My response to that is: yes. It is time for us to leave behind the superstitious and erroneous beliefs of the past. It is time to help gay teens to get past the shame, to see the worth in themselves, to prevent suicide and hate crimes. It is time for us to recognize that love comes in many shapes and flavors, but it is still love. If this which I have described is the "gay agenda," then yes. Let's push it forwards.
What is "hate"?
I sometimes wondered why gay people opposing prop 8 would use the term "hate" to describe supporters of the prop. At the time, I certainly didn't feel hatred for "those people." But I did see them as inferior. I did see it as "us versus them." I was told that Satan fueled "their" side of the argument, while God was on "our" side.
What is hatred? Is it loathing? Despising? At its core, it is "antagonizing." It is an "us versus them" situation where "we" are the protagonists, the heroes, and "they" are the antagonists, the villains. "Hating" someone means that they are not on my side. It connotes that we believe that "they" have wronged us, or will do so. Certainly not all of prop 8 supporters fall into this category. Some were simply heeding a prophet's voice. But the rhetoric used to support it was certainly hateful, under this definition of hate.
I hate the Mormon church. Now don't forget, I also love it. This church taught me to love serving others and to love the truth. But I hate it because it is me versus them. The leaders of this church have done me harm. Their teachings once led me to hate myself. Me versus myself: my same-sex attraction was doing me harm, because it did not fit in with God's plan. Hate is a natural thing for a human being to feel. What, then, is wrong with "hating" homos, according to this definition of hate?
Again, what's wrong is the spread of misinformation. Fear is used to keep people away from gays. Poor justifications, slippery slopes, exaggerate the "danger" of letting gays marry. Perceived harm is entirely invented. In short, the hate is unjustified.
The words "hate" and "discrimination" carry heavy negative connotations. However, both are perfectly natural and healthy things to do. There are perfectly acceptable situations where hatred and discrimination are justified. It is in those situations when they are not justified that the negative connotation arises. Gender, race, sexual orientation, it is simply unjustified to discriminate based on these factors for, say, choosing who to hire.
Using any word but marriage is unjustified discrimination. Why is it necessary to separate this particular case? What lawful purpose does it serve? There is none. It merely serves the biases of those who hold unjustified hatred in their hearts. Those who believe it is them versus the gays.