Slant by Noah

Slant by Noah
"Hmm… I don't see any slant."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Protecting Marriage and the Will of the People

On ballots in California, Arizona, and Florida in the general election of November 4, 2008 are propositions to amend each state’s constitution to codify definitions of marriage. It has become a divisive issue with a flurry of misinformation coming from both sides. Confrontations between neighbors have allegedly become violent.

Equality for All, the lead organization opposed to California’s ballot measure, is pumping out tired, old, liberal tropes about equality, tolerance, and reconciliation. “Live and let live.” What’s the big deal, man? It doesn’t affect you, so why do you care?

Then there are the appeals by the lead proponent,, on behalf of children everywhere. Elementary schools are exposing the nation’s young to dangerous levels of radioactive homosexuality. Well meaning fathers are languishing in jail cells after trying to protect their children.

The rational debate appears lost among hyperbole and non sequiturs. As Brad Warthen of wrote about the current presidential campaign, “Angry appeals to emotion militate against rational political decisions. They get in the way; they erect new barriers to communication where there were already too many to begin with.”

Then Why the Marriage Propositions?

If passed in California, Proposition 8 will result in a new section 7.5 in Article I of the Constitution of the State of California. The text of the new section is simple and concise: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Arizona’s Proposition 102, if approved by voters, will add this simple phrase to the Constitution of the State of Arizona: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Florida Amendment 2 proposes to add something a little bit more verbose: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

As a constitutionalist and strict constructionist, I am wary of changes to such consequential documents. We the People, having confirmed a constitution and thereby having delegated substantial authority to our government, we willingly submit to its administration. But one of the powers retained by us, the People, is the right to alter or even discard that constitution, thus maintaining control of the government we created. Our constitution is the highest law of the land and changes to it must be ratified by us. Otherwise, if a state or federal constitution could be easily altered, then it could also be easily disregarded and the people may just as well be ruled by the caprice of a monarch or the vagaries of a mob.

However, the last eight years in California clearly illustrate why these amendments are needed and why twenty-seven other states have already added similar code to their own state constitutions. In the general election of 2000, by voice of the people, the California Defense of Marriage Act became law. In 2004, after San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom permitted same sex-marriages in his city, the California Supreme Court annulled 3,995 such unions but sparked legal challenges that would eventually bring down the Defense of Marriage Act.

In 2005 and again in 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, a bill approved by the state legislature that sought to authorize same-sex marriage. The Governor got it only half right when he said, “the matter should be determined not by legislative action – which would be unconstitutional – but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state.” On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that statutes limiting marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that individuals of the same sex have a right to marry in that state.

As you can plainly see, the will of the people of California was flaunted by Mayor Newsom, challenged by the legislature, and subsequently thwarted by the judiciary. To whom is it not obvious that the people would have something more to say in the matter? The Governator, that’s who. He said, “I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.” Does he think that the judiciary is superior and impugn to the people of the state from whom is derived its authority?

Arizona has its own law that proscribes same-sex marriage. ARS 25-101, section C, states, “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.” A popular argument for the opposition of Prop 102 is that nothing more than this is needed. But seeing what happened in California over the last four years, a constitutional amendment does seem a worthwhile consideration.

This is the American system and it’s working. If the people of California, Arizona, or Florida do not want these amendments, they will not pass. But in such cases where the government, in all it branches, has failed in its duties of representation or administration, the people have a right to reshape that government or to steer it, or even to abolish it if needed.

Why Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Involved?

Many people cling to the belief that affairs of God and affairs of government are mutually exclusive and that churches should stay a safe distance from the Public Square and civic debate. But those same people don’t seem to mind at all when government crosses the “separation of church and state” to dictate or influence ecclesiastical matters. Many of those same people don’t realize that “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the United States Constitution. (A crisp $10 bill is yours if you can find it there.) And those same people can only tenuously hold to their beliefs by ignoring the religious principles and worthy character of our nation’s founding fathers, who devoutly held to the strict, immalleable moral code they found in the Bible.

The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints openly proclaimed to the world in 1995, “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

Let me get this straight: some of you reading this a) believe that the Prophet and the Apostles are called of God and ordained with His holy priesthood to act in His name, and b) agree with that body of men that marriage is ordained of God from the beginning, but c) feel that the Church has no place in a debate about marriage. These creeds are incompatible, insoluble as oil and water.

It is more sensible to examine the government’s involvement in the sacred marriage ordinance. By extending the notion to other ceremonies, the ridiculousness is apparent. It would be intolerable for the state to license baptisms or to monitor sacrament attendance. It would be an outrage for a government to take upon itself the issuance of temple recommends.

What of Tolerance?

A strong current in the temperamental winds of America’s modern culture is this attitude called tolerance, part of the dogma of political correctness. But tolerance is not to be understood in any literal or etymological meaning of the word. To have tolerance for someone is very different from tolerating that person, at least in the very latest PC parlance. The doctrine of tolerance permits no act or attribute to be shunned no matter how vile; all must be condoned, pardoned, accepted and even popularized. The ultimate demonstration of tolerance may be to embrace and adopt the trait into one’s own character.

The prophet Isaiah foresaw our days and wrote, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” We live in a day when the most abject comportment is considered a simple matter of privacy, while good saints and citizens are derided and ridiculed for their clean, wholesome standards. Is tolerance to be afforded to everyone equally by society?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “homophobic.” In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful.”

Watch out! Just like “peace protestors” who so often demonstrate a violent streak, people who demand tolerance may not exhibit any on their part. According to the Modesto Bee, police are still looking for a man who “reportedly stole a stack of signs supporting [Proposition 8], then punched the owner of the signs in the eye when he tried to reclaim his materials.” The victim received 16 stitches. Such a display of tolerance!

But as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tolerance is not a high enough standard. Jesus taught us to love one another, not just to tolerate each other. And so we invite and welcome all people and we covenant that we “are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us in 1994 that Joseph Smith was great model of tolerance. “I marvel at the inspiration of the Prophet Joseph Smith when he penned the eleventh article of faith: ‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’ That noble expression of religious tolerance is particularly poignant in light of the Prophet’s personal persecution. On one occasion he wrote, ‘I am at this time persecuted the worst of any man on the earth, as well as this people, … all our sacred rights are trampled under the feet of the mob.’ Joseph Smith endured incessant persecution and finally heartless martyrdom—at the hands of the intolerant. His brutal fate stands as a stark reminder that we must never be guilty of any sin sown by the seed of intolerance.”

“But,” as Elder Oaks explains, “tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.” Church members must have love for all people and at the same time hold firm to truth and sound judgment. And we must not be intimidated by ad hominem attacks and epithets intended to chill or silence debate.

As published on the Church website, “The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.”

We do not subscribe to the moral relativism that pervades today’s society. We stand resolutely on faith, on principle, on truth, as Joshua of old. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The First Presidency wrote to Church leaders in California, “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.” This is consistent with the final paragraph of the 1995 proclamation, which called upon us to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

If you haven’t already committed to sustain and uphold the authorities of the Church, do so today. If you haven’t already, it’s past time you decided between what is right and what is easy.

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