It has taken me a lot of soul-searching to decide how to react to this week’s Supreme Court rulings regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
Let me say to begin that no person should be treated as less than human. We are all children of God, and if we would treat each other as such, many of the problems in the world would cease to exist. In practical terms, this means that true Christians must treat our homosexual brothers and sisters as our brothers and sisters. The Golden Rule applies here.
However, when we get into the issue of tolerance, I am concerned that those who decried DOMA as intolerant will exercise their own intolerance toward religions whose doctrines do not permit homosexual marriage. In the grand scheme of things, gay marriage as defined by the state is not directly relevant to marriage as defined by the scriptures. The state’s role in marriage is basically to create a binding legal contract between two individuals. Looking through that lens, it does not matter who those individuals are. But in a religious sense, that marriage contract goes beyond a state-issued legal license, and there are specific requirements for the parties in the contract.
Churches should retain the right to make judgments about who can marry within their walls. That is freedom of religion at its core. These judgments, of course, are not just about the issue of homosexuality. Churches may require worthiness in other ways in order to marry their parishoners in a Church-sanctioned ceremony. For example, in order to marry in a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the bride and groom must live by certain standards, including exercising faith in Christ, maintaining chastity before marriage, paying honest tithing, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and certain other harmful substances, and being honest in their dealings.
These requirements are not meant to be exclusive; they are set by the Lord as minimum requirements to enter into a higher covenant of marriage – one that goes beyond a simple legal contract, but includes a promise of an eternal family bond. This is not just a civil agreement; it is a binding contract between a man, a woman, and God – solemnized on earth and carried into heaven.
So while I am a proponent of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among God’s children, I am also clearly committed to preserving the rights of religious organizations to set their standards based on their understanding of God’s commandments. This is not a practice of hate; it is a practice of faith in a God who is perfectly merciful and perfectly just. A religion that is based on revelation from God cannot alter its standards based on public opinion.
Some religious people have acted out in hate. They do not represent me. But the fact that some have taken the wrong approach does not invalidate the position of those who desire to preserve their freedom to worship. A position against gay marriage is not automatically a manifestation of hate toward gay people. Intelligent people can disagree on difficult social issues without being disagreeable.
I acknowledge and respect and greatly appreciate the many positive contributions of the gay community and their supporters. I would hope that they can acknowledge and respect the contributions of those whose faith may not be completely compatible with their choices or practices. May we finally come to a place where we can live and work together without animosity.