Marriage: right or rite?....or both?  

Posted by BEN

Let's take a step away from economics for a bit. We'll be back soon, I promise. The discussion of liberty invariably comes in contact with the modern discussion of rights. While there seems to be a common misunderstanding of the word "right" and its origins, we can discuss the corruption of our language another time.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched a protest by opponents of California's Proposition 8, hoping to be able to talk with some of them and discuss what their actual demands were. In a few words, there wasn't really an opportunity to talk with any one of them. Amid the accusations of bigotry and hate, I wondered to myself why it was that gays wanted so much for the state to legally sanction their unions as marriage. What was it that they gained from having a marriage as opposed to just a civil union?
The most obvious things are protections the state gives only to married couples. These include tax credits and visitation rights etc. For these reasons, the state regulates marriage closely. In fact, you have to get a license from the state to get married. Think about it...you have to ask the government permission to perform a religious ceremony; you have to ask the government permission to marry someone.
Black's Law Dictionary defines a license as, "The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission [...] would be illegal." This means that if the state has the power to license you to marry, it also has the power to prohibit it. If you don't get a license, you are breaking the law.
Thus, if the state can license heterosexual couples, it can prohibit homosexual couples. The question is merely what the state's policy is. Does it allow homosexual marriages or not? In the current case, it has been both, depending on who you ask: the people of the state or the judiciary. The people voted to prohibit homosexual marriage while the judiciary declared that prohibition unconstitutional. The debate is heating up even now.
To me, it is obvious that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is simply what the word means. But personal and religious definitions aside, I think we may all be having the wrong debate. Instead of discussing how the state should define marriage, let's go back and rethink if they should define it at all.
So there it is: Should the state define marriage? If so, why and how? If not, why not? It seems to me that the debate over whether the state should define marriage at all is so far gone that it has become next to impossible to revive it. But if we could, wouldn't this be a better way to preserve our religious freedom and Constitutional integrity? How do we revive the real debate? If we can't, how do we choose sides in the current one?

This entry was posted on November 25, 2008 at Tuesday, November 25, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

20 comments

Sorry, I decided to combine two posts.

This is spot on, Ben. The real issue is government involvement in areas of society it has no business being involved in. He who defines the terms wins the debate before it starts, and the terms of this debate, like so many in the world today, are completely misunderstood. I like an old Chinese proverb that says, "The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their true name." We have to begin by correctly labeling the true issues, and calling them what they are.

Here is a story I use to illustrate this principle.

A man is sleeping in bed comfortably at night, when he wakes to find a burglar standing over his bed. This burglar proceeds to ask the man which piece of home electronics gear he would choose to give up; his new computer or his new HDTV. Once he chooses, then this is the item that the burglar will take. Thus, the man is faced with a dilemma. He ponders and then debates with the burglar the various advantages/disadvantages of television vs. a computer (a computer is better for multitasking, etc., but a HDTV gives a better viewing experience, and is better for group gatherings, etc.) before finally selecting the television to give up, as it is the "lesser of two evils". The burglar then leaves with his plundered television, and the man is left with the impression that he has been cheated, but not sure quite how, since he was left with the illusion of choice. Well, at least he didn't lose his precious computer, and he can be glad he still has that.

Of course this seems absurd, because there is no right side of this debate, as it is based on a false premise. We could spend years debating the relative merits of computers and HDTVs, but this is all irrelevant. By mislabeling the issue as, let's say, the "Consumer Electronics Debate", the burglar is able to place himself in a position that benefits himself at the expense of another. If the man accepts these terms, and begins to debate the issue, he has already lost.

The best way to counter this falsehood is to call it what it really is, an issue of theft, or the "Burglary Debate". Forget which piece of electronics is better; it doesn't matter! This thief shouldn't be there to begin with! We must refuse to accept the false terms of so much of the political/economic debate taking place today. We need to look to the principles of liberty, apply them as far as we can in EVERY area of our lives, and share with others what we know, feel, and love.

Government and society are so often confused as being synonymous. There are many things done in and by society, which are good and needful, but which are outside the proper boundaries of government involvement. While society DOES have a very real interest in marriages, I think that government should not, especially on the federal level. On the state and local level, I might be able to be persuaded otherwise.

Now, I want to express my support for the leaders of the Church. I know they see the truth of things better than I do, and so, while I do not think this should be an issue for a constitutional amendment, I will support the Brethren in their stance on the issue. I know they love and support principles of liberty as espoused in the Constitution, but we have to remember that the Church did not push the issue first. It is simply responding within the law in a way that the Brethren feel will be the most effective.

November 26, 2008 at 1:10 AM

No, governments should have absolutely nothing to do with marriage whatsoever -- period. "Marriage" is an institution defined by God, and he does not need government to help him out. Government defining marriage is an absolute destruction of the "ancient law of liberty", infringement on the 1st Amendment (regardless of whether you adhere to the post-1963 Supreme Court definition, or the pre-1963 Supreme Court definition), and against the proper role of government within a Constitutional Republic.

The proper role of government is to govern in matters where life, liberty, and property has been physically diminished, damaged, or infringed upon. If two guys next door are goin' at it, that does nothing to my life, liberty, or property; while I may find that lifestyle gross, disgusting, and ugly - I have no lost equitable portion wherein I can delegate to government legitimate action to become involved. Unless I have the right to go next door and pour some cold water on my neighbors, I cannot then delegate a right I do not have to a person (government) to act in my stead. After all, are we a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" or not? Do we ignorantly assume that we magically assume "rights" when we're in a group that we don't have when we're alone? If we do assume that a group of people "assumes" rights not possessed by an individual alone -- then how do you possibly justify away gang rape?

Not obtaining a license is not breaking a law. That argument is based on several false premises and is very weak.

That all being said -- Prop 8 was absolutely necessary in our wicked society. If society at large can no longer adhere to natural law and be free, then it must be coerced, legislated, defined, and limited in its actions as a people. If man cannot be self-accountable, then he must be legislated. If we cannot be accountable in living our Father's plan, Lucifer will be all too happy to step in and take his place.

Our society is wicked and perverse, if not for the blatant immorality that breeds homosexual behavior -- but for the wicked members of Christian churches who have not lent a Christlike hand of fellowship to "bear down pure testimony" in love to their neighbors in creating a righteous society. "Every member a missionary"? Not in the LDS Church -- after all, we have full-time missionaries to do all our missionary work for us, right? Wrong. The members of the Church will be held accountable.

When inequality, bigotry, violence, and intolerance were rampant in the Nephite society -- Alma, holding both the highest political AND religious positions in the land, made the right choice. Instead of "legislating," "coercing," or defining more laws upon the people politically and legally be better, he instead gave up the political seat and decided to preach the word of God to the people (Alma 4; Alma 31). As the scripture says, bearing down pure testimony and the word of God had more effect than the sword (legislation, war, coercion, etc) ever could. How wicked of a people must WE be nowadays for the Church leaders to now rely on the political hand to detour inequality, bigotry, violence, and intolerance? We are so passed feeling and full of iniquity as a people that bearing down pure testimony is irrelevant! Such a reversal of happenings should quite nearly "scare the hell out of us" (literally). This should be a sudden wake up call to those sleeping in their day-to-day worlds.

The command to support Prop 8 is not something we should be happy about; we should be mourning the fact that it was required of us. We have lost our Constitutional Republic and are now living in a Socialist Democracy.

If anyone reading this is so far off base as to possibly believe that it takes "licensing" and government "regulations" to fix this problem -- you really have no foundation in any American history. If anyone actually knows their American history, you will know that there were several churches that "married" homosexual couples before the US ever infringed in the religious union of "marriage". You know what happened because of it? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! The free-market works for religion too... Because the state had no vested interest in marriage during the 1800's, the state couldn't have cared less about two men gettin' hitched at a yokel-preacher's church-house; the towns responded by never going to the idiot-yokel's church again; this caused the idiot-yokel preacher to go out of business. Obviously, it didn't matter one way or another what happened to the newly "married" couple -- certainly God didn't accept the union (Which is actually necessary. According to the original definitions and understandings of marriage, a "marriage" is a union only between a man, a woman, and God -- unless God was within the promised union, it wasn't a marriage. This is how "Civil Unions" started.). I quite nearly agree with all of this Pastor's points (albeit I may disagree with a few of his examples): http://www.mercyseat.net/BROCHURES/marriagelicense.htm We live in a day where even members of the church readily agree with marriage licensing -- There is apparently even more wrong with the people in the LDS church than just their inability to be "every member a missionary".

Nowadays, if a Church is "marrying" two gay-guys -- there's a huge political and legal battle that's started because the freakin' government overstepped its boundaries to legislate/license marriage to begin with. We're now living in the wake of consequences as started by our grandfathers who were too stupid, ignorant, or asleep to have stood up to do anything about it (or to at least teach their kids the proper role of government and the part religion plays in society).

November 26, 2008 at 1:36 AM

I think Shiloh feels pretty strongly about this one.

November 26, 2008 at 10:22 AM

I agree completely that government really has no place in defining (or regulating) marriage. Marriage should be a religious rite and not a legal one. I recognize that there are some legal reasons for government to recognize marriages (visitation, child custody, perhaps taxes), but it seems that it would just be simpler if government just called this package of rights/regulations a "civil union" across the board, and "marriage" was reserved exclusively for religious institutions.

My bigger question, though, has to do with what Shiloh was saying about the state of our society being so dismal that church leaders are encouraging us to take Liberty away from people through legislation. The question is this: if church leaders have asked us to vote this way in this case, should this principle (that society needs moral legislation) be generalized to other moral/social issues? Or should we vote for less government intervention and regulation except in the cases where the Church asks us specifically to vote otherwise?

November 26, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Great question Liz,
The answer, I believe is found in the fundamental premise of government legitimization. What constitutes “legitimate” power and authority? How does government get its power to act legitimately? Can government do anything it wants so long as it has a popular majority vote, or are there restraints wherein the majority cannot amend? If you’ll please excuse my verboseness, I’ll see if I can cover all my bases and create a framework wherein you can know my entire premise.
Our founders despised “Democracies,” because they rejected the premise for government authority that exists within Democracies. Instead, our founders sought to establish a “Republic”. In fact, the founders were so adamant concerning this fact that they included only one guarantee in the Constitution, and that was for a “Republican form of Government” (Article 4, Section IV). Today, the United States has taken on the international/British terminology of “Republic” to simply refer to any government that was not a monarchy; however, historically, philosophically, and politically, we know that Republics and Democracies are complete dichotomies in how they establish government legitimacy. Indeed, one cannot live along side the other.
Legitimacy in Democracy merely consists of a majority’s vote and consent without exception – that’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. So long as there is at least one extra person on one side than the other – anything goes. At first, this sounds sorta like America, doesn’t it? After all, we elect our representatives by majority vote and our representatives pass “laws” based on certain majority vote criteria – right? Well, yeah – but this isn’t the entire story. When you only base legitimacy on majority vote, then you run into a whole slew of social problems. Can the majority legitimize and legalize rape through a majority’s consent? We would obviously condemn two men against one women as a heinous act – but what if it was 10 men to 1 women? 100 men to 1 woman? At what ration would it become legitimately legal and okay for a woman to be raped? 1,000:1? 10,000:1? 1,000,000:1? If there were ten million people who said it was okay for a woman to be raped, is it okay? What about murder? What about theft? If my neighbor comes to my house and demands money by force, he will be sent to jail – but what if there were 10 of my neighbors that came to my house? Is THAT a legitimate request. Now, surely, if I knew the reason they wanted my money then maybe I would be sympathetic to their cause and freely give my money to them; however, in the case of coerced theft – at what ration does such action become legitimate? When speaking of government – the ratio is merely whatever it takes to establish a majority over a minority. There are not absolute “truths,” “morals,” or “constants” in a Democracy; in fact, there are no “inalienable rights” either. Why? Because when you establish a government that’s only claim to legitimacy to act is majority consent, then you stipulate that the majority is what gives power to society; in fact, it is the majority’s consent that gives “rights” at all. There are no absolute “rights,” because your rights end where the majority begins. If the majority wants your house, money, car, property, etc. – all they have to have is a majority’s consent.
Socialism is actually the ultimate manifestation of Democracy. How? Imagine a world where the workers of a company have the legitimate ability of combining together to take over the company due by virtue of being in the majority. Now, we have “public” companies who have men/women who “buy into” the company through stock options and other means – however, these people have a vested interest, as per their buy in, with their own property (money). What if the workers were capable, without having to “buy in” to the company, to simply revolt and overthrew the company owner because the workers were in the majority? What if all the workers of Wal-mart woke up tomorrow and decided that they’d combine together and take over from the board of directors and the CEO? Suddenly, the private company that was privately owned and operated was just overthrown by “the people”. Suddenly, the private company just became an entity of the people; suddenly, the people just took over and made socially public the corporation – and all this was done merely by virtue of “being in the majority”. This entire process is the very basis of Socialism/Communism.
Our founders saw the obvious flaw in creating a system of government wherein the majority’s consent was the only stipulation for legitimacy. Democracies have never lasted longer than 200 years before they revert into tyranny and despotic government. Republics, by nature, adhere first to “law” before anything else – and have historically lasted as long as 800 years. There is no one Republic that sets the mold for every other Republic; in fact, there aren’t two Republics that are the same. However, at the heart of a Republic is an adherence to “laws” before any other stipulation of legitmacy. The question now is: What “law” does the United States adhere to? American history shows that our founders desired to establish “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence) as their desired codex. This was to be the backbone of the Republic. Natural law, as brought about through the age of the Enlightenment (Blackstone, Locke, Hobbes, Hume, Adams, Paine, Jefferson, etc.), has had many definitions. Suffice it to say, Natural Law was the theory that tried to attempt an understanding concerning how man interacts with his fellow man in a pure state of nature in relation to “Common Law” (absent government’s arbitrary dictates and legislation). In order for man to progress, it was reasoned that he could do so through society better than he could do individually, and that by so doing there would emerge a fundamental constant in how man interacted with each other. The entire premise of the Laws of Nature was derived from a distinct understanding of Christian Laws; furthermore, many founders, before Jefferson, actually believed that the Laws of Nature were merely a different way of explaining the Laws of Christ.
In our Republic, we may, by the “voice of the people,” choose how we will conduct our business in relationship to each other; however, we can never do our business against “natural law”. This concept is evidenced in Mosiah as King Mosiah first puts the people under the laws which were given by their fathers (the law of Moses), and then turns over to the voice of the people just how they will decide how they will act together according to those laws (Mosiah 29). Do you see how this differentiates itself from mere “Democracy”? Both systems of government may conduct their affairs by the “voice of the people” or the “majority”, but a Republican system of government also adds the element of an outside codex of laws wherein the majority can never have any legitimate power. Our Constitution is NOT this outside codex; however, it is the framework wherein the people, who stand as individual sovereigns, define what powers they will allow their representative to act in their stead. In this way, we can always say that the woman is always safe from being raped from the encroaching majority. Just because a majority can “vote” on something, does not mean that they legitimately have the authority to. Does that make sense?
So, what does that have to do with your question?
It is my firm and very strong opinion that the Church’s request for the members to support Prop 8 was an admission to the loss of our Constitutional Republic, and was an acknowledgement that we now live under the premise of type of Socialist Democracy. In a Constitutional Republic, remember, that mere numbers does not constitute authority or legitimacy; however, that is exactly what Prop 8 was all about. Our Constitutional Republic was only to act in matters of life, liberty, and property – all other issues were to be settled by the people themselves (that’s the only real power the people gave government through the Constitution). John Adams made the statement that our Constitutional Republic was made for a “religious and moral people” and is “unsuitable for any other”. Why? Because it takes a righteous people to maintain the basic and fundamental principles that are necessary to perpetuate a Constitutional Republic; otherwise, a wicked and immoral people will soon declare their rejection of the laws of nature while instigating the premise of “majority rule only”. Truly, Democracies are the Achilles Heel of any Republic; freedom takes eternal diligence.
As I stated in my previous post about Alma, the Book of Mormon is full of evidences of true and correct principles concerning how government should act – and, even more importantly, concerning how the PEOPLE are to interact with the government. The Book of Mormon gives us several examples of both good and bad interactions of the government and people together. Alma is a good case study to show what the people SHOULD have done – which they were actually COMMANDED to do through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, and which they FAILED to do. Today, we are seeing more examples of what Mormon and Moroni’s people would have had to have done to maintain some semblance of morality within a society. Remember that the only stipulation for legitimacy and power that the wicked Lamanites ever gave was merely by virtue of their numbers (majority) over the Nephites. The Nephites always rejected this stipulation by laying hold of the Law of Moses and the commandments (the codex of stipulated laws).
My personal course of action is to always vote down government’s ever increasing power and authority. The only exception to this rule, for me, is when the Church leaders specifically say otherwise. In other more ambiguous statements given by the Church in various political measures, I have prayerfully followed counsel and personally felt to do what I can to diminish governments power. In the case of Prop 8, I saw there was no room for ambiguity, and so I supported it whole-heartedly. All this being said, I really believe the time is at hand where the Church will have no other real choice than to do what it has with Prop 8. It has been prophesied that the Church will become at odds with the government once again and that much social, political, and physical persecution will result because of it – I cannot see these prophecies coming to pass unless the Church supports more measures like Prop 8 than it has previously done. Furthermore, because I feel we have lost our Constitution and the Republic it was supposed to guarantee, I think that’s the only course possibly laid out FOR the Church.
At the end of the day, I’m not the prophet and I can only stipulate. However, this is the premise whereby I gauge true and correct principles.

November 26, 2008 at 9:48 PM

Another thing that occurred to me is, if the govt has enough of an interest in marriage to regulate it, as some would argue, then why does the govt not also have an interest in regulating having children? Many people who accept marriage licenses would be horrified by the idea of a "child" license. And yet, that is exactly the principle they are arguing for when they promote government intrusion into what should be matters of conscience. Law should never suppress the freedom of the soul.

December 2, 2008 at 12:37 AM

Which is interesting, because I've read many legal/philosophical theories concerning "human population control" being exercised in the United States. What is the fundamental principle behind parents being licensed to have children? Why, it's the marriage license of course. When you ask the secular government's permission to be brought together in the most sacred union that God has ordained and to became a secularized partner, what makes you think that you will escape the consequences of that contract you made by your own free will and choice? Government is your third partner in your "marriage", and thus has a vested interest (supposedly); anything government assumes a vested interest in the government can regulate. I, however, reject the theory that government has a vested interest in ANYTHING; government is an abstract institution that is designed merely to restore lost equity in an infringement of life, liberty, or property (and curtailing the infringing party in exercises outside the parameters of his natural liberty)-- all else is outside the scope of legitimate and good government. I know it's harsh, but I wouldn't feel bad for parents who have a marriage license who are then compelled to be licensed to have children; the same as I don't feel bad for parents who subject their children to public schools who complain about "not having control" of the state institution in teaching their children concerning homosexuality. In fact, I would hold those parents/people responsible for adhering to bad laws wherein society accepted the long train of abuses of religion and sacred institutions and made it possible that "children licensing" would even be a societal thought. Good grief, what has this nation come to? Grow up and BE parents! Having kids doesn't make someone a parent (battle of semantics, I know).

December 3, 2008 at 11:34 AM

giraffe posted this comment:
I read your post on gay marriage. I fully agree that the government should play no role in religious institutions, but I think that discussing that aspect of the story misses the point in the current debate. Whether the government should be able to define marriage or not (and they shouldn't in my opinion) they do so. You have a government sanctioned marriage and the potential benefits that come with that.
My question to you is: what is it about the government licensing gay people to marry do you disagree with? I take it that you don't even want the government to require you to have a license to be married? Ummmm...I am really missing in your argument what it is that you disagree with (other than the obvious religious aspect, which you are not mentioning). Is it that you don't want it to be called a marriage for gays and as long as they get civil unions they should be content? Would you be willing to let gay people call their thing a marriage and you call yours a civil union? I truly don't see where your socio-political ideology got you to a different outcome than I came to. This has got to be a religion thing man! Come on.....really?

December 9, 2009 at 10:32 PM

I am not sure I would call them benefits as much as conveniences, but I would rather do without them knowing and feeling the way I do now.
My point about California is that their form of government is based more on legal positivism than natural law. To a certain extent, the whole US has become such, looking to the institution of democracy to create law rather than relying on natural law. It is the system and mentality that I argue against. The system no longer adheres to just principles and limited government but has rejected those in favor of unlimited government. That is, California, as a social democracy, no longer cares what the proper role of government is according to natural law. Instead, the system simply bows to the more powerful of the interests in a continuous fight for control over the helm of the state, thereafter imposing the will of the majority on the minority, and in some cases, vice versa. My quarrel is with this mentality...the mentality of democracy.
So, within the framework of a social democracy, what is one to do? The people who favor abiding by natural law and even common law find themselves trapped by those seeking to redefine the law, i.e. the way things are. After all, that is what law is: a definition of the way things are. Natural law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. That is simply what it is. Now, this institution is a religious institution and, as such, should not be regulated by government (see 1st Amendment). Once done, however, what must those do who still hold to its definition? Well, we must seek to defend that definition.
Apparently, the LDS church feels, and I agree, that the best way to do this is by encouraging its members to support a legal definition of marriage. So, yes, this unfortunately becomes a matter of religion. My point is that this is only necessary because of the system that California lives under. In a constitutional republic, it would be neither necessary, proper, nor even possible because, as I said, marriage would be strictly a religious institution and not a matter of state.
The ONLY reason the government got involved in marriage in the first place was for income tax purposes. Go figure.
This issue is a favorite of my friend Shiloh. See if he doesn't confuse you even more:
http://libertarianthink.blogspot.com/2009/05/republics-democracy-prop-8-civil-unions.html

December 9, 2009 at 10:52 PM

Well I am glad that you can admit that this is a religious issue for you. In all honesty, where would you draw the line (if ever) on church authorities telling you how to vote? I mean this question in all sincerity. If all of a sudden you find yourself on the side of the population who is voting to deny rights to a group by having the government more narrowly define a religious rite so as to fit your opinion of "natural law," then don't be surprised about what might happen next with your blessing. Since government unfortunately defines marriage and religion itself, what if your church leaders told you to vote for denying "religion status" to Scientologists? What if someone else's church told them to vote for denying "religion status" to Mormons? This is a disgusting slope to be on, and no matter what justification you can forge for yourself, the outcome is that basic rights are being denied to a sector of our population based solely on a religious aversion to their personal non-violent, unharmful behaviors.

December 10, 2009 at 7:32 AM

To quote your friend, Shiloh, whom I have not met (Hi Shiloh. I am Geoff)
This is exactly the attitude of those who are proponents of Sharia Law:

"That all being said -- Prop 8 was absolutely necessary in our wicked society. If society at large can no longer adhere to natural law and be free, then it must be coerced, legislated, defined, and limited in its actions as a people. If man cannot be self-accountable, then he must be legislated."

How can this be a good idea?
In my personal opinion, the entire world would be better off if people had fewer children (as most of our conflict and suffering is ultimately caused by resource limitation) so if people won't do it on their own, should I legislate it? NO!
I could give a thousand more examples, but you see where this is going.

December 10, 2009 at 7:46 AM

What "rights" are you referring to? Remember that the very fact that one has to obtain a license means that the right has already been usurped by the state and is no longer recognized as part of religious freedom. In any case, I am not sure what rights are lost by defining marriage as such. The definition is a legal definition, but in many cases is de facto void, as many gay and straight couples live together and act in every way "married" according to common law. Again, the only difference may be in cases of taxes etc which are fully covered by civil union statutes.
Don't get me wrong, I am asserting here that I wish government had nothing to do with marriage, but I also don't really see what harm the defining of the term does either.
From the perspective of the interests of the church, marriage is under attack, not by gays, but by the state. If the power of the state is used under the licensing laws to coerce the performance of gay marriages by church clergy (this has been done in many places already), this poses a threat to the independence and religious freedoms of the people. There are also other cases of humanitarian efforts such as adoption that make the issue of gay marriage particularly problematic legally for the church should the state enforce a gay marriage.
I think this issue highlights some of the underlying problems with the slope we find ourselves on, and I don't deny the ambiguity of it. Still, I find it hard to view the definition of marriage as a case of actual harm to anyone.
I am curious, as I asked before, what rights do you see as being denied or taken away by a legal definition of marriage?
As far as what Church leaders tell me what to vote for or not, I don't live in California and I am glad I do not. I have received no such counsel and do not know what I would do if I did. I am entitled, however, to know, independently of what I am counseled to do, whether that counsel is correct. In any case, the matter of gay marriage is a particularly rare case of church involvement in politics which limit themselves to matters that directly affect its independence.
Otherwise, the gospel teaches all sorts of things regarding the principles of agency and liberty. My belief in liberty is fundamentally grounded in my religious faith.

December 11, 2009 at 11:59 PM

hmm. Well I guess the only way this is directly hurting people is that some are not allowed to have power of attorney over their "partner," and to share in certain other benefits which are not covered by civil unions. Also, not just as a side note, they are told by the state that a conservative religious definition of marriage is the one the state endorses. Yes marriage is just a word that can have certain benefits attached to it, but riding in the back of the bus will get you to the mall just as well also and certainly you would not argue for a return to "separate but equal" for people with dark skin. I will admit that there is no substantiative harm being done to gays if "civil unions" could be handed out to gay couples and all legal benefits of marriage were passed along with that, but can you not also see that no substantiative harm would be done to christians if gays got to call a civil union a marriage?
I really believe that your faith has a profound influence on your belief in liberty, but if you do not see a problem with an organized religion actively seeking to affect public policy, where does your belief that government should not seek to impose upon religion stem from? How would you feel, honestly, if there was an extremely well financed push by Southern Baptists for a law to limit the definition of marriage to one man and one woman, as long as they are not LDS?
Would you think, "hey, that's fine, I can still have my civil union...and who really uses power of attorney anyway...and I will just call my wife my "life partner" at the company picnic...
It isn't too far-fetched to imagine a scenario like this some day.
I find it repulsive not only that government has defined marriage, but that they chose a religious narrow definition. Since when has government had the authority to pick which religion defines things properly?

December 12, 2009 at 2:14 PM

in a Constitutional Republic that allows for individual freedom and religious expression, issues like Proposition 8 have no legitimate foundation. Rather, in a Constitutional Republic, Prop 8 is majoritism at best, and usurpation and tyranny at worst. If religion had not been tampered with to begin with, then Prop 8 would never have even entered the social consciousness. However, the government DID infringe on religion -- Reynolds v United States as a prime example -- and has turned its Constitutional Republic into a Socialist Democracy.

While the former government protected religious freedom -- thereby allowing the Churches freedom to marry whomever they wished -- the current Socialist Democracy no longer operates on the concept of "inalienable" rights but of "state granted" rights. This is a fundamental shift in how government operates. Whereas before, the majority had to check itself against the principle of inalienable rights, today the government merely operates on the stipulation of majority rule. This is a fundamental shift from Natural Law to Legal Positivism. Today, the only 'rights' people have are what the government says they have. This ideology is in complete opposition to the 9th and 10th Amendments, but this doesn't appear to affect any political decisions of our elected representatives.

The Church, in seeing this shift, made a strategic move -- just as it has in other countries. In post-WWII German, the Church excommunicated many members for working against the Nazi government. At the same time, the Church presidents offered Lex-injusta-non-est-lex doctrines from the pulpit in General Conference. This apparent contradiction is easily solved when one reasons that the Church abides by the Laws and governments that the people live in and accept. It's the same principle found throughout the scriptures -- the Lord gives his people what they want.

So, as the people in America have chosen a Socialist Democracy, then they can have all the ills that go along with it. The people have accepted, through implicit consent, a majoritism society that is built on the concept that the majority makes the rules and establishes rights. This framework of government is death to any Church that holds a moral standard. As such, it is in any Church's prerogative to sway political and majority opinion in their favor through whatever means they can. That is simply the rules of the game in a Socialist Democracy -- the positivists have won out and now America must lay in the bed she has made.

Do I morally agree with this? Absolutely not! I think Socialist Democracies are horrible and disgusting and I long for a free society. But longing for a free society while allowing society to lambaste and further infringe on religious is neither wise nor prudent. Is this unfair, inequitable, or unequal in a free society? Absolutely -- there is not argument. But, this is the exact un-constitutional and "democratic" society Lysander Spooner talks about here: http://lysanderspooner.org/node/64

December 12, 2009 at 10:43 PM

The Latter-day Saint Church is as accurate as any organization can be in working the positivist and Socialist system to maintain their ability to exercise their own religious rights/rites without further infringement. Several homosexual organizations had previously targeted the Church to force it to perform homosexual marriages in LDS temples. Several California State attorney's -- who were LDS -- made this point clear and stated that the Church would shut down its temples in any region it would be forced to perform a homosexual marriage before it would do so. As such, the Church acted within the positivist system to ensure its own ability of practicing its rites without infringement. Again, is this equitable, fair, or equal? Absolutely not.

But it isn't the Church's fault that society has chosen this type of political and social system -- it just works within the rules established by society to continue its own work. If you have a problem with any of this, place the blame where it is supposed to be -- on the society that has accepted and promotes this system.

December 12, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Geoff, I think we agree more than you know....or you may know....or maybe I just think that we agree.
Anyway, the scenario you propose of others taking marriage away from LDS HAS happened before, as you know. Faced with the prospect of losing all its land, temples, and maybe more, the church abolished polygamy. Knowing what would happen should they continue down that path, the LDS church allowed the government to define marriage as it would. After all they had done to try to prevent it, they finally accepted it rather than face the consequences. In all honesty, this was NOT a religious decision per se, but a political one that allowed the church to continue with "the weightier matters of the law".
In a somewhat ironic way, the case of Prop 8 is similar. This time, however, it seems the church has been able, for a time, to prevent such a thing from happening. As Shiloh writes, it is not a perfect solution, neither is it a preferable solution, but I see it as the only viable alternative at the moment.
My hope is that this will spark the very debate I want to happen: should marriage be completely out of government hands or not? My push is for that debate to arise. I think if it does, many LDS and many gay marriage advocates will find themselves on the same side. Those who still hold to the idea of statism will be exposed as the true bigots.
In response to your question about how I would feel if I could not "legally" marry, I would be partly, if not fully, thrilled. I despise my marriage license as a very representation of all that is wrong with government. At the time, I didn't think twice about it, but, as I said before, feeling the way I feel now, I would have tried to find another way.
I sure hope no one thinks that because I despise my marriage license that I despise marriage. The opposite could not be more true. I love being married. I love my wife, but I do not hold to the legal definition of our marriage as anything important or sacred per se. The religious definition is the only one that holds any meaning for me....and I would still call her my wife regardless of what the government calls her.

December 12, 2009 at 11:11 PM

Wow, I had a lot of typos in there -- sorry. I was writing between customers coming in at work and didn't proof anything.

December 13, 2009 at 12:09 AM

you guys make valid points and all I can say to that effect is that while I still don't agree with the ends (for reasons I will explain), your means are motivated in a way very much different from the vast majority of those who voted for prop 8. What does that matter? Well, intentions may pave the road to hell as they say, but I still think they are important. What I mean to say is that I wish more of those opposed to gay marriage were more like you. yes, we do seem to agree that govt has no f'ing business telling anyone they can or cannot be "married," but whereas you see a threat to religious freedom (justly, I suppose)in the sad fact that govt does define marriage, I see a threat as well and it is one of personal liberty to be gay. The fact that gays are excluded from our positivist definition of marriage is abhorrent to me because it is nothing more than the government endorsing a particular religious view and while it is allegedly the voice of the majority of taxpayers (sure) who passed prop 8 and while we have chosen mob rule, what scares me quite a lot is theocracy in every form I have ever learned about and every form I see. This, I hope you see, is not a paranoid fear any more than LDS fearing that they will be forced into marrying gay people in temples.
I, right now, am far more concerned for the "rights" of the gay people in america than I am for any church because, well, I am more concerned with individuals than with large multinational organizations of any sort. I don't know how many gay people you know or are friends with and this may come as a shock to you, but gay people don't choose to be born that way any more than someone chooses to be born with red hair. Even LDS PR officials have acknowledged this on many occasions, and although they don't condone the lifestyle that being born gay generally leads to, they accept that people are born that way and "...either have to live a life of celibacy, or struggle and make a 'normal' family life work." (Marlin Jenson) You understand that many of these people may not inherently believe in the christian (some sects) doctrine of homosexuality being "wrong" any more than if there were doctrine leaning towards being of African descent as somehow "wrong," which, as you know was the case with mormons until rather recently.
My personal definition of "wrong" generally falls under the life,liberty,property domains and as I do not believe in God, I make no judgments about morality unless it somehow impedes one or more of those three areas. My point: I cannot see how people being gay and getting married affects anyone else. we might as well pass a law saying that hollywood stars can't get married. do you think that the government could force the LDS to perform gay marriages any more than it could force the LDS to perform hollywood marriages? I can't even get married in a temple and if I wanted to, nobody could force them to do it. Maybe I am being naiive here, but......

December 14, 2009 at 5:02 PM

Well, whether or not being gay is a choice is a different discussion. The question here is not about being gay. It is unfortunate that the discussion often turns to that rather than staying with the question of marriage.
So, if I have our discussion straight so far, we both agree that government should not be involved in marriage. The difference comes that you are more concerned with religious ideas using the state to infringe on the "right" of gays to marry and I am more concerned with gay marriage advocates using the state to infringe on religious liberties.
Correct me where I am wrong, but I believe you conceded that there weren't any "rights" per se that were being infringed upon by the marriage definition. However, your concern is with the tone and manner of how the process was coming about. It looks fishy to you.
I am rehashing this because it seems you are ascribing to a positivist view of rights for gays and then alarmed that these manufactured rights are in danger, all the while saying you are concerned with life, liberty, and property.
As I said before, the fact that one has to get a license means the right has already been revoked. Defining what that license can or cannot be for does nothing to damage the right because it is already presumed gone.
In fact, this is the case for anything that I have to get a license for. Licensing presupposes that I do not have the right and that government grants rights. This is simply not true. In many cases, one can get in trouble for doing something without a license (driving, for instance), but I am not aware of anything that a married couple can legally do that an unmarried couple cannot.
Your question about whether or not "the government could force the LDS to perform gay marriages" I think shows a differing view of what government does. The operative word being 'could,' what the government can or cannot do almost seems irrelevant anymore. With the advent of totalitarian democracy, the government can (is able to) write all kinds of things it calls laws, but whether or not these writings have the force of true law behind them is another question. Yes, government even uses coercion to enforce its "laws" and pounds it into our heads that we need to obey these contrived sophistries for our own safety...or else!
Certainly, it is not the role of government, nor within its actual power to MAKE law. Law is. Government can define or enforce it, but anytime it takes it upon itself to create law, government fails, no matter how hard it wishes to enforce its own fantasies.
So, CAN government force LDS to perform gay marriages? The simple answer is no, but the long answer is probably no. Marriage, to LDS, is not a civil matter, it is a spiritual matter that concerns religious convictions and a relationship with God. God defines it, and it is not subject to the whims of human legal delusion. Should government force LDS to "perform" a gay marriage, it would simply have no meaning. It would be null and void. But, again, this is beside the point.
Honestly, I wish this discussion were typical of political discussion these days. We would be much better off discussing the nature of rights and government power each time someone proposed legislation. We would be much more likely to reach a consensus on the best way to maintain all liberties. Nowadays, the discussion seems to center around which amendment to the bill can more effectively limit or destroy liberty.

December 14, 2009 at 8:37 PM

really, from what I gather, the main difference here between us is that I do not think homosexuality is wrong in any sense of the word. If I did, I would be 100% with you here, and if you felt as I do about homosexuality, I bet you would be 100% with me on this, judging from your other strong stances on individual liberty, like, say, the "war on drugs" etc. it is a shame, but I think that this issue is destined to fall into a discussion of moral absolutes. I respect your opinion, but I can't see the sense of "making the best of our fairy-tale legal system" by using it to ascribe more limitations to certain sectors of the population. It only makes sense if seen through the lens of homosexuality being against natural law. Once again, I think this is the sole source of our opposing positions... And we both seem to be ascribing to legal positivism here, worried about scrabbling over the crumbs of "rights, given to us," and both trying to make the best out of the situation by doing what we can within the system to restore things towards "the way they should be." This conversation seems to be leading nicely into one about the nature of "natural law," and "the way things should be," which I am sure we would be a rich topic.

December 15, 2009 at 8:01 AM

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