Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Prop 8 Conversation

Last year I had intended to post something regarding California's Prop 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the state constitution. I had gone door to door with my father back when it was Prop 22 that was making it a law, only to see that law enacted by the will of the people overturned by certain judges. I intended to write several, but somehow never got to it. I was rather disappointed when it was over.

But it seems that it isn't over and there is continued and ongoing debate about it. I voiced my opinion on a Facebook poll, and that started a lengthy and interesting conversation with a friend of mine that I wanted to quote here as a belated contribution. The debate is mostly about what government can and should do and about the relationship between agency, liberty, and law than about the rightness or wrongness of homosexual marraige per se or whether it is a civil rights issue. In order to distinguish between his comments and mine, I will stick a small pic of me next to my contributions. I should note that I don't necessarily agree with everything he says we agree on, and let a lot of debatable points go for the sake of brevity and staying on message.
In stating the reason I was voting No to reverse Prop 8, I wrote:

If marriage were a purely social institution, I would have no problem with extending it to everyone. It is not, however. Marriage between a man and a woman was ordained of God, and we do not have the right to change its definition. I also worry about how freedom of speech and of religion will be curtailed as any preaching that something is morally wrong will be labeled "hate speech."

He responded: take government out of the marriage issue and the problem goes away. Would a government ordained by God be in the business of restricting free agency?

Of course not. The question yours begs, though, is if the establishment and enforcement of law curtails free agency. The answer is that it does not. God sets forth laws, laws He not only enforces, but is also bound by, and that without restricting agency. In fact, laws are ESSENTIAL in order to HAVE agency in the first place because without them there is no choice.
Commandments do not restrict agency. We are free to disobey and reap the consequences. The eternal laws are already there and we can't change them. Legal immorality is still immoral.

Man's law is enforced through coercion and duress, removing agency.
HE offers a reward for obedience, and a choice.
So, it seems we agree that the US gov. isn't ordained by God. I suggest it is even in opposition to God's will and an obstacle to building the Kingdom for HIM; where agency lets men suceed or fail. We can help others make good choices without threats, violence, and cages. I do not need a law to decide to love my neighbor.

Except for one thing: in this case, that coercive power is not being used on anyone. If homosexual marriage became legalized, the coercive power of the state would be used in our schools and against churches and religious people to force them to accept as normal and permissible something they regard as sin. Right now, no one is using the force of the state to prevent people from marrying. They just say, "oh, you had a ceremony. That's nice. It doesn't count." In countries where it has been legalized, pastors have been threatened with jail for preaching against it. In this case, protecting agency against coercion means keeping the law and constitution we just passed in place.

Again, the problem is government enforcement of law. If there's no coercion, why did WE need a license to marry? I got one, under duress. Did you?
I think you'll agree that permission from the Church is more important than that from the state. Seems to me, we should be deleting marriage law, not adding more. I'd rather tell the state what they can't do, instead of my neighbor.

1) There was no duress. I wanted the benefits the law provides and happily provided evidence that Joy and I would be, and then were, properly married by someone having authority.
2) The Church itself uses the phrase "legally and lawfully" married, not "married under Church authority."
3) Yes, I would also rather tell the state what it can and cannot do rather than my neighbor. But when my neighbor rises up and wants to use the state's coercive powers against what I hold most dear, I am happy to tell the state it has the authority to say, no, you can't. The early saints tried to get the state government to protect them against their neighbors, and then the federal government against the state government. Joseph Smith lamented that he felt the Constitution was not yet perfect, in part because there was no protection for them.
This is about protecting freedoms we have. At least to me.

Y'know, let me try a different tack.
You say the problem is whether the state or US government should or should not have the authority to decide who can and cannot get married. Unfortunately, that isn't the question Prop 8 or Nullify Prop 8 asks. Whether we keep the CA Constitution as it now stands or make another ammendment to it, the state is going to decide who can and cannot get married. The world where the government does not have that authority doesn't exist in this timeline.
It is possible for a hypothetical best to stand in the way of a feasible good. I can understand trying to hold out for it, but in doing so, we prevent the good that can be done today. Next fight we can try to bring it further. But this is today's fight and today's question.

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