The Church responded to today’s Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage this way:
By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates. Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.
I would like to do a thought exercise on this statement. I am willing to be convinced that I am wrong, so if you have a polite disagreement with me, bring it on.
Let’s say that the people of California decided via referendum to confiscate all guns. Let’s say it was a close vote 52-48 percent. And let’s say by some miracle there is a governor and an attorney general in California who read the 2nd Amendment and say: “we cannot enforce this. This is unconstitutional.” And they refuse to enforce the confiscation. And then a federal court overturns the referendum and the Supreme Court agrees with the federal court.
Personally, I would support the governor and attorney general who refuse to enforce an unconstitutional law and I would support the federal judges who overturn said law.
So, it seems to me that focusing on the process itself is not really the issue. We are a republic, not a democracy, and this means that we do not determine something is right because 52 percent of the people support it. The purpose of government is to protect the natural rights of life, liberty and property. These natural rights are the foundation of the Constitution and our entire system of government. The Constitution has a series of checks and balances on the democratic process because pure democracy leads to mob rule. Under a pure democracy, 51 percent of the people can decide that all property should be confiscated from Mormons, and it will happen. Under a republic, there are systems in place, competing governmental forces, that will prevent mob rule.
So, I don’t really have a problem with the process itself. Now having said that, I support the Church’s position on Prop. 8, but perhaps for entirely different reasons. I admit that, based on past discussions on this issue, my position will not brilliantly convince all readers. I predict a lot of disagreement with my position, but it works for me, so here goes.
I believe in a limited government, a very, very small federal government with more power for state, county and city governments. I do not believe the federal government should be involved in marriage at all. However, state and locals governments should be involved in marriage. A marriage involves a man and a woman making a lifetime commitment to create a home and hopefully raise children. Local governments should promote the institution of marriage for the good of society.
I would note that the federal Constitution does not address the issue of marriage at all and that family law has always been the province of state governments. And so it should be.
There always have been people who are not attracted to the opposite sex. These people can and should be allowed to live with whomever they choose, make lifetime commitments, make consensual contracts for distributing their money as they please, visit each other in the hospital, etc. In fact, I would say that it is government’s role to make sure that the natural rights of these people are protected. But this relationship is different than a marriage. I am not saying it is better or worse, it is simply different. I believe words have meanings that cannot be changed by fads or whims.
In short, my position is that there is no such thing as a “same-sex marriage.” There is such a thing as a same-sex commitment. I believe two people of the same sex can love each other deeply, care about each other and live with each other for life. But it is a different thing than a “marriage.” (Again, not better or worse, just different).
It seems to me the opposition to Prop 8 was based on an approach to “equality” that completely misses the point that marriage is a different thing than a “lifetime commitment” of two people of the same sex. Prop 8 should have been upheld for the very reason that you cannot pretend something is what it is not.
I would like to quote the ever-brilliant LDS Philosopher on this issue:
But applying it to this case makes a presumption that gay marriage is a right. I think, however, this fundamentally misconstrues the entire debate. The question is not wether to extend an existing right to a broader group of people, but whether to change the definition of a term.
There are two potential definitions of marriage in question here: a conjugal definition of marriage, and a companionate definition of marriage. From the conjugal perspective, marriage is a permanent union between a man and a woman who unite their families with the ostensible purpose of having children, and who arrange their lives legally, civilly, and socially with forthcoming generations in mind, and who enter into a legal obligation to remain loyal to that arrangement to the end of their lives. From a companionate perspective, marriage is civil arrangement between two lovers for the purposes of sharing finances, assets, etc. (generally with the interests of the individual couple in mind, irrespective of forthcoming generations), to be dissolved when either party loses interest in the arrangement without legal consequence.
The conjugal definition is the definition of marriage that has held in centuries past. This is why, for example, same-sex lovers in ancient Greece never really consider marriage something necessary for their union — marriage was about forthcoming generations, not just a ratification of a companionship. The state only has an interest in licensing and ratifying companionate relationships to the extent that those relationships have the possibility of generating children. The public interest generally ends when children are a physical impossibility. Gay “marriage” makes no sense to me as marriage. Basically, it amounts to the government saying, “Oh, you two are in a committed relationship now. Here’s a certificate requiring others to acknowledge your relationship.” That is simply not a marriage.
Now, societal opinion has been shifting towards the companionate view of marriage. It started long ago, with the implementation of no-fault divorce; we now no longer see marriage as a binding legal obligation, but instead as an economic contract either party can dissolve at will. This placed marriage, as defined by the government, somewhere in between the conjugal and companionate view. The same-sex marriage movement is a furtherance of the companionate view. The reason I oppose same-sex marriage is that it fossilizes (as in, makes articulate and permanent) the companionate view of marriage over the conjugal view of marriage. Marriage will cease to be what it has been and become something else entirely.
In conclusion, it’s not a matter of rights. It’s a matter of definition. In this case, the courts would not be protecting the rights of the minority from the oppression of the majority, but instead making articulate and encoding into law an ongoing redefinition of the very concept of marriage itself. And that’s something different entirely.
But I don’t have a problem with the process itself, which seems to me in line with what should happen in a republican government.