Depressing Any-Sex Marriage Thoughts

Yesterday, my state’s legislature tried twice to pass any-sex marriage in the lower house and they’ll be at it again at noon today. In the Maryland House of Delegates, the Democrat/Republican balance is 98 to 43, and in the State Senate it’s 35 to 12. So, heavily Democratic. The governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, Democratic party leaders generally, they all feel it’s very important that marriage be an any-sex, gender-indifferent institution, but it still takes exquisite timing to get enough rank-and-file legislators to say “yes” to that at the same time. Timing is one of the very important advantages of being the majority party, however.

Last year, party leaders figured they had the House of Delegates all sewed up, so they passed any-sex marriage in the State Senate first. Then the House surprised them, the votes weren’t there, and it was not brought to a vote. This time they’re working the Orwellianly-named “Civil Marriage Protection Act” through the House first. (The Delegates from my district are co-sponsors along with 53 others.) The vote was postponed yesterday until a special evening session. That session was adjourned recessed very shortly without doing anything; apparently one of the “yes” votes belonged to a Delegate who was hospitalized for a serious medical emergency. Perhaps I should have been more focused in my prayers, should have pleaded for a swarm of locusts or something else bothersome but not painful.

These depressing events have combined in my mind with Charles Murray’s depressing new book, Coming Apart. (Here’s the best of the many things I’ve read addressing the book: “Charles Murray on the new upper class” by Andrew Gelman. “From one side he argues that the upper class has good habits that they should transmit to ordinary Americans; on the other side he says that the upper class should become more like the rest of the country. But I can’t see how you can have it both ways.”)

Entwined with our various social pathologies is the noxious phrase, “A family is a group of people who love each other.” Maybe there’s a mother and father married to each other. Or maybe they aren’t married. Maybe the father(s) live somewhere else and love their children from afar. Or maybe Dad is out of the picture altogether, but Mom is there loving her children and they her. Unless she’s not; maybe the kids live with their grandparents. Whatever. It’s all good. Just so long as there is someone who loves someone. That’s what a family is.

Once the injustice is remedied that some people want to marry but not to another sex, perhaps the inequality faced by single people who want to marry will be addressed. Why should the person that a person marries have to be another person? Why is marriage arbitrarily limited to couples? Why can’t a person marry herself if that’s who she loves?

[Also posted at Junior Ganymede.]

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

22 thoughts on “Depressing Any-Sex Marriage Thoughts

  1. Pingback: Depressing Any-Sex Marriage Thoughts | Junior Ganymede

  2. Or, why can’t two straight men or two straight women who aren’t in love with each other marry each other?

  3. The evidence seems to be that the Church is not backing away from its stand opposing SSM. This makes many people (including me) uncomfortable, but I do think it asks us to ponder the issue and consider how best to support the Brethren on this issue. Agreed that Charles Murray has some very interesting scholarship to consider (but also acknowledged that he is very controversial).

  4. On the point of “consider how best to support the Brethren on this issue”. How else can you “support the Brethren” other than supporting the Brethren? It’s a philosophical issue, maybe. Either you support them or your don’t. I know that “black/white” pronouncements are not in vogue in these nuanced times, but you’re either pregnant or you’re not.

  5. Oh scratch that comment Geoff…I just reread your comment and it said “Many people” not me….I need to read these comments when I am not so tired! Sorry!

  6. I’d like to hear more from Geoff on how to support the brethren on an issue that you might have reservations with. I’m having the same problem. I personally don’t think the church should be seeking to influence legislation concerning moral standards among the Gentiles who do not adhere to the same moral standards, and how have not taken covenants to do so.

    But it seems to me the church is already distancing itself from being an influence in this regard. I doubt they will ever again ask people to do things they did during Prop 8. I heard second hand from a friend who was talking to a GA, who told him that official LDS involvement in actions like Prop. 8 are highly unlikely in the future. Just hearsay, but personally I think it’s true.

    So supporting the brethren may not mean publicly opposing same-sex marriage anymore. Policies change. That’s a living church for you.

  7. The church’s involvement in Prop 8 was an enormous wedge between the institution and me. I’m glad for what I perceive to be a “lessons learned”, diminished push into political activism.

  8. I support the Brethren 100 percent. I struggle with the issue of SSM, as I think most people do. I don’t believe in “any-sex” marriage, but I do believe in allowing consenting adults to do what they want with their lives, and for some of them that means making a public commitment ceremony that they call marriage. It is also a very difficult issue to explain to people. It is uncomfortable in these times. I think it is meant to be. Polygamy was extremely uncomfortable for people in the 19th century, but it was also a commandment (for some people). If I had been commanded by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young to be a polygamist, I like to think I would have done it and been extremely uncomfortable about it. Being uncomfortable with something is not necessarily a bad thing.

  9. This is my personal theory and speculation, but I do not believe that the Brethren in 2008 truly understood how far the pendulum had swung in our contemporary culture towards acceptance of alternative lifestyles. I do believe that they live in a certain type of rarefied atmosphere and who knows…maybe sometimes they fall prey to a certain kind of group-think.

    That being said, I was living in California in 2008 while I was in school studying Arabic, and my wife and I were proud to donate money to Prop8 in a legitimate, democratic, constitutional campaign in defense of traditional marriage.

  10. “I do believe in allowing consenting adults to do what they want with their lives, and for some of them that means making a public commitment ceremony that they call marriage.”

    Prop 8 didn’t prevent anyone from doing that. All it did was prevent the State of California from calling it marriage. Big difference, no?

  11. “I do believe that they live in a certain type of rarefied atmosphere…”

    It’s very strange that the people on the earth who are closest to the Lord are having their decisions second guessed and discounted because they live in a “rare” atmosphere. It’s an atmosphere that comes from them consecrating their lives to God and actually living it more fully and righteously (never said perfectly) than the rest of us. And the solution apparently is for them to become more like us, rather than us to rise to their level. “Look to the brethren” and “Follow the brethren” doesn’t mean “just do what they say” but rather see how the Lord’s servants are living their lives, and study their counsel, and use them as a living pattern in our attempt to emulate the savior. By doing that we don’t just become more like them, but as they who know the Lord best are becoming more like the Lord, so to are we when we look to them on our path to God.

    I don’t think the solution is only if they got out in the “real world” more often and got to know contemporary culture better then the Lord’s servants would understand us and society better and know how to act. The old French saying, La bave du crapaud n’atteint pas la blanche colombe — but apparently the white dove just needs to fly a little lower…

  12. chris, I have to say that your viewpoint and predilection for placing the brethren high on a pedestal is the impetus for many a disaffected Mormon. I realize it’s impractical for them to insist they’re just normal guys susceptible to human biases, prejudices, and weaknesses, because that causes one to question why they should be headed more than any other wise man out there in the world.

  13. Chris says, describing GAs, “the people on the earth who are closest to the Lord…living it more fully and righteously (never said perfectly) than the rest of us.”

    I personally think this is somewhat of a misconception. I do respect the authority and the gifts of those we call our priesthood leaders. But in a recent address, Elder Packer noted that GAs are no better than average members, and do not have greater access to testimony or power in their priesthood. The scriptures describe those God calls as leaders as “unlearned, weak and despised.” Those called to positions of authority obviously have greater gifts in some areas than lay members, but I would not say that their callings have been made based on superior righteousness.

    When the brethren make mistakes, this is also in the plan of the Lord. God set up the church to be a stumbling block and a rock of offense. Only the humble and meek will follow them.

    I respect the faith of those who followed their leaders on Prop. 8. Their activism was not based on homophobia, as most in the world interpreted it. It was based solely on their desire to show their faith and obedience to their priesthood authorities. It was an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, even though that sacrifice seems to have backfired from a pragmatic perspective. Members will still be blessed even if the church abandons a policy of action in this arena.

  14. I dont understand. So many people have complained about “activist judges” making these types of decision because it’s supposedly not what the people want. Well now the people are either getting what they want through the officials they chose to represent them. You make it sound as if it’s being forced through, but votes like this happen every day where slowly one or two votes change until their is a majority. If it didn’t happen this time, it would happen next year or the year after.

    It could be worse, you could live in the state next to you where the government just decided a woman can be forced to have a ultrasound instrument shoved in to her vagina out of absolutely no medical necessity if she wants to have a certain medical procedure.

  15. JJ,
    If she’s willing to have a vacuum cleaner put there, certainly an ultrasound is no more invasive.

    [*****] JJ, An ultrasound is used above the stomach, and is not invasive…

  16. Perhaps the Brethern have knowledge that existed before the “Politically Correct Police” outlawed such wisdom:

    Marriage reflects the natural moral and social law evidenced the world over. As the late British social anthropologist Joseph Daniel Unwin noted in his study of world civilizations, any society that devalued the nuclear family soon lost what he called “expansive energy,” which might best be summarized as society’s will to make things better for the next generation. In fact, no society that has loosened sexual morality outside of man-woman marriage has survived.

    Analyzing studies of cultures spanning several thousands of years on several continents, Pitirim Sorokin, Chairman of Harvard University’s Socialogy Department in the 1950’s, found that virtually all political revolutions that brought about societal collapse were preceded by a sexual revolution in which marriage and family were devalued by the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality.

    When marriage loses its unique status, women and children most frequently are the direct victims. Giving same-sex relationships or out-of-wedlock heterosexual couples the same special status and benefits as the marital bond would not be the expansion of a right but the destruction of a principle.

    It is impossible for academic researchers to honestly study this topic in today’s politcally charged atmosphere. Perhaps the Brethern can see Truth where others cannot.

  17. Uh, just FYI for all you males that haven’t had the experience, there are vaginal ultrasound wands that yes, as the name implies, go up the vagina. They are quite invasive. :-{

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