Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Defense of Marriage...

Last week I forwarded a video regarding California's Proposition 8 [that would require marriage to be between a man and a woman] to a mom's email group from my old ward in California. The video was an interview with a couple that lives in Massachusetts, who were shocked to find out that their child's teacher had read the book "King and King" (describing a prince who falls in love with and marries another prince) in school. The video made the point that if Prop.8 doesn't pass, schools in California will be required to present marriage between two men or two women as equal with marriage between a man and a woman.

Today someone posted the following response to the mom's group:

"In case you are interested, I have posted a commentary on some of the arguments for Proposition 8 by Morris Thurston, an adjunct professor at BYU."

In particular, he provides an interesting legal argument that contradicts the message of this video. Contrary to the implication in the video, failure to pass proposition 8 will NOT require teachers in California to teach that gay marriage is okay.

While we may not share the same views, I think we all agree it is important to get out and vote, vote our conscience, and make decisions that seem in connection with the Savior's plan. However, I also believe that these political wars where propaganda is purported to be truth are absolutely problematic. It is almost as though there has to be reliance on fear mongering, faulty rhetoric, misleading information and misdirection in place of actually dealing with the issues at hand. I hope we will all do our best to be well-informed on the issues and then vote our conscience whichever way that might be."
(You can read the article that she refers to by Morris Thurston here.)

I stewed about this email for a long time today. I totally disagreed with her statement, "Contrary to the implication in the video, failure to pass proposition 8 will NOT require teachers in California to teach that gay marriage is okay." Furthermore, I get frustrated when people imply that I take a certain view because of ignorance or a "reliance on fear mongering." (Not to mention that, at least to me, the way the email mentions the fact that he is a professor at BYU implies some kind of church approval of his opinion- never mind the fact that an adjunct professor does not have a permanent position at the institution.)

So after much more stewing than I should have devoted to it, this is the response I wrote:
Thank you for posting the article with the rebuttal to "6 Consequences... if Prop 8 Fails." I read the article and it definitely made me think and examine my views on the subject. I agree that it is important to be as well-informed as possible and to make sure you have a good understanding of the issues involved and the views on both sides of the topic. However, after carefully reading his article, I don't think that it fully addresses all of the issues that were brought up in the video and I disagree with many of the conclusions that Mr. Thurston makes. I have included a summary of what I disagree with below for those who are interested.

I totally agree that there is no place in political discourse for fear-mongering and propaganda and I apologize if the video that I forwarded was perceived as either of those. That was not my intent at all. I totally understand and respect the right of others to differing opinions and I hope that people do carefully consider the issues and vote their conscience. However, I don't like for it to be implied that I personally am relying on "fear mongering, faulty rhetoric, misleading information and misdirection in place of actually dealing with the issues at hand." (That probably wasn't what was intended either...).=] These are complex issues with many ramifications that nobody will be able to completely predict ahead of time. But I don't think that just because I agree with the concerns of the parents in the video that automatically makes me guilty of ignorance or fear-mongering either.

So if you want the more detailed run-down on my response to his response,=] read on... if not, delete. Have a great day!

Mr. Thurston does provide an interesting legal argument that I think is well-worth reading. However, I don't think it addresses all of the issues that were of concern to the parents portrayed in the video. I don't think that his argument proved at all that failure to pass prop 8 will not require California teachers to teach that gay marriage is okay. If anything, it made the point that teachers are already required to teach "respect for marriage and committed relationships," (which I am assuming could be presumed to mean committed homosexual relationships) and that Prop 8 will not make a difference. As Thurston states, as the law in California currently stands:
Pupils will receive instruction to aid them in making
decisions in matters of personal, family, and
community health, to include the following
subjects: Family health and child development,
including the legal and financial aspects
and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood.

While the focus may be on "health," I have a hard time seeing how what constitutes a married couple would fail to come up in a discussion of "the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood." While the law may not specifically "require" that teachers teach that "same-sex marriage is just as good as traditional marriage," I think that re-defining what constitutes a marriage will implicitly make that change.

I felt like several of Thurston's arguments were a little bit misleading. True, Catholic Charities has not "closed its doors," but it has stopped doing adoptions in Massachusetts. No, this wasn't because the government forced them to, but because they "were reluctant to undertake a lawsuit that might be lost." I can see how a charity would have a hard time justifying devoting significant financial resources to a lawsuit when their main purpose is to use their resources to provide help to people in need. While it is true that that government agencies may not choose to keep private adoption agencies from placing children only in heterosexual homes, the possibility of a lawsuit from an outside source is not improbable. Just because LDS Family Services (or any other adoption services for that matter) have not previously been sued and forced to place children with a gay couple does not mean that it will not happen in the future. I disagree with Thurston's assertion that passing Prop 8 will not matter if there is a legal challenge because of the current domestic partnership law. Laws can be interpreted many different ways. If that wasn't true, why would we need to have lawyers argue their different views of how a law should be interpreted? It would just be self-evident.

I also disagree with his assertion that Prop 8 would have no bearing on same-gender housing at universities. He says: "To date, however, no private California religious school has been forced to comply with this [equal housing for domestic partnerships] law." All it would take is one private lawsuit, citing the California supreme court ruling that same-gender marriage is legal and equal for that to change. Furthermore, being a private school and having an honor code prohibiting homosexuality does not shield you from lawsuits or legal challenges. You could easily be sued for discrimination: the state recognizes homosexual marriage, so should the university.
As an example, look at what has happened as a result of Title IX (a law mandating that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.) While the intent of the Title IX law is good, this had a huge impact on inter-collegiate athletics-- even at private schools. While I was at BYU, the university had to discontinue the men's gymnastics and wrestling program, in order to comply with the Title IX requirements to have equal numbers of men's/women's sports and sports scholarships. You would think that because BYU is a private university and doesn't rely on federal money that they would not need to comply, but they do receive federal funding: Pell Grants for its students. Failure to comply with Title IX requirements would mean cutting off all Pell Grants and federal student loan assistance at BYU or any other university-- that would definitely create a huge impact. Now you can argue whether equalizing sports between sexes was a good or bad thing, but my point is that just because BYU was a private school, it was not shielded from the impact of discrimination laws and the possible loss of federal funding.

Personally, I think that one other essential reason Prop 8 is important because protecting marriage between a man and a woman protects children. Children, who are the most voiceless and vulnerable segment of society, have a right to be raised by a father and mother.
There is an op-ed piece in the LA Times that I think makes a very compelling case for this:,0,2093869.story

The author states that: "Children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world." We don't live in a perfect world and goodness knows that the ideal doesn't always happen, but I think society has an obligation to support marriage as a way of protecting children and encouraging fulfillment of parental obligations to children.

Well there's my two... or ten or twenty.. cents. =]
(Note: The writer of the original email wrote me back and apologized for implying that I was resulting to "fear-mongering" and thanking me for reading and thoughtfully responding to the article that she sent.)


Jadie said...

Very interesting. I think you did a great job reading and dissecting Mr. Thurston's argument. Thanks for your clear-headed analysis.

Lara said...

Good for you.

I also appreciated the blog you posted on facebook earlier. I emailed it to a friend of mine in the Bay Area and she posted the link on her blog (which has been a lot to do with Prop 8 lately!).

Urim & Thummim said...

Why do children have a right to be raised by a man and a woman? Do they have a right to be raised by the State? Over 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce, you know.

K kid said...

Thanks so much for the comment, Urim! I'm always flattered that anyone would bother to read what I have to say. I just did a whole post on that very topic. As for 50% of hetero marriages ending in divorce, I think that is just further evidence that marriage and family need to be strengthened. Just because we don't always reach something that is good doesn't mean we shouldn't try for it...