Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From Emily: Homosexuals vs. Mormons: When Minorities Fight

Ever since the Mormon church and other Christian churches got involved in the gay marriage debate by promoting prop 8, anti-religion and anti-Mormonism in particular have been very high. In some cases, proponents of gay marriage have even sabotaged personal property or staged public protests outside sacred buildings. Although I am myself Mormon, I'm very sympathetic to both sides of this argument. In fact, when my home state legalized gay marriage recently, I felt both excited and sad all at once. But to many Mormons and Gay marriage proponents alike, anyone who opposes what they want must be morally depraved and/or hateful.

What's most sad about this fight is that both sides are minorities who have a lot in common. Both groups have been violently persecuted and at times legally denied the type of family life they wanted. Both groups are consistently listed in polls as the types of people American citizens would not vote into Presidential office. And both groups are going to Hell, according to most Born Again Christian ministers. So why are they fighting one another?

There are easy answers to that question: many gay rights advocates would say "the Mormons are fighting us because they're bigots, and we're fighting them because we believe in freedom," while many Mormons would say, "they're fighting us because they're misguided, and we're fighting them because we have to protect families." But how much direct dialogue are we actually getting between the two communities?

Frankly, I don't hear much dialogue at all, and the little I do hear sounds more like two children repeating what their parents have told them, than like mature adults trying to understand one another. Unfortunately, we're shutting down important conversations by bickering instead of conversing. Here's one example of an important conversation gone to waste:

Pro Gay Marriage: Two people in love have a right to be married, no matter their gender

Anti Gay Marriage: But gay marriage is immoral!

Pro: Your personal morality doesn't control us!

Anti: Yeah, but if we let you get married we'll have to let cousins get married too, and that's double icky.

Pro: How dare you compare us to incest?

Anti: You're the same as incest since it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!

Pro: Jesus preached love!!!!

We all know the results of this conversation: everyone walks away believing what they always believed, but with the added conviction that the other camp is unreasonable, hateful, and inflexible. But if we take a moment and analyze these arguments we find important issues that need to be addressed:

1. The Anti Gay Marriage community often brings up other types of marriage they oppose and uses the argument of "if we let you get married, we have to let everyone get married." But you can't dismiss one person's claims by assuming they'll take a mile if you give them an inch, or by generalizing them to everyone else. Everyone in the AGM community needs to listen to what the PGM community wants.

2. By getting offended when someone compares gay marriage to incest or polygamy, proponents of gay marriage unintentionally agree that some sexual relationships are immoral and reinforce the idea that a dominant group's morality can define which consenting adults get married. So, we've got to decide where morality fits in this discussion. Why not allow cousins to marry? Why not allow polygamy? I'm not saying we should or shouldn't allow those things, just that we need to really explore those topics and try to understand why the idea of a brother and sister marrying makes us squeamish. Does squeamishness even justify a law?

Personally, I like to think we can find a common ground, but as long as we skip over these important discussions and just hurl insults back and forth, we're never going to find it. I'm not taking a moral high ground here, since my reluctance to take a stance on gay marriage makes me just as responsible for these miscommunications as everyone else. But something has got to change. Two groups with this much in common have a lot to gain from one another. Besides, pitting minorities against one another is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Ruling powers have used that tactic for centuries. Who has time to fight the powers that be if you're busy shooting at your neighbor?

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a better post than you thought. Our society has a strong tendency to reduce arguments to black-or-white soundbites, which are so useless that we may as well stop talking. Even by talking about this one example is a great illustration of how we can change that.