I’m against Proposition 8. I also support the recent protests against the constitutional ban on gay marriage. I’m not, however, a supporter of the tactic of some gay rights supporters of attacking Mormon, Catholic, and Evangelical churches, because I think it is a tactic that’ll backfire and cause more harm than good for their cause. A small group of Mormons, Catholics and Evangelicals support gay rights and gay marriages and they need all the support they can get to raise their voices within their churches and counter the church hierarchy and the more conservative parishioners who champion Proposition 8.
Andrew Callahan is a Mormon who is risking excommunication from his church for speaking out against Proposition 8 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzXsl7rPV0c) and (http://signingforsomething.org/blog/?page_id=770). His blog states that he is a high priest in good standing and he wrote:
I want you to know, that regardless of any action the church takes or doesn’t take. I will NOT cease my actions to stop them from supporting Proposition 8, and I will work as hard as I can to defeat Prop 8 and all similar measures. Bigotry in any form is wrong, and disguising it as “love” as the church leadership is now doing is especially distasteful.
Barbara Young is another Mormon who has gone out against a ban on gay marriage (http://angryxer.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/steve-youngs-household-comes-out-against-prop-8/).
While other Pro Same-Sex Marriage sites examine the various issues surrounding Civil Same-Sex Marriage (logical, legal and emotional), and address the issues raised by those opposing Civil Same-Sex Marriage, our main objection is doctrinal, from a Latter-day Saint perspective. Our contention is that Civil Same-Sex Marriage is in no way contrary to the Constitution or official LDS doctrine (or the Bible). The efforts of those opposing Civil Same-Sex Marriage, however, are contrary to the above. Like those other sites, we too try address the questions and concerns of those, mostly active LDS members, who disagree with our stance.
In a Roman Catholic Church in Fresno, a priest went out of the closet and decried Proposition 8 in the pulpit in early October, causing controversy in his parish. The Reverand Geoffrey Farrow said,
“How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8…. I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them… I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights, but of their human dignity as well.”
Frank Cocozelli is a liberal Catholic blogger for the Progressive Christian website Crossleft. He wrote a recent blog (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6651) that commended Call to Action, a liberal Catholic lay group that went against Proposition 8. They put out a petition that stated:
As Catholics and citizens of California, we believe the right of each person to freedom of religion is based on respect for the dignity of each person. Without that basis, we would all stand in danger of being subjugated to beliefs or practices to which we do not subscribe. Fairness and equality must be living truths in a just society; therefore we oppose the proposal to amend the California Constitution to ban same-gender marriage.
As well as:
Civil marriage of same-gender couples does not coerce anyone to change his or her religious beliefs; nor does it coerce any religious organization to change its own teachings or beliefs.
In the November 22, 2008 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, Matthai Kuruvila wrote an article about Catholics in the Bay Area who went against their church leadership and voted against the Proposition. Exit polls showed that 64 percent of Catholic voters in California supported the measure, with church leaders like San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer urging their parishioners to support the ballot measure. Catholics in the Bay Area, though, went against the trend, and a majority voted against Proposition 8. These Bay Area Catholics were especially chagrined that Archbishop Niederauer, the former bishop of Salt Lake City, was instrumental in bringing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the Proposition 8 battle. Kuruvila quotes Kathleen Courtney, at 63 a lifelong Catholic and a member of St. Dominic’s parish in San Francisco, who explains her opposition of Proposition 8 in spite of her denomination’s support of the measure:
“My institutional church has human frailties… It’s my responsibility to help my institutional church move forward. The people of God lead the way.”
Within the Evangelical community, I didn’t find anyone who made a public statement against Proposition 8, but I found some websites of gay and lesbian Evangelical Christians. Soulforce is a group founded by Mel White, a former a former seminary professor and ghostwriter for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and his partner Gary Nixon to fight homophobia within the Evangelical church. In their vision statement (http://www.soulforce.org/article/7), Soulforce states:
“The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source — religious bigotry. Soulforce uses a dynamic “take it to the streets” style of activism to connect the dots between anti-gay religious dogma and the resulting attacks on the lives and civil liberties of LGBT Americans. We apply the creative direct action principles taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families.”
A New York Times web article (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/12/us/12evangelical.html) talks of other Evangelical gay groups like Evangelicals Concerned, founded in 1975 by a therapist from New York, Ralph Blair, and websites like Christianlesbians.com and gaychristian.net.
I have close gay and lesbian friends, but I also have close Mormon, Catholic and Evangelical friends as well. In spite of the dominance of conservative voices, I know that these 3 denominations are a lot more politically diverse than the general public assume. I attended an evangelical church for 8 years and found people who were either gay or supported gay rights but were quiet about it because they didn’t want to rock the boat. I’ve witnessed what happens when people challenge their church, the ostracism and group harassment that an individual has to endure. So I admire the courage of a Barbara Young or an Andrew Callahan or a Frank Cocozelli when they speak out because I know the consequences of their actions. When gay rights activists make disparaging remarks against the Mormon, Catholic, or Evangelical church, they give conservative Christians ammunition to further marginalize those progressive Christians who dare to speak out.
Though I support gay marriages and protests against Proposition 8, I am against protests that degenerate into antiMormon, antiCatholic or antiEvangelical diatribes. A better way would be for gay rights activists reach out to progressive Mormons, Catholics and Evangelicals and ask their advice on how to best convince those Christians who may be sympathetic to their cause. Since conservative Mormons, Catholics and Evangelicals were successful in banding together to support Proposition 8, perhaps a coalition of progressive Mormons, Catholics and Evangelicals would be an effective alternative voice for gay marriage within these 3 churches. Conservative Christians have every right to stand up for their convictions. They don’t have a right though to silence voices in their churches that have differing views. Though the costs of lost friendships and possible conflict may be high, Christians who are either gay or support gay rights need to speak out within their congregations. If the only Christian voices that people hear are conservative Christian voices, then people will assume these are the only Christian voices there are.