Ted Olson vs. the Christian Right

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By Frank Lockwood

The New York Times has an interesting story about former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who is leading the fight to overturn anti-gay marriage laws. (h/t: Caleb Powers)

Olson is a Libertarian Republican, not a Moral Majority Republican, more like Barry Goldwater than Jerry Falwell. From 1980 through 2008, the theo-cons and the economic conservatives have worked together, winning elections over and over. But it’s not clear how much longer that coalition can hold.

In 2012, it’ll be interesting to see if the coalition sticks together. It’s possible the wheels will come off.

No Responses to “Ted Olson vs. the Christian Right”

  1. José

    The conservative bloc is quite a patchwork, and while some factions overlap it is funny how others have opposing principles. Here are the ones I can identify:
    Social conservatives – want laws to mandate or encourage a particular lifestyle or belief system
    Libertarians – FREEDOM!
    Economic conservatives – lower taxes AND balanced budgets
    Business – freedom for companies but no protection for the public; will gladly accept government contracts and handouts
    Imperialists – strong military, secure borders, ready to fight other countries and ignore their sovereignty

    President Reagan was notably successful in holding together these diverse groups. I am still amazed that the social conservatives supported him so devoutly though he gave them little more than rhetoric in return.

  2. Caleb Powers

    I guess I don’t understand why gay marriage isn’t a conservative hot button issue. I thought conservatives were tired of the government telling people what to do. I would think the government’s telling someone whom they can or can’t marry would horrify a true conservative. I mean, why does the government have to get involved in marriage, anyway?

  3. I agree. Personally I could care less if two guys want to get married. However, the vast majority (about 70%) of the general public disagree and most of those think it is repulsive. Soooo, I don’t think we should force them to recognize gay marriages. We still have to respect the will of the majority when “morals” are in conflict. I think in some way the gay community wants to force others to recognize them as “normal” through legal means. Don’t think that will work. They need to work more on being accepted as normal on the social level before asking for the legal mandate. In the meantime, if a couple says they are married, and their church or some other institution says they are married, they’re married in my book.

    I just worry that if the government gets involved, they may start mandating that the private churches recognize such marriages. Remember, it was only by a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court that let the Boy Scouts keep gay scoutmasters out. Could have easily gone the other way. When that decision was being considered by the Court, the Mormon church was all ready to pull out of the Boy Scouts if they were forced to allow gay leaders in. I can see the Mormon church’s point. I would not want a STRAIT man going out camping alone overnight with my daughter in Girl Scouts. 99.99% of the time nothing will happen, but it is still a risk I wouldn’t take. Likewise, I wouldn’t want a gay man in a position of power over my boy in such a circumstance. Again, most of the time everything would be okay. I’ve got a number of gay friends and knowing them well, I would have no worries, but there are some strange people out there. I think forcing people to behave one way or the other causes more problems than it solves.

  4. Caleb Powers

    I try to understand the conservative mind set, I truly do, but I never can quite grasp what makes them tick. Absolutely positively NO ONE on the left side of this has EVER suggested that any church ever be required to marry anyone, straight or gay. And yet, 90% of the time, this is the objection that is made to the recognition of gay marriages.

    As Al Smith used to say, let’s look at the record. In the 1960s, nearly every Southern state, and many northern ones too, had laws against miscegenation, the marriage of persons of different races. The US Supreme Court struck down those laws. And yet no church was ever forced to marry people of different races. Why? Because civil marriages exist, and every person has a right to one. I don’t know of a single law or precedent that would force any church or religious organization to marry anyone under any circumstances.

    Every state has laws against discrimination based on gender, and some states and localities have laws making discrimination against gays and lesbians unlawful. BUT, one of the primary exceptions in these laws is religious organizations. You can’t sue the Roman Catholic Church for not making a woman a priest, or a man a nun. And, you can’t sue religious organizations, in states that have such laws, for not hiring or promoting gays and lesbians.

    Now, if these entirely legitimate laws have excepted out religious institutions from their scope, I can’t imagine why anyone thinks that gay marriage would be any different. I suppose the conservatives’ natural antipathy to change results in this “the sky is falling” response to everything new, but like the piffle about Obama’s birthplace and his death squads that are going to kill your grandmother, this is not something anyone on my side of the aisle is interested in.

    And, as to your point about what the public believes, just remember this. In the South in the 1960s, you’d probably have found 90% of the voters in favor of miscegenation laws, segregation, and the like, all based on their moral beliefs, derived (they would say) straight from the Bible. As John Stuart Mill pointed out so long ago, tyranny by the majority is tyranny nonetheless. Our system of government has always sought to protect the rights of minorities as well as those of the majority. Otherwise, we’d have no need of a constitution.

  5. Niall

    Jose –

    Let me reword your taxonomy of the Right just a bit:

    Social Conservatives – Believe zygotes are people, but that homosexuals aren’t.
    Libertarians – FREEDOM. And pot. And Ayn Rand. Ren Faire and Larpers.
    Economic conservatives – Don’t want to pay any taxes. Like to date strippers. Cocaine.
    Business – Don’t want to pay any taxes. Like to date power-walking VPs of marketing. Also cocaine.
    Imperialists – Want to give democracy to everyone else, but erase it from the US. Hookers and golf. When they get drunk, they see WMD, not pink elephants.

    and you forgot…

    The gay republicans (Log Cabin republicans) – Shaved heads. Look uncomfortable in non-leather clothing. Ayn Rand. Believe Madonna is secretly a Republican too.

  6. perplexed

    Fellows, you just summed up what is killing business in America, nice set of friends you guys have there.
    The more I contemplate on gay marriage the farther away it gets. You cannot have the same relationship in a gay marriage that you have in a heterosexual marriage. The intent isn’t the same. Although it would only be fair to have the same legal aspects in both types of marriage nut the terminology would have to be different.
    As for the the church issuing any type of proclamation on these circumstances, my theory is, good people have trouble determining what is morally right vs what is social acceptable.

  7. José

    perplexed suggests that marriage is valid only for heterosexuals because of “intent”. She must mean procreation, because all of the other virtues of marriage are plainly viable in same sex relationships. So perplexed’s line of reasoning makes sense only if:
    1. Prior to obtaining a marriage license, a couple would have to prove fertility and pledge intent to procreate
    2. If they failed to demonstrate pregnancy within a reasonable time period, say a year or two, then the marriage would automatically be annulled
    3. Once the children were raised and independent then the marriage would be annulled
    4. If either party became infertile through age or medical procedure then the marriage would be annulled

    If folks want to restrict marriage based entirely on the act of raising a family, then they darned well better go whole hog.

  8. perplexed

    Jose, Then what happens when brother and sister wants to marry?

  9. José

    Surely you must have a line of reasoning somewhere but it’s not at all obvious!

    My hunch is that you somehow equate same sex marriage to: incestuous marriage, group marriage, child marriage, or bestial marriage. (If there’s something else even weirder, I don’t want to know!) It would be foolish indeed to accept such a premise without question or elaboration. Perp, how about if we do this? If you want to bring in a new subject, explain yourself. Be courageous and tell us why your question has anything to do with the subject thus far. If you are asserting that apples are oranges then say so. And remember that it’s poor manners to ask a question that you wouldn’t answer yourself.

  10. perplexed

    If its all about legal rights, lets suppose your sister is gravely ill. Your wife is deceased, your sister cannot afford the medical procedure to save her life, she is uninsurable without being on a group plan and she cannot work. Her resources are depleted, the family is keeping her up. She doesn’t qualify for medicare because she has lived a frugal life and has acquired to much to be considered destitute, house, car, furniture. The only option she has is to get on a health insurance plan that will cover her procedure, you are on that plan, you work for the government, your policy accepts these types of relationships. Jose, this is something that could really happen.

  11. Niall


    The issue is not whether there should be any legal barriers to marriage, because everyone believes there should be. The issue is which current barriers to marriage have a rational basis, and which are just artifacts of fear, hatred and ignorance.

    Recall until quite recently most people in this country felt that marriage between people of different races should be illegal, since such marriages posed a dire threat to racial purity. Somehow we realized that was nonsense, and no one now points to the legalization of miscegenation as the first step down some slippery slope into incest, polygamy and bestiality.

    I think the burden of proof is on you to show how a gay marriage harms society, and show further how legalizing gay marriage somehow automatically also licenses the removal of all barriers to marriage of any kind.

  12. Caleb Powers

    What’s a Larper?

  13. perplexed

    Live active role playing, Caleb.
    Niall, gay marriage is in fact the beginning of the removal of barriers to marriage of any kind. How could you put parameters on marriage if gay marriage were allowed and how could you stop it from being challenged. Its the same situation that you have now.

  14. Niall


    Why? You just keep repeating the same assertions, but never explain the logic behind them. Anyway, that’s how lots of people in the South believed about legalizing miscegenation.

  15. Caleb Powers

    Thank you for the definition, Perplexed. Yet another version of I need to get out more, I suppose. You didn’t ask me, Perplexed, how I’d put paramaters on marriage, but here’s how I’d do it:

    “It shall be lawful for any two adult human beings, of any gender, to join themselves together as married persons, unless they are related by consanguinity of a degree greater than second cousins, or either is under a legal disability.”

    How is that any more complicated than the current statute, which would differ only in providing that the two human beings are of the opposite gender?

    Perplxed, here’s what I think. I think you find the whole prospect of gay marriage repulsive, because you find the whole concept of gay sex repulsive. I imagine that you’d point to the teachings of your church, that the purpose of marriage is procreation, and that people should bind themselves together for life (unless they have the money to buy an annulment). However, while these might be perfectly legitimate moral stands, they are no longer embodied in the law, if they ever were.

    As Niall and Jose have pointed out, all the traditional reasons for marriages have been removed from the law. Heterosexual couples, both of whom are sterile, may marry each other, absolutely negating the purpose of marriage as procreation. Married couples may legally use birth control, again negating the purpose of marriage as procreation. Married couples may legally have sexual relations, jointly or individually, with persons of either gender, or both genders, to whom they are not married, with or without the consent of the other spouse. (By that, I mean that the tort of alienation of affection has been abolished from the laws of most states, including Kentucky, and the old crime of “criminal conversation” has fallen by the wayside as well.)

    Divorce is perfectly legal, and unlike the old days in which one had to prove “legal grounds” for divorce, under the no fault divorce statutes of Kentucky and most other states, the only ground necessary is that the marriage “is irretrievably broken,” and when either party testifies that it is, it is. So, lifetime commitment is out, too.

    Married couples, unmarried heterosexual couples, and married or unmarried gay and lesbian couples are all allowed to have children either by proxy, by adoption, or by natural or artificial insemination, and the children are all treated equally under the law: All laws recognizing “legitimacy” of birth have been stricken.

    So, Perplexed, it’s not a question of what is or is not “possible;” in this brave new world, everything is legally possible. The only question is what rules we want to make. And, I think it’s time we threw out the rule against gay marriages, because in today’s practical definition of marriage, it doesn’t make sense anymore.

  16. Not to throw a bomb into this whole discussion, but, oh well, what the hell: If gay people could get married, why can’t we Mormons marry more than one wife? Huh? Huh? As far as I know there is still a federal law on the books, backed up by the Supreme Court, that forbids polygamy. That said, you’d think the Mormon Church would be all in favor of relaxing the definitions of marriage, but they are not. They, and the Catholics, are some of the most outspoken against gay marriage. Must be something more to this definition of marriage thing that none of us here has grasped yet, if it is even possible.

    Caleb, the Supreme Court almost–missed it by a hair–forced a PRIVATE (and semi-religious) organization to accept gay members! That is only a hair’s breadth away from making church’s (which are private organizations) accept them as well. In addition, many people don’t want the social pressure to become so great as to force churches to accept gay marriages. Hence, they will accept gay civil unions that are in effect marriages in all but name. (The Mormon Church even accepts those.)

    Comparing inter-racial marriages in the South to gay marriage is a bit of a stretch. Every reasonable person sees that there is nothing unnatural about a male and a female, regardless of what color their skin is, or eye color, or what-have-you, falling in love and getting married. Some very reasonable people feel that does not apply to people of the same gender. They view it as a perversion. That is a reasonable assertion. Even one of my gay friends concedes that. He sees no need to force others to accept his “marriage.” He accepts it, I accept it. If someone else doesn’t want to, why make’em?

    Here’s another bomb: How many of you have EVER heard of a gay couple “saving” themselves for marriage? Pre-marital sex is taboo in most conservative main-stream Christian religions. See what religious people are dealing with here? Not only must they accept gay marriage, but by doing so, they are tacitly condoning “fornication” or prior sexual relations before making the marriage commitment.

    By all rights, marriages should be up to the churches or other private organizations. The government need not have anything to do with it (accept when collecting taxes I suppose). That way you can call anyone “married” that you want and anyone not if you want. No force involved. Now, if you all will excuse me, I’m going out to look for a second wife. :)

  17. Caleb Powers

    I agree that the government doesn’t need to be involved in marriage. Your example of the Boy Scouts is not applicable, because the Scouts receive substantial support from the Federal government. After all, their Jamborees nearly every time are held either at military bases or on military reservations. The dirty little secret of the Boy Scouts is that they were formed to help train British youth for the military.

    And, the courts would never equate a church with the Boy Scouts. As far as gays saving themselves for marriage, I’d say as a percentage, about as many of them do as we heterosexuals do, which is amazing, given that up until the very near past, they had no marriage to save themselves for!

    As far as polygamy, my theory is that anyone who marries more than one wife is like the guy who steals my car: He gets what he deserves. But you’re right that there should be no legal barrier against it; after all, the Bible is certainly full of polygamy.

  18. Niall

    John –

    THanks for sharing your brain farts with us. They do the opposite of clearing the air, just as real farts do.

    Let’s start with, “If gays could marry”. Why subjunctive, John? Gays can in fact marry in five states of the US and in all of Canada and in many countries in Europe. Also Mexico City. So gay marriage is here. It’s not a hypothetical.

    And the burden is on you to show how the question of gay marriage is logically linked to the question of polygamy, such that allowing one forces us to allow the other. I notice that logic is conveniently missing. Your equation of polygamy with homosexuality is also strange theological grounds. Polygamy is widely attested in the Bible and approved of God. Homosexuality is not. Yet conservatives always say homosexuality is wrong because it’s condemned in the Bible. But wait! Polygamy is just as wrong even though it’s recommended in the Bible.

    Pick a lane, people.

    The ban on polygamy is directly related to concern for female equality and rights. In every society where women have been granted equal rights with men, polygamy has dissappered. I’ll note this has no logical or causal relation with allowing gay mariage.

    As for how many gays “save themselves for marriage” – since gay marriage has only been allowed for the last eight or nine years anywhere in the world, this is an assinine question. I’m sure we will see gays doing just this, particularly those from religious backgrounds. Just as we will continue to watch heterosexual young people refuse to save themselves for marriage.

  19. perplexed


    When I sit in that pew, looking at that altar I am looking for guidance, I am looking for somebody who is better than me spiritually. I am hoping that this person is the pipeline for me to God. Their presence will give me the atonement and humility that I need and the guidance and hope that will propel me until the next time I am able to attend a religious function.
    Caleb, what a gay couple does in their own home is absolutely none of my business and I would expect the same privacy from them as I would extent to them.
    I do have trouble listening to somebody who offers the eucharist or the homily whom I feel lives a life of sin. I am not singling out gays, but anyone who would use the pulpit for gain other than saving souls.
    The biggest problem I see is a group of people who have gone against the majority of its own church and the general population and they feel that they have the authority to change what the Bible has implied is wrong and they think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
    I beleive the term that most likely fits this is elitism.

  20. Niall

    perplexed –

    Your need for divine guidance does not exempt you from being logical and consistent. Particularly when you make fact claims about the supposed effects of gay marriage, and assert the if we allow gay marriage we must also allow polygamy, etc.

    You can sit in that pew until the cows come home, but if you can’t explain yourself, no one is going to listen to you.

  21. Caleb Powers

    Perplexed, one man’s elitism is another man’s democracy. One could say that blacks, as a minority, should have been happy in their servitude, because they were in the minority, and society’s discrimination against them was approved by those same people in the pulpit you want to look up to. Ditto women, who are still excluded from that pulpit in your Catholic church, even though they are a statistical majority of the population.

    What I get from your posts is that you simply believe that homosexuality is wrong, and cannot condone those who practice it. Fine, but let’s treat that as what it is, a personal belief on your part, and not necessarily a belief that must be part of Christianity, just as the exclusion of women from the priesthood is not necessarily a part of Christianity, because most mainline Protestant denominations (including my own beleaguered Episcopal Church) have allowed the ordination of women for decades.

    And, I would remind you of a doctrine that is just as much a part of your religious tradition as it is mine, that we do not look to the goodness or holiness of an individual priest or minister. Yes, we want our ministers to be holy and good people, but if we get a bad apple every now and then, that doesn’t mean either that the sacraments presented by that priest or minister are invalid, or that the church’s beliefs are invalid. The sacraments are a gift directly from God, and do not depend on the holiness of the minister.

    I think the Catholic Church has a long way to come in its relations with gays and lesbians. Despite its condemnation of any same sex physical relations, depending on whom you believe, somewhere between a third and two thirds of Catholic priests are secretly (and some not so secretly) gay. I realize that we may never know what the true percentage is, but I think most people believe it to be significant. And that’s important in part because the Catholic Church cannot afford to lose another third, much less two thirds, of its priests. Over a third of the Catholic priests in the US left the priesthood in the few years after Vatican II, mainly to marry women. This left a huge gap in the priesthood that has not yet been filled, and the gap has gotten greater every year since then. Today, there are fewer Catholic seminary students than ever before, and the priest shortage is so bad in Eastern Kentucky that many parishes effectively function without a priest at all. I realize that one can take the stand that right is right, and we’re not going to ordain women or married men or openly gay men or lesbians, and that certainly is the church’s prerogative, but one wonders when some sense of reality will settle in.

  22. perplexed


    History has shown what happens to progressive independent religions, over the long haul I think this is what will happen here. I really don’t understand what seems like common sense to me, simply eludes you.
    To my knowledge, polygamy hasn’t been an issue with me. If somebody wants more than one spouse they are a better person than I am.

  23. perplexed

    Caleb, I just believe that I have the authority to circumvent biblical teachings because a minority of people can justify what they beleive by jello logic.
    I’m not homosexual so I can’t understand how they feel, but I do that at some point in everybody’s life they are treated badly, the reactions to that treatment can turn you one way or another.
    I’m well aware of the catholic situation and I battle raising my kids in a church that has been criminal to say the least. But its not the religion that causes the problems, its the people running the religion. It appears to be in the same conundrum as yours.

  24. You know, I really like my cat. I think I’ll marry him. Isn’t there something in the Bible about “animal husbandry”? You can make the Bible or any other earthly authority say whatever you want it to say. The Muslims use their Koran to justify killing babies on airplanes by running them into buildings. The point is this: If you don’t know (and even if you think you do) ask God. I mean sincerely. Study the problem as much as you can and then take your research to the Lord. He will let you know. This of course can be subjective, but if you’re honest with yourself and the Lord you need not argue these things to death and try to “prove” who is more logical and feign perplexity like Naill and others. If God tells ya, ya know what ya know, and the rest can go to… well, you know.

  25. Niall


    Could you give an historical example to back up your historical claim.


    You can’t marry your cat because the cat can’t give rational consent to the act. Nice try though. What’s next? Will you be wanting to marry a sunflower? The stupidity of your counterarguments just shows how rational gay marriage is by comparison.

  26. perplexed

    Niall, one of the offshoots of the Anglican Church of England that came to America in the 19th century were the Shakers. Different circumstances, same progressive, independent thinking in common today.

  27. Niall


    You are so confused. The Shakers are an extremist sect, not a moderate sect. They illustrate exactly the opposite of your claim.

  28. perplexed

    What do you claim my claim is?

  29. Niall

    You mentioned the Shakers as an example of a progressive, moderate religious movement that died out. The Shakers were not moderate, by any means. You didn’t seem to know that.

  30. Caleb Powers

    I hate to break it to you, John, but logic is a gift from God, too. We Episcopalians revel in the fact that we are a church where one does not have to check one’s brain at the door. Individual prayer and reflection are great, but given that no one can ever prove what God did or didn’t tell another person, it’s hardly a useful means of making policy. We think the better way is to analyze problems, using the brains that God gave us, in addition to applying our spiritual gifts to them.

    And, the Shakers didn’t die out because of any of their religious beliefs. They died out because society changed. Shakers were celibate, so they had to get their new members as converts. The biggest way they did this was, before the modern era of orphanages and social service bureaus, was to take in unwanted children. When those children got to a certain age — 18 or 21 — they were allowed to choose whether to stay with the community or leave. I suspect that most ultimately left, but enough stayed to keep the communities going. When the state stopped allowing children to be placed with the Shakers, their growth stopped, and their practice of celibacy ensured that they would soon die out, as they have, but for a few remaining elderly members. As far as whether the Shakers were moderate or extremist, I don’t know that I’d put them in either category. They were extremists in the sense that they live an extreme lifestyle, cut off from society, celibate, subject to strict religious discipline. But they certainly didn’t try to tell anyone else what to do, and they were pioneers at what we would call sustainable business practices, with their seed businesses and furniture making. I guess because we had a Shaker village in central Kentucky, we tend to feel positively toward the Shakers here.

    If you’re looking for progressive “independent” religious groups, I think you’re looking for the Unitarians and the Quakers, each of which, while not exactly burning up the world in terms of size, are quite influential in theological and policy matters. The American Friends Service Committee, after all, won the Nobel Peace Prize, something no organization affiliated with a mainstream religious group (that I know of) has ever done.

    There have also been various utopian groups that have sprung up, and have tended to collapse when people realized that people weren’t angels.

  31. perplexed

    I thought about Unitarians but, they tend to draw from everybody so at best they are a loosely held group, but respectful to all religious beliefs. The Quakers are a different lot altogether that still maintain an establish foothold in the religious rotunda. They too have a wide spectrum of dispersing beliefs but mostly remain traditionalists.
    The reason I would say that what is happening now would be in tangent to the shakers, which by the way I would expect the Pentecostals would love, is because of how change is being brought around. Slowly, change is forced against the majority by a minority that is outspoken and demanding with good principals but without really considering longevity. Risking a break in the church while demanding ,almost forcing action is bound to end badly over the long haul. Possibly another sect of the church that will end up as its own entity, not welcomed by the masses because of its conduct.

  32. perplexed

    I didn’t even consider Utopian groups, Caleb.

  33. Niall


    You’re still not getting it. The Shakers were not a “minority that is outspoken and demanding” “forcing change against the minority”. They were in fact a minority that was not outspoken, and forced nothing on anyone, and had absolutely no influence of any kind over the majority.


  34. DAB

    Just to clear up a couple of things I saw posted above:

    – There are indeed gay Christians who advocate for abstinence until (same-sex) marriage, or at least adhere to this themselves. They are, generally, a younger generation of gays and lesbians who have been conscious (and out) about their sexuality almost as long as they have been “out” as Christians. (It has also been seen by some people as a reaction against the assumptions and behaviors of previous generations of gays and lesbians, who were both denied any legitimacy of their relationships, and who, the thinking goes, may have overcompensated for their pariah status by embracing the assumptions of the dominant culture.) One of the more prominent such advocates for abstinence until marriage is Justin Lee, the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (gaychristian.net), and there are other members of that group who advocate for “Side A – The Reformed View” (that God blesses gay relationships). The other side, Side B, is given a hearing as well, that acknowledges they are gay, and therefore feel called to celibacy. (Lee and a “Side B” advocate have both written about their positions on the gaychristian.net site here: http://www.gaychristian.net/greatdebate.php ). For some obvious reasons, for older gay Christians for whom a publicly legitimate relationship never was a possibility until very recently, that horse has already left the barn, but monogamy is perhaps taken as or more seriously among gay people and especially gay Christians today than I (at least) have seen among many straight people.

    – Miscegenation is one example (as Niall and others pointed out above) where the government deemed discrimination against such marriages illegal FOR GOVERNMENTS, but never required any religion to marry two people of different races. Another, perhaps even better example is the laws around divorce, most of which are state laws, but a few of which are federal. The government recognizes a right to dissolve a consummated marriage, even if some religions do not (and different states have different requirements about that dissolution, with no-fault divorce being among the last changes). And the U.S. government, as well as all 50 states, will recognize a remarriage by one or both parties EVEN IF THAT PERSON’S RELIGION DOES NOT (e.g., Catholicism). The Catholic Church and others not recognizing divorce are not compelled by the state to marry divorced persons wishing to be married, but neither are the individuals denied remarriage in the eyes of the state. One important point that state amendment advocates like to ignore: any divorce granted in any state is recognized by every other state, just as a marriage is, even if their own standards for divorce (e.g., waiting periods, etc.) are different.

    – There are U.S. states that, whether by law or judgment, now recognize the marriage of two men or two women. Any other state, regardless of its Constitution, would need to argue why its state constitution or state laws should somehow outweigh the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Such arguments were cut down in Loving v. Virginia, when the context was race. It remains to be seen if the court will be consistent with precedent or find state discrimination allowable when the context is gender.

    – What seems to get forgotten the most is that there are also religions that recognize the marriage of two men or two women. So we now have a situation where marriages recognized by the Metropolitan Community Church, the Universal Universalists, the United Church of Christ, some Reformed Jews, and some mainline denominations are not recognized by the government.

    Opponents of the legalization of gay marriage like to point to their religious objections against gay marriage until someone points out that not all religions believe the same thing, and not even all Christians believe the same thing about gay marriage. Then they like to switch sides, and argue the civil argument against polygamy and incest (since some religions have in the past recognized polygamous marriages and even the marriage of close relatives). But this merely demonstrates that they have no consistent argument, other than that they are opposed to gay marriage. So instead we get the following:

    “Gays can’t be abstinent before marriage or monogamous during marriage.”
    “Even monogamous gays are making a mockery of traditional, religious marriage.”
    “Religions that recognize gay marriage or no different from rogue ‘Latter Day Saints’ cults and animist religions that recognize polygamy — the government has a compelling argument against such marriages, which outweighs the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.”

    Now, why same-sex marriage is “no different” from polygamy, they don’t really have a good answer for. They’re against the latter, as are most other religions in the U.S., so that makes their opposition to the former equally valid? Somehow?

    Meanwhile, churches such as those in the Anglican Communion agreed not to make polygamous marriage a breaking point in their relationship with national African churches, only to have some of those same churches turn around and make same-sex marriage a breaking point in their relationship with the Western Anglicans that don’t discriminate against gay marriages. For example, the Nigerian Anglican church didn’t prohibit polygamy until May 2008. Whether this proscription is yet being adhered to or not is not well known. Other churches have not yet prohibited their converts against having multiple marriages.

  35. perplexed

    Niall, apply the principals, by the way, your helping to prove my point!

  36. Caleb Powers

    DAB, just a bit of a tweak to your arguments, most of which mirror my own. The portion of the constitution of the US that makes one state recognize the judgments of the courts of another is the “full faith and credit” clause, which provides that each state will give full faith and credit to the judgments (and marriages) of other states. The reason that states don’t have to recognize gay marriages from other states, even under the full faith and credit clause, is the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The Constitution grants Congress the right to determine, under the full faith and credit clause, which judgments or acts of states must be recognized by other states. The DMA provides that other states do not have to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states, unless they want to. How that strengthen or defends marriage I can’t fathom, but that’s how these people think.

  37. Niall


    I can’t improve an argument that doesn’t exist.

  38. DAB:

    Thanks for defining the logical relationship between polygamy and gay marriages. The Mormon church is not going to bring back polygamy anytime soon, if ever. But, if marriage is between “consenting adults” regardless of any other factor, than it goes to say if you’re gonna legalize gay marriage than you’re gonna have to legalize polygamous marriages. Don’t know why Niall can’t see this logic, even if he doesn’t agree with it. It is still logical. Again, I don’t care if gays want to get married–more power to them–I just don’t think they need to force everyone else to recognize them as such. Just like I would not expect you to recognize an old-time Mormon polygamous marriage by your state or the federal government. 150 years ago polygamous Mormons were thrown in jail for “unlawful cohabitation” and not for being married to more than one person since the government did not recognize their second, third or 23rd marriages. The government should get out of the marriage business altogether. But, as long as they’re in it people must be allowed to apply their varying “logic” within its framework, which is always gonna leave someone dissatisfied.


    About our “God-given brains.” I don’t argue with you there. I think God put us here to learn; however, He gave us prayer and REVELATION to help us when our logic fails, or seems to us to be irreconcilable to different “logical” points of view. The Bible is full of people taking their burdens to the Lord for answers when they have done all that they knew how to do. There were many predictions about the Messiah’s coming but no accurate interpretation. If left up to logic alone we get the ignorance the Jews had when Jesus finally did come. We MUST go to the Lord in HONEST prayer and OPENNESS to receive an answer or even just comfort. Some things He is not ready to tell us, but He will give us comfort, nonetheless. Example: I could ask Him to let me know how the universe started, and He is not going to tell me. Likewise with the matter of gay marriages. There are logical arguments on both sides. In some ways I am at odds with my church on the issue, but the Lord has comforted me in saying to support the Church anyway. (The Mormon church has been at odds with government interpreted marriages many, many times. In Argentina we finally had to recognize “common law” marriages after years of battling the government to reduce the marriage tax–which the poor couldn’t pay–and to reduce their ridiculous restrictions on divorce.) Get the government out of marriages and all our problems will be solved!

  39. Niall


    DAB did not in fact define a logical relationship between polygamy and gay marriage. If you think he did, could you tell us what it is?

    As for this piece of nonsense:

    “But, if marriage is between “consenting adults” regardless of any other factor.”

    Except marriage is not now, nor ever has been defined solely as between consenting adults, without consideration of any other factor. Otherwise siblings would be able to marry. And people who are already married to someone else, etc.

    So that argument collapses.

    Care to try again?

  40. José

    Maybe we’re reaching a consensus here. I also have come to favor getting government out of the marriage business. It causes so many church / state problems and it is obsolete. A man and a woman can live together, share property, and raise families without ever getting married. Or it could be two men or two women. Or a man and three women. That’s a fact, it happens today, and we have found ways to deal with it.

    Government still has an interest in serving the public by creating a streamlined method for consenting adults to obtain domestic partnerships so that they can enjoy all the privileges and protections of legal marriage. So let’s do that. But it should be a legal arrangement without the same sacred expectations or religious restrictions that churches impose. To be blunt, the government shouldn’t care what goes on in the bedroom, if anything. This very neatly solves perplexed’s paradox. If a brother and sister want to form a domestic partnership for mutual protection and support then they will be at liberty to do so without controversy or snickering.

    And marriage? That would devolve entirely to each church according to its theology and the conscience of the individual. If the Catholics don’t want to grant a church wedding to a couple that is divorced then that’s fine. And if the Baptists don’t want to marry two people of the same sex, or two people of different races, that’s fine too. Whatever. However, the government will continue to have oversight over some related issues. Certain activities, such as sex, will be restricted to consenting adults. No children, no animals, no rape. (As for incest, is that really enforceable today any more than other laws governing private sexual activities between consenting adults?) Of course government will still protect children by holding parents accountable for their health and safety, whether or not the parents are married to each other or live together.

    With this new model we can expect that the future will look very similar to the present. Most ofen a guy and a gal will appear at the county courthouse to obtain a license and they will have a church wedding. Moms will cry and dads will grimace at the bill. But there will be more freedom for people to live in ways that are mutually beneficial. Same sex couples can have the same legal rights as opposite sex couples. There will be less emphasis on making non-religious couples partake in what was traditionally a sacred ritual. Churches will be free to practice their beliefs without any more interference than they do today. And if the Prophet receives a revelation from the Big Guy(s) upstairs, saying that plural marriage is on again, then they can reinstate that ritual providing that all parties agree.

    Before I write this up and submit it to my state legislator as a petition does anyone want to point out any flaws?

  41. Caleb Powers

    John, I have to chuckle a little bit about the words you choose to highlight. You suggest that we must all make an HONEST entreaty to the Great Spirit and be OPEN to His great revelation; the implication, of course, is that anyone who gets a different answer from your church’s answer is not being HONEST and OPEN. And, frankly, this implication that the rest of us aren’t quite being HONEST or OPEN is a bit insulting to everyone else. Just because we come to different conclusions than you doesn’t make us either dishonest or closed.

    What you ultimately come down to is that we should support “the Church.” Well, John, I don’t unconditionally support my own church, much less anyone else’s. Churches are made up of people, not angels, and our relationship is with God, with the Church admittedly having a role in things, but salvation is by faith, not by church membership or even belief in one religion over another.

    Referring to another set of posts on the blog, though, this reminds me why I see Mormons as more like Catholics than any other denomination: You appear to preach a blind obedience to church teaching that could (but for the references to Joseph Smith and the Tribe of Levi) come from the Vatican.

  42. perplexed

    Well, the government can’t get out of the marriage business because of the record keeping aspect of it. In another century when people are searching genealogy, where will they go.
    Jose, you pointed out a very good fact. I wonder how of these children out of wedlock will be able to chase their ancestry.
    Niall, with the stroke of a pen, whatever gains made in the gay community today towards marriage or unions or a name undetermined at this time, it could all be gone.

  43. Niall


    stroke of whose pen?

  44. DAB

    Sorry: I did confuse the full-faith-and-credit clause and the 14th Amendment — although both come into play as regards equal treatment under the law, and from state to state. But yes, it was DOMA that meant any state did not have to apply marriage law equally from state to state as regards same-sex marriage. (The lawsuit question, as I understand it, is whether such a law can even be considered constitutional, since it seems to make an exception to the amendment for wholly random reasons.)

  45. Caleb Powers

    DAB, while I don’t doubt personally that the law is unconstitutional, this activist conservative court system we have will not hold it unconstitutional; they think government can do anything. Once again, I always thought that real conservatives were against government telling people what to do. I guess it depends on what they’re telling them not to do.

  46. Caleb,

    I did not mean any offense by highlighting certain words in my comment about prayer. Just drawing attention to them because they are things I struggle with and I think most people struggle with. I have difficulty sometimes being honest and open with myself. I want a certain answer and “stack the cards” in my favor before even going to the Lord. I think we all might do that sometimes, so it is important, in my opinion, to not always trust your answers until you have come to trust your research and yourself. I believe there is ultimate truth out there and when we all get different answers we are only getting a part of the truth. We have to continually work at it.

    The Catholics and the Mormons do seem to get along pretty well, which is strange since one of our General Authorities labeled them “the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil” a few decades back! Sometimes it’s like watching a high school football game between rival schools when dealing with religious denominations. Can’t we all just get along? I certainly don’t espouse “blind obedience,” but when you come to respect certain leaders you can give their remarks and warnings a thoughtful consideration and not just dismiss them as some old-fashioned “authority figure” out of hand. (BTW, I’ve noticed that many who have “authority issues” had parents with major issues and were thus robbed of establishing deserved trust while young–sad.) Anyway, I believe the President (and Prophet) of my church is inspired, along with the Twelve Apostles of my church. You are free to believe otherwise, or even the worst about them. I’ve been with friends who’ve cried when they see the pope and, though not believing in direct revelation anymore, somehow believe him to be inspired. If you have the assurance that a certain person is inspired by God, then in a sense it is not really “blind” obedience–you are really obeying your own conscience that gave you that assurance. You can therefore live with dichotomy knowing that you don’t understand all and that others who have “gone before” have some wisdom (truth) you have not yet acquired. That said, it is still always good to recognize these “authority figures” as fellow travelers and therefore not infallible (unlike the pope–but that’s another issue).

  47. Caleb Powers

    John, anytime you defer to the wisdom of another person without knowing whatever it is they “know,” it is blind obedience. Having respect for someone’s wisdom is one thing, but if you think God talks directly to them, not you, that’s blind obedience.


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