Today’s guest post is from A Friend

In light of the recent Prop 8 decision in California, the church issued the following statement:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision. California voters have twice determined in a general election that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We have always had that view. Courts should not alter that definition, especially when the people of California have spoken so clearly on the subject.

“Millions of voters in California sent a message that traditional marriage is crucial to society. They expressed their desire, through the democratic process, to keep traditional marriage as the bedrock of society, as it has been for generations.

“We recognize that this decision represents a continuation of what has been a vigorous public debate over the rights of the people to define and protect the fundamental institution of marriage. There is no doubt that today’s ruling will intensify the debate in this country. We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”

In my view, the main difficulty with the position of the Church and other institutions supporting Prop 8 is their focus on procreation and family environment as the rationale for opposing same sex marriage.  If these were really the issues, then one is left to wonder why these institutions haven’t spoken out and supported legislation that will define marriage based on procreation and will restrict marriages to ones that foster a positive family environment.  If the church were sincere in its desire to strengthen families, rather than lobbying against gay marriage, we would be encouraged to lobby for legislation like the following that would improve the likelihood that families are a safe environment for children:

  1. Bar someone who has been convicted of child abuse from marrying for at least 10 years. 
  2. Bar someone who has been convicted of any felony from marrying for at least 5 years — bad example for kids. 
  3. Significantly tighten up the standards that must be proved to grant a divorce. 
  4. Reconsider permitting single moms to remarry — statistics show, for instance, that child abuse rates (for both men and women) increase sharply when the abuser is not the biological parent. 
  5. Require anyone applying for a marriage license to affirm that they intend to procreate children, and agree that their marriage will be dissolved in ten years if no children are born. Then they must re-apply, or accept a civil union instead. 
  6. Rethink granting marriage licenses to couples over 50, since they can no longer procreate. Give them a “civil union” license instead.
  7. Rethink granting marriage licenses to couples of any age that have been surgically sterilized. Give them a civil union license instead.
  8. Require that the prospective husband and wife submit, along with their application for a marriage license, documentation of either employment with total salary exceeding some reasonable minimum, say $30,000 per year, or else savings in an insured savings account of some reasonable amount, say $200,000, sufficient to cover expenses of raising at least one child through high school and a year or two of college.  After all, low household income and/or lack of solid employment are very strongly linked to the delinquency and sub-par educational performance of children that may be born to that family.

The point is this: Each one of the proposed additions to marriage law, including the above, can be very solidly justified on grounds of procreation and the need for a safe, stable and nurturant environment for children. If these are really the principal rationales for Prop 8, then why haven’t we seen some proposals along these lines by the institutions promoting Prop 8?

Instead, the current prevailing view, in virtually every state and foreign nation, is that if a couple wants to take on the obligations of a legal marriage, then by all means we should permit it without regard to the personal circumstances or procreative intent of either person. Marriage supposedly beats the heck out of a couple “living in sin,” without any legal recourse for support if one of them hits the road. Today, states don’t even bar felon inmates currently in prisons from marriage (and more than a few marriages have taken place in prisons).  Also, most states don’t require a blood test any more — just a one-day waiting period (except for Nevada, which permits marriages on the spot).  This is shorter than the waiting period to buy a handgun.

Admittedly, these are humorously extreme. But I do not recall the Church nor any other conservative institution ever promoting any measures vaguely like these.  This position significantly undercuts these institutions’ opposition to gay marriage on procreation and family environment grounds.