FAIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Question: Do Mormons oppose the right for same-sex couples to form families?
Question: Do Mormons oppose the right for same-sex couples to form families?
There are many ways to extend rights to same-sex couples without changing the definition of marriage
Does the Church oppose the right for same-sex couples to form families? What about legal protection against discrimination? What about rights to protect their families? What about the right to have other people call their relationship a marriage?
There are many ways to extend rights to same-sex couples without changing the definition of marriage. The Church's opposition is limited to the definition of marriage, not the rights. Beware arguments that say because you do not support the change in definition, you do not support the rights that have been traditionally associated with that definition.
The Church supports many rights for same-sex couples. It does not oppose any right that does not conflict with freedom of religion
The Church supports many rights for same-sex couples. It does not oppose any right that does not conflict with freedom of religion. See Church involvement in politics/Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8/Religious freedom. The Church believes that marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman. The Church can support this definition without opposing rights for same-sex couples.
In the Divine Institution of Marriage, the Church made this statement:
The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.
The Church opposes legislation that seeks to control conscience or suppress the freedom of the soul. It does not seek to impose its morality on others. See Church involvement in politics/Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8/Imposing morality
The Church supports civil rights
The Church testifies that God is no respecter of persons and that all are beloved children of God. The Church has been interested in protecting the civil rights of all of God's children.
Joseph Smith declared in a statement published in the June 1, 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons (vol. 3, no. 15, p. 808) that he and other members of the First Presidency were “friends of equal rights and privileges to all men.”
President John Taylor said, “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States the Elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men”. (Journal of Discourses, 21:8)
Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency said in October 1963 General Conference:
"We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.
"We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.
“We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.
“We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man.”
On December 15, 1969, the First Presidency issued an official statement on civil rights. Latter-day Saints were told, “Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protections under the law with reference to civil rights.”
The Church has stood up on issues regarding rights for people with same-sex attraction. For more information, see Same-sex attraction/Non discrimination ordinances.
Definitions are different from rights
When people say they do not have the right to marry, what does that mean? In the early days of the Church, members sought the right to marry because they wanted to live together. Men who had taken multiple wives were often forced apart, and could be thrown in jail if they tried to feed their children. (See False analogy/Plural marriage) For them, the right to marry meant the right to form families.
When interracial marriage was banned, there was no equivalent union for interracial couples to have their unions recognized. For them, the right to marry meant not only the name, but also the associated recognition and benefits.
For same-sex couples, the effects of changing the definition of marriage depends on the current state of the laws. In most industrialized nations, same-sex couples can form families without fearing being forcibly separated. For same-sex couples in these areas, the right to form a family is not an issue. In many other jurisdictions, same-sex couples additionally have rights similar to marriage without the definition of marriage, such as having their relationships legally recognized and subsidized, and receiving additional benefits such as tax breaks that are unavailable to celibate gay peoples. For these couples, the rights are not an issue, but the definition. In other jurisdictions, same-sex couples have some rights available to married opposite-sex couples, but not all.
A legal definition in and of itself does not give or take away rights. It is how the definition is applied that affects those rights. For example, the legal definition of being drunk would not mean anything without a law discriminating drivers who are drunk against those who are not. It is the definition of being drunk together with the law against driving while drunk that discriminates against drunk drivers.
The same thing is true for marriage. It is not the definition of marriage itself that gives people rights, but how that definition is interpreted in law. For example, Portugal has changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, but have not given them the right to adopt children. Compare that to Nevada, where same-sex couples have the right to adopt, but not the designation of marriage. Definitions work hand and hand with laws.
Usually, when there is an inequality, we try to rectify it by changing the law, not the English language. For example, it used to be that only men could vote. There are two ways to resolve this injustice. We could keep the law restricting voting to men, but change the definition of men so that everyone was considered a man and hence everyone could vote, or we could keep the English language as is and change the law so that both men and women could vote.
There are many rights that same-sex couples do not have. For example, let us consider the case of a same-sex couple traveling in a place where their relationship was not legally recognized. Let's say that something were to happen to one of the partners, and they became incapacitated. If this were to happen to a married couple, the other partner could step in and speak for their partner, take care of them, and make medical decisions for them. However, since the same-sex partner has no legal connection to their partner, they would not have the right to help their partner.
Let us suppose that we want to prevent this from happening. There are two ways of doing this. We could change the laws so that either a spouse or a same-sex partner could speak for an incapacitated partner. This would have the desired effect without unintended consequences. The Church does not oppose this option. The other option is to change the definition of marriage so that the same-sex couple would fit under this new definition, and hence be covered by the law. This would have a much broader effect and have many unintended consequences. The Church opposes this option.
The Church seeks to help families of all kinds, but that does not mean the definition of marriage needs to be changed. See Church involvement in politics/Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8/Effects on family
Effects in specific regions
Since it is not the definition itself that gives rights, but how that definition is interpreted in law, the effects of changing the definition will vary from region to region. Of particular interest is the Church's involvement in Proposition 8.
Proposition 8 did not significantly effect how the law treated same-sex couples. Because of previous Supreme Court cases, the Californian law requires civil unions to be treated the same as marriages. The Church does not oppose these rights. These Supreme Court cases only apply to Californian law. It does not apply to the United States law. Same-sex couples do not have the same rights as opposite sex couples in California because it is treated differently under the United States law, not because of the definition in California. Changing the definition of marriage in California would not give Californian same-sex couples equal rights under United States law. The passing of Proposition 8 did not affect any right of same-sex couples, except the right to a definition. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals explains:
Proposition's 8 only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation [of marriage], while leaving in place all of its incidents.
California is an interesting case since there are both same-sex couples who are married and same-sex couples that are in a domestic partnership. There does seem to be a few difference in the rights. For example, in order to register for a domestic partnership, the couple already needs to be living together, which might prove problematic for those whose religion forbids them from living together until after marriage. There are other inequalities that have been reported that FAIR has not been able to verify. Why these inequalities exist after an order from the Supreme Court that they be treated equally, or why the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was unable to determine that these inequalities exist, is beyond the scope of FAIR. Sufficeth to say that the Church does not support any of these inequalities.