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Proposition 8 - Dialogue with a Friend
http://www.mormonblog.com/articles/39/1/177/Proposition-8---Dialogue-with-a-Friend.html
Anthony Celaya
Born & raised in San Mateo, CA. Education: BA Honors Spanish, BYU, cum laude, 1994. JD, BYU Law School, 1999. Family: Married 12/19/96 to Mary Elizabeth Celaya (BA English, BYU '99, having attended school through two pregnancies). 6 children. Hobbies: reading to kids, any physical activity. Berkeley, CA LDS Institute Director and Attorney in Norther California. 
By Anthony Celaya
Published on 10/19/2008
 
A former High School friend, who I ran into recently and later saw all of the Prop 8 propaganda on my Facebook account, asked me about my views on the issue. We have been emailing back and forth since.

A week ago I attended my 20 year high school reunion.  Surreal and awkward as it was, I did meet some great people with interesting lives.  One former high school classmate saw that my recently created Facebook profile picture was now a YES on Prop 8 ad and commented on it which started a discussion . . .

"Okay, Anthony...you know I'm going to play with you here...  protect marriage from WHAT?  Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil get way more straight people on their shows with major marriage problems.  That's what Prop 8 needs to be addressing.  As for gay people getting married.  Who cares?  I believe God made us gay or straight.  No one makes the choice (if he or she IS making a choice then that might be a sign that it is the WRONG choice).  I'm voting "NO" on Prop 8."

***

I appreciate your honesty.  Let me share some of my thoughts, preliminary.  Then, before you respond, please read the attached outline I put together in August on Prop 8 and the issues involved.  It's a bit long but I think it's worth it.  It conveys most of my thoughts on why I think marriage between a man and a woman must be a distinct institution and valued as the fundamental unit of society.  Here are a few points, but please read the memo as well:

  1. Prop 8 takes away no civil rights from homosexual couples.  Under California's domestic partnership law, gay couples already have all the civil rights married couples have.
  2. Prop 8, then, only preserves the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman.  It is not anti-gay, but pro-marriage.  It asserts that marriage is unique in its ability to confer special benefits on society.  Traditional marriage has been the bedrock of stable societies throughout history.
  3. Gay marriage would affect us all in numerous ways (see attached memo), but most notably, those that will suffer most as a result of not passing Prop 8 will be the children.  What many do not understand is that if Prop 8 does not pass, then NO distinction can ever be legally made between gay unions and traditional marriage.  As examples:
    1. School teachers will have to teach that the two are not only legally but morally equal (CA Education Code Sec 51890).  Sex Ed teachers must instruct on both homo- and hetero- sexual relations.  This is already occurring.  You may be aware that just last week, an entire first grade class in San Francisco attended their teacher’s lesbian wedding during school (you can see the article here).  As a parent of six children, yes, this would affect my family quite directly.
    2. Adoption agencies will not be able to make any distinction between a gay couple and a heterosexual one in adoption proceedings.  Given the overwhelming social and family science studies that show that children fare far better in every category when raised by both a mother and a father, this is an absolutely devastating consequence for children.  Again, this has already occurred in Massachussetts (which is the only other state that has legalized same-sex marriage) where a 100 year old Catholic adoption agency was forced to close down completely because they were otherwise forced not to favor heterosexual couples (link to article).
  4. Ultimately, redefining marriage destroys marriage altogether, because it becomes meaningless.  If we choose to define marriage as between any two entities at all, then what is significant or unique about it in the first place?  Such a sacred institution should not be so cavalierly remade.  And when marriages are struggling, as you mention in your comment, marriage should be strengthened, not rendered meaningless as a No on Prop 8 would render it.

I have many friends who are gay, and of course I love and honor them as unique and valuable persons.  But tolerance does not mean becoming morally obtuse.  As a society, we must provide civil rights to all, but we should also promote behavior that tends towards stability, morality, and long-term happiness.

I just sent you an email in response to your thoughts.  If you haven’t received it, can you let me know? After you read the attached, let me know your thoughts . . .

***

"I did get the information...but I want to know what YOU think?  And if you made a conscious choice to be straight?"

***

Absolutely!  Moreover, I make a choice to be morally clean, to be faithful to my wife and mind, heart, and action.  I make a choice to shun instincts that, as a male, I feel very strongly at times.  I choose to be patient when my instincts are screaming to lose my temper, to forgive when I feel to avenge, and to sacrifice many personal desires for the benefit of my wife, my children, and friends.

Still, this is somewhat beside the point.  Prop 8 has less to do with homosexuality than it does with preserving the sacred institution of marriage.  In fact, what I think is outlined in the write up I sent you.  I put my heart and soul into that, and it would be the best background to further discussin the issue of Prop 8.  TAKE THE TIME to read it!!

***

"It's long...but I will.  I owe you that.  While I am doing so I want to ask you another question...do you believe we are all really bisexual?"

***

No.  I believe that gender is an essential characteristic of our identity and purpose and that God made us that way for a reason, mostly so that we would be happy, even though our instincts may sometimes seem contrary.  There’s more to that, but I’ll save it for a later discussion.  Happy reading!  (Actually, you’re great to agree to read it…I really am interested in what you think).

***

"Okay, there's a lot here to address.  Historically, gay people have always existed...just like red-haired people.  As for activist judges...if we didn't have them...we'd still have segregation.  This is a civil rights issue.  The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.  By not allowing gay people to marry we are segregating them for something they can not control... like being born with red hair or being left-handed.  Besides, it's God's place to make judgments and I believe God makes people who they are for a reason we can't comprehend."                    

***

Addressing your points:

  1. ‘gay people have always existed’ – Yes, there have always been a handful of people who struggle with homosexual instincts, just as there have always been people who struggle with rampant sexual appetites, or with violent tendencies, or with any other instinct.  As I think you would agree, that does not make an instinct right.  As you read (or will read) in my notes: “From the statement of psychological fact, ‘I have an impulse to do so and so’ we cannot by any ingenuity derive the practical principle, ‘I ought to obey this impulse...’  Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’  People say different things: so do instincts.  Our instincts are at war.”  (C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)
  2. ‘like red hair…left handed’ – Again as I noted in my write-up, there is a notable difference in behavior genetics between genes that make up the body and genes that influence our desires and predispositions.  Just as a man may have instincts that attract him to other men, so a husband may have instincts that attract him to other women besides his wife.  Does that give him license to pursue those instincts?  Certainly not.  It does not take much for him to know that he, his wife, his children, and society generally will be more safe, happy, and secure if he represses those desires and commits himself to full fidelity in marriage.  We are responsible for our behavior even if it is genetically motivated.
  3. ‘activist judges…still have segregation’ to some extent, I agree with you on this point.  However, having looked at this issue pretty extensively (as an attorney), the reason the judges could do what they did in, for example, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was because the majority of the people in the United States also felt that the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine from Plessy v. Fergusen (1896) was both unconstitutional and morally wrong.  What makes the recent decision of the California Supreme court overturning Prop 22 so unprecedented is that these judges were NOT in line with the will of the people who had voted only 8 years earlier to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
  4. ‘civil rights issue’ this is the main argument the NO on Prop 8 campaign is proposing, and yet it is the one that is most clearly a red herring (a logical fallacy); and it is also the one most easily addressed.  In California, under the domestic partnership law, any two individuals can form a union in order to enjoy ALL the civil benefits married couples enjoy . . . all of them.  This fact yields the deeper issue, what is really being threatened by gay marriage.  It is not civil rights that are being threatened, but the definition of marriage itself.  Homosexual activists want to completely wipe out marriage, at least marriage as we know it.  Why?  Because it legitimizes behavior.  It negates responsibility for one’s actions.  It would be like fighting to remove laws against pedophilia (sex with children) because one has instincts to engage in it but does not want to feel guilty doing it.  Incidentally, that is already happening (I can cite you those cases if you’d like).  The issue at hand is simply this: Do you feel that traditional marriage is a unique institution?  As long as all have the same civil rights, should traditional marriage have a different name than homosexual unions?  For my part, as for ALL social and family studies, traditional marriage is IN VERY FACT so, so, so much more beneficial to BOTH couples and children that I believe, again as long as civil rights are honored, marriage should be singled out as something special and sacred to society.
  5. ‘equal protection’ I will not get into any detail with regard to the equal protection clause, but simply say that there is no fundamental right to marry in the constitution.  And even if there were, marriage would have need to have a certain definition.  Governments throughout history have simply held out traditional marriage as the bedrock organization for societies and nations.  There has never been a nation that has prospered without families where husbands and wives dedicated themselves to each other, to having children, and to building a family.  Because government has an interested in society’s well being, it chooses to single that union out as something special and unique.
  6. ‘segregating’  I have already addressed this point.  First, no one is being segregated.  Rather, two types of unions are being defined and distinguished – one called marriage and one called domestic partnerships.  They are simply not the same thing.  That is what Prop 8 is about, it is about maintaining that distinction.  All may choose to marry or form a partnership, but they must abide by the definitional terms of the union.  There is no discrimination because anyone can choose either union.  (Note that a single person could make the argument that it is unfair that married or domestic partners enjoy certain benefits while they do not.  The counterargument would be that the single person could get married if he so chose.  The single person might then respond that he has no desire to marry, that it is repugnant to his feelings, that he was born with no desire to marry, which may very well all be true.  Is that discrimination then?  Clearly not, because he could still marry if he so chose!).
  7. ‘something they cannot control’ I think this argument is as offensive as if someone told me I could not control my own sexual appetites.  Giving it any sort of credence would be opening up a moral Pandora’s box that would wreak havoc on people, families and society.  Of course impulses can be controlled.  We may not be able to change them, and they may never leave us completely, but we certainly can control them.
  8. ‘God makes people who they are for a reason’ I’m assuming then that you believe in God, and since I do as well, I will pursue this argument.  I agree with you on this point completely, but would apply it differently.  He did create us as He intended, with a particular gender evident by how our bodies are built, not necessarily by the instincts we feel.  God certainly implanted good and correct instincts in us, but for an important reason (some would say this is the Devil), there has also been implanted within us instincts that run contrary to that which is good, wholesome, uplifting, etc.  As C.S. Lewis noted, “our instincts are at war.”  I believe this is part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us.  He intends for us to grow stronger and more like Him as we subdue destructive desires and yield to worthy ones.  And so, yes, God made us with gender for a reason.  It is up to us to find out why by pursuing that nature, not by yielding to an instinct that runs contrary to it or by fighting against it.  While we can often change our desires, we can never change our genders.

Wow, this was much more than I had planned on writing, and more than you probably wanted to read.  Still, I think point 4 is the key one, that regardless of how you feel about homosexuality generally, do you feel marriage between a man and a woman (incidentally, the only way society can even exist) is unique enough in the benefits it confers on society that we should keep it definitionally different?
***

"Okay, I see your points are well-thought out and you make an interesting argument regarding instincts.  However, other than Lindsey Lohan, I highly doubt most people are making a choice regarding their sexuality.  And I believe everyone should get the same rights COMPLETELY...meaning their marriage should be just as validated. 

Also, if we REALLY want to protect marriage, I think everyone (gay or straight) should work individually on their own and not worry about the other people's (which should be between them and their God).

My next question is:  What are you so afraid of if Prop 8 does not to pass?"

***

I think what you’re missing is that the issue has nothing to do with rights.  Homosexual activists want you to believe that it is about rights, and as long as that remains your perspective, you’re right, it’s hard to argue against the point you’re making.   But this issue has nothing at all to do with rights!  This issue is about legislating morality.   Gay activists do not want rights (they have those), they want you and I and our children to accept their behavior as equal to that of marriage between a man and a woman.  Change the definition of marriage?  Destroy the institution that has nurtured mankind since Creation?  That is a social experiment the results of which I would not want to be around to find out (I wrote about this in my write up).

In fact, this will have enormous effects on society, on you and me, and on our children.  My children would be raised in a culture where the titles of mother and father mean absolutely nothing.  Do you really want your children to grow up like that?  Do you really value your own role as mother (do you have children??) so little?  Do you really value the role of your husband as a father to your children just as little?  I suspect you don’t.  Your children, all children need and deserve to be raised by a mother and a father.   As you mention, families are in need of being enormously strengthened, and yet you would choose to pass a measure that guarantees that a child will not be allowed to have either a mother or a father?

A good example of exactly what I am afraid of is what happened as fallout from the 60s when we tried the social experiment of sex without the safety and responsibilities of marriage (fornication always existed but never in the history of the world, as far as we know, was it societally sanctioned).  The greatest social/familial harm we currently suffer in society is the lack of fathers raising their children.  It is the single greatest source of delinquency in our nation and exacerbates almost every other societal ill.  Everyone thought this was simply greater personal freedom, but the consequences have been disastrous for children all over our nation, not to mention the millions upon millions of massacred fetuses as abortions proliferated.  It does not take much forethought to imagine where we will be morally as a society if we sanction homosexuality and put it on par with marriage.   As has already happened in Massachusetts, the ACLU and other groups are now arguing that parents have no right to opt their children out of school instruction on homosexuality, nor even the right to be notified when such instruction occurs.  How would you feel if that happened to you?  If you do not mind that sort of reverse discrimination, where your rights as a parent to teach your children what you believe is morally right and wrong is trumped by the state’s right to ensure your child is indoctrinated with the homosexual agenda, then I am hard pressed to offer any further arguments that would have meaning for you.

One point I have not made yet but which bears at least some acknowledgement is the following: even if some homosexual tendencies are inherent from birth, NO ONE can argue that all are, not even most.  If you are under this assumption then you have not researched the issue.  Most homosexuality in fact comes from (or at least is aggravated by) having been abused as a child, pornography, sexual experimentation turned perverse, or something I’ve come across lately and that is simply that homosexuality is ‘in.’  I was on the plane a while back with a young lady with whom I struck up a conversation.  As it turned out, she was gay.  Curiously, it became clear that she was currently pursuing this kind of lifestyle because it was ‘chic.’  Can you imagine the kind of moral mess our children will be in if these are the messages they are being sent by society?

EVERYTHING I hold dear has to do with family.   I know something about the kind of help and nurturing only a mother can give children.  I also know something of the kind of love and security that only a father can provide.  What will you say to the child who asks you, ‘Why can I not have a mom?’ or ‘Why can I not have a dad?’ as Rosie O’Donnell was asked by her own child.  For my part, I will do everything possible to ensure that children receive their own right to be raised in an ideal environment.  If we must speak of rights, then I confess that the right of children to be raised by a mother and a father appeals to both my heart and my sense of justice far more than does the right to have a homosexual union, which already enjoys all civil rights, to be called marriage.

Do we want to change the time-honored, foundational unit of all societies?  The question we each much ask is, as a society, do we believe that homosexuality is morally right, that it is in every way equal to marriage, both for couples and for children?  I affirm that it is not.

So now it’s my turn to ask you something.  Are you prepared to respond to the above-mentioned child’s question?  And if so, what would you tell him or her?  Why do you feel that the right of a homosexual couple to have their union be called a ‘marriage’ is more important than the right a child has to be raised by both a mother and a father?

***

"Also, violence and rampant sexuality hurt other people... gay couples who (like straight couples) are monogamous don't hurt anyone.  It is between to consenting adults.  Because it doesn't hurt anybody that's why it comes across as bigotry (even if unintended).  We should be encouraging monogamy regardless of gender.  Maybe that should be included in the "protect marriage?"  If that's what it's really about???"

***

Your point that monogamy should be encouraged regardless of gender is certainly true (incidentally, the great majority of homosexual couples are NOT monogamous, as I detailed in my write up...have you read it all?)  Still, how can you say that it doesn't hurt anyone when these couples will be ensuring that children be denied a mother or a father?  Violence and rampant sexuality hurt a few, but this hurts society as a whole.  Still, you haven't answered my question from the last email...

***

"Hey Anthony, I wish you would comment on here. I am seriously trying to develop a radio talk show and you giving me the other side of the coin really does help! I get what you're saying... LOUD and CLEAR. Here's my stance (simply put). I believe in equal rights for everyone. If the proposition was just about the marriage title, I'm neither here nor there on that. I believe gay couples as well as straight couples deserve the EXACT same rights. That's where I'm coming from."
 
***

Great!...some common ground. But let me ask you something about your stance. While Prop 8 takes away no substantive rights to gay couples, it does confer one particular right on them, and that is the 'right' to have others call their unions marriage. Now, you would think that wouldn't matter, but in this case it does mean something to homosexual couples. It means that as a society, we still think same sex unions are different from marriage between a man and a woman. For same-sex couples, the 'right' to call their union marriage means legitimization, it means that society accepts their behavior as completely morally equal to traditional marriage. So how do you feel about that? Knowing that Prop 8 will not take away any substantive rights from same-sex couples, are you prepared to affirm that same-sex unions and marriage between a man and a woman are exactly, morally, beneficially equal for children and society? Or do you believe that marriage between a man and a woman is unique and distinct? I think most people believe traditional marriage is unique, but as you well know, it is not an easy stance to take.

***

Here's the thing. I'm not gay. I'm not inside a gay person's body and don't have to live in a society that discriminates against me in that way. I can only empathize with them and know that it must be hard to be born differently...to KNOW that you are different from most everyone around you...except for the other ten percent that make you feel completely normal. So, I see your point that it's not the norm, but I guess because I tend to put myself inside of other people it's hard for me to support something that I don't feel does anything but make it easier for gay people to be accepted. Again, as for the "marriage" title I'm neither here nor there. I just want equal rights for all.

My daughter is bipolar/ocd with a 146 IQ. She's not the norm either. In fact, she only felt normal inside of a mental hospital earlier this year. She struggles every day to "feel" normal alongside her peers and whether it's the bipolar or not she wanted to know how to break her own neck (at 5 years old) because nobody around her "got her." It's terrible to feel alone in the world even when you're right next to another person. My daughter described this to me. I just wanted to offer you another perspective on this issue even though it's not directly related.


***

Thank you for sharing that. While I vigorously support traditional marriage because of the immensely detrimental effects that changing its definition will have on children and society, I hope I never become blind nor unsympathetic nor very far emotionally from those that struggle with same-sex attraction. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have those feelings and begin the struggle of how to deal with them, of self-identification, of whether to pursue them or choose to try to change them. I say ‘try’ because many do it successfully (see www.narth.com), some try but can’t, and of course others think it silly to even try.

I have two very good friends, both gay, but each dealing with it in very different ways. One has chosen to live a gay lifestyle, the other to follow what he thinks is right, namely, that homosexual relations are wrong. It may seem to you ironic, but the first one is the unhappy one, and not just because many do not accept his lifestyle. He is unhappy, as best I can tell, because he is doing things that he actually, deep down, feels are wrong, despite his attractions. The second one is at BYU, living a pure life free of intimate relations and plans either to be single all his life or perhaps even marry someone of the opposite sex, depending of course on how things happen. While he of course struggles, he is at peace and is very happy as many around him have helped him feel normal. I sometimes ache for both of them, but more often for the first who is struggling.

I am glad you have such a sensitivity to those who feel outcast. That is something that we do need to deal with as a society. One might think that eliminating moral and societal standards is the way to help gays feel accepted or understood. But that will only make bad things worse. As children of God, as brother and sisters, we need to love and understand each other, we need to be empathetic, kind, and civil; but we must keep to our ideals. I know for some it seems almost unbelievable that one can be anti-homosexual (against the practice) but pro-homosexuals (love the persons), but in fact that is the case with just about everyone I associate with on the YES on 8 campaign. And yet, I can still understand those who think otherwise.

While we have not talked much about faith, in some respects, the issue of homosexuality comes down to deeply held religious beliefs about the purpose of life. I believe we all lived with our Heavenly Parents prior to coming to earth as their spirit children. We came to earth to gain physical bodies and to be tested. Trial, difficulty, irony, pain, weakness, and every other vicissitude of life is essential to our progression. As we learn to be obedient to God’s commandments despite the fact that sometimes things don’t make sense, two things happen:

  1. We learn that, actually, obedience brings greater happiness and peace (though at first it may have seemed otherwise), and
  2. We ultimately return to live with God again, having now become more like Him.
Gender was part of our identity before we came, and procreation is essential for this Plan for the salvation of all of God’s children. God has ordained that the sacred powers of procreation are to be used only between a man and a woman who are lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

I suspect there is much more to the story of your daughter. I am curious. Will you tell me more?

Anthony

P.S. I am attaching two documents. The first is called The Family Proclamation. This is what I believe about marriage and family. The second is a document called God Loveth His Children which is a message that my faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . the ‘Mormons’) gives to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. They are both very significant and beautiful documents.