MYERS: Mighty Mormon Power Rangers

Charles Myers

On Nov. 4, the voters of California decided that two people of the same gender could not enter into a secular contract of marriage with one another. They were convinced of this, in large part, by an expensive and dishonest advertising campaign paid for, in large part, by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter -day Saints.

In this advertising campaign, the LDS Church argued that marriage was between one man and one woman. Also, it argued that the traditional concept of marriage was based on the idea that monogamous heterosexual marriage was, and had forever been, the only idea of marriage in the West. Such an argument coming from a Church that only officially changed its view of marriage from polygamy to monogamy so that Utah might become a state in the late 19th century is, of course, quite ironic.

However, as laughable as such an irony might be, the forced divorce of 18,000 legally married couples is anything but funny.

These couples married each other out of a love that is often sorely lacking in America’s culture of drive-through marriage and drive-by divorce. However, our good, upstanding Christian citizens told them that their marriages meant less because they could not produce children of their own.

They were told this, mind you, by religious organizations that marry completely sterile people, the elderly and those otherwise incapable of reproduction, as well as those who are unwilling to reproduce.

They were told this by the same religious organizations that, if they had their way, would not grant any rights to same-sex couples at all. They might say other things publicly, but shortly before Proposition 8 passed, a different story emerged when a 1997 internal strategy memo was obtained by those fighting against the odious ordinance. The memo detailed the LDS Church’s belief due to the “political process” that “certain legal rights” for same-sex partners “such as hospital visitation” might have to be granted in order to make the LDS position more palatable.

The problem for the LDS Church is that there is no compelling secular interest in preventing same-sex couples from marrying, and our government (at least in name) remains secular.

Many objectors from the LDS Church like to argue that permitting people of the same biological sex to marry each other will eventually infringe upon their right to practice their religion as they will. This remark seems innocuous enough until you consider its historical context, namely that the LDS Church did not officially believe in full equality for blacks until 1978 – a full 14 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Nobody likes bigotry, but no bigot likes to change. So instead, the LDS Church chose a different route: arguing for the sanctity of an institution that began as a property arrangement between two men – one of whom desired heirs to inherit his property, free domestic labor and a sizable amount of money, and another who desired a family alliance.

The institution evolved into a contract recognized by secular authorities so that certain legal privileges might be extended to spouses by the state. It also evolved so that it was a contract founded upon the love that two sane, consenting individuals above a certain age shared for one another. When it broke with its previous tradition of oppression, marriage became a fundamental right.

As the LGBT community peaceably rallies against its oppressors across this country and as its oppressors continue to argue that these people should not be demanding the rights they had stripped away, one cannot help but remember the old truth told by Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”

It is my hope that one day, the demand will be answered.


Charles Myers is a junior political science, history and philosophy major from Elkins Park, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].