Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. -Mark Twain
Question #71792 posted on 04/05/2013 1:22 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do you agree with the church's stance on gay marriage? I obviously understand that homosexuality is very wrong, and I understand that that is why the church is against it. But, I also understand the other side of the argument where people say it's their choice, whether it's a sin or not. I mean, we do all have our agency... shouldn't people be able to choose whether they get married if they're gay, even if it is a very serious sin? I am really torn on this issue. It's wrong and it shouldn't be legal, but at the same time, we should all be able to exersize our agency, so maybe we shouldn't care if it's legal or not.

-love the sinner, hate the sin

A:

Dear love,

The tricky part of this is that it comes down to legislating morality. There are some of our moral beliefs that I'm absolutely delighted to have codified into law. Stealing is wrong, murder is wrong, child abuse is wrong, and I think it's great to have laws that will deter and punish those behaviors. On the other hand, there are lots of Mormon moral beliefs that most people generally aren't pushing to be legislated—if we wanted to legislate all morality, then shouldn't we be pushing to ban smoking and drinking, and to make tithing and church attendance mandatory? It should be abundantly clear to Mormons that gay relationships are against our moral teachings (and it is entirely right and logical for any religion to have teachings about family and our god-like ability to procreate), but the thing that people can disagree on is whether we should push for this particular belief of ours to be law for the whole nation. Of course, the thing that makes the issue even more complicated for Mormons is that banning gay marriage is only a roundabout way to address the teaching that homosexual behavior is wrong, since more likely than not, committed gay couples will go on cohabitating whether or not the country allows them to use the word "married."

Anyway, my main opinion is that I wouldn't feel right denying any committed couple (whether they're a Mormon temple marriage couple, or a drunken couple who got married in Vegas, or a very unhappy couple on the brink of divorce, or a gay couple, or whatever) access to things like hospital visitations, being the official "next of kin," or spousal privileges with inheritance or taxes. And if I'm willing to give those rights to any couple who have committed themselves to each other, then the argument is just over whether they can use the word "married" or whether they should just have a "civil union." And I care zero about those semantics.

- Eirene

A:

Dear Reader,

I have been thinking a lot about this is the last few months. One of my colleagues at work is gay and legally married to her wife (I live in a state where that is legal). When she first told me that she was getting married, I had a sort of crisis of conscience. I was opposed to gay marriage, and I knew that my belief system was correct, but here I saw how genuinely happy she was and how devoted she was to her marriage. Initially, I was afraid to express support or even congratulations because I was worried about misrepresenting the Church's stance on homosexual marriage. Since then, I have done a lot of thinking about gay marriage and how the Church has encouraged legislation that would restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Here are some of the thoughts I have had.

First, as Eirene has said, I think it's very important to recognize the person's choice to be committed to another person. Whether or not the commitment is moral, it is a commitment that defines a person's life. I cannot justify discrimination against gay couples in the areas mentioned by Eirene (rights and privileges legally associated with married couples). That being said, I respectfully submit that these discussions on the rights to which married people are entitled are not the primary issue. Marriage is instituted primarily to establish the fundamental unit of society: the family. The Proclamation makes it very clear that gender is an essential characteristic of identity and that marriage between a man and a woman is fundamentally driven towards bringing children into the world and giving them a gospel-centered home.

From what I have seen, these are the primary arguments surrounding the issue of homosexual marriage. Do you support the family? Or do you want to give homosexual couples the right to live as they choose with the same privileges that heterosexual couples have? Are you tolerant? Or are you holy?

Here, I think, is where the major misunderstanding lies. Satan would have us believe that opposing gay marriage is the same thing as hating gay couples or wanting to deny them rights. Much has been said about how the Church's stance on gay marriage makes it an intolerant organization. However the Church has made it abundantly clear that it supports gay rights while still opposing the legal definition of a homosexual union as "marriage." In this way, the Church respects God's declaration about the fundamental purpose and definition of marriage while also fulfilling its goal to serve others and love them despite their choices.

In brief, the more informed I have become about the actual position the Church takes on homosexual marriage, the more I have come to support it in full.

Yours,

The Man with a Mustache

A:

Dear ltshts,

I absolutely agree with the Church. Moses 1:39.

- Beemer Boy

A:

Dear love the sinner,

Full disclosure: I don't exactly attend 100% of my meetings and I'm not straight. I believe two things very strongly which relate to this issue.

The first is that the Church's perspective on the homosexuality issue at large continues to change. For example, in The Miracle of Forgiveness, published in 1969, President Kimball wrote,

“… Many have been misinformed that they are powerless in the matter, not responsible for the tendency, and that ‘God made them that way.’ This is as untrue as any other of the diabolical lies Satan has concocted. It is blasphemy. Man is made in the image of God. Does the pervert think God to be ‘that way’? "

In 1998, President Hinckley wrote the phrase "so-called gays and lesbians" in a Conference talk. (He did say that it was the Church's position to love them and that they could be welcomed into full Church activity if they were celibate.) Compare those two examples to the tone on the Church's new website devoted to the issue. On the title bar, it specifically states that "the attraction itself is not a sin." This would appear to reflect the clarification to BYU's Honor Code in 2007. God's judgment of homosexual behavior may be eternal, but the more subtle reactions to homosexuality by the Church and its human leaders are not so unchangeable. I do not mean to imply that I believe that one day same-sex couples will be sealed in Mormon temples, and I don't really believe that they should be. What I do believe is that there is not one unchanging Church-sanctioned opinion about any of this.

Second, I believe that being anti-marriage equality and pro-family are not equivalent (or necessarily opposed to each other). As I have said, I am not straight, but I would make one fine, qualified, loving parent, which I have proven in a strenuous environment over a period of years. Some of the best parents I know are in committed, same-sex relationships. I believe that children are entitled to having stable, loving parents who can meet their needs, and I do not believe that being physically unable to produce a child disqualifies two people from being such parents. I believe that these people are going to continue to become parents, with or without the title of marriage, though I also believe that the state of having married parents would do nothing but benefit the children involved. I also believe that the famous Regnerus study has serious flaws.

- The Black Sheep

A:

Hello friend,

No, I don't agree with the Church's stance on marriage equality. I think it's wrong to deny people civil rights based on one's religious beliefs. 

Marzipan

A:

Dear Less Hating More Loving,

In the last few years, a lot has changed. A close family member came out. I made very good friends with a number of gays and lesbians. One of them is an AIDS widower — his partner was taken to the hospital, and died calling out my friend's name, but the hospital wouldn't even let my friend in the room because they weren't legally married. And I realized that my previous position of opposing marriage equality was really one based on a complete lack of empathy and understanding.

I do not believe the Church's stance on this issue is inspired or righteous. I believe it is based on a combination of fear of the unknown, misinformation, and a culture of political conservatism in the Church. I recognize and respect anyone's right to disagree with me on the issue, and optimistically await their inevitable eventual change of heart.

Love,

Waldorf and Sauron

A:

Dear love,

Contra Waldorf and Sauron, I am convinced that the Church's stance is inspired and righteous. I find The Black Sheep's answer to be very thoughtful and nuanced, and I think it's quite right. I agree that it's very important to note that the Church's stance on homosexuality is in most senses evolving. It took us too long to start using the right language and making the right concessions (though the new website is a substantial step in the right direction,1 and to be perfectly fair to President Hinckley, a whole lot of people—even Congress—were not using fair terminology in the late 90s).

But at its heart, the Church's refusal to condone gay marriage isn't a product of (as W&S put it) "fear, … misinformation," or, especially absurdly, "political conservatism." It's a product of Biblical condemnation of homosexual practices—and while we have taken our time figuring out what that means in terms of policy, I suspect we're getting close to a permanent equilibrium.2 This isn't like blacks and the priesthood, where the scriptures firmly lined up on the right side of the issue and the Church sputtered along on the back of some wacky stances from the 1800s. It's more like abortion, where a nationwide policy change approving early-term abortion didn't dramatically affect the Church's position, since it was a moral issue, not a cultural one.3 Likewise, gay marriage is an issue where we believe God has spoken on the morality of the practice, and the Church's refusal to condone gay marriage is a reflection of God's refusal to condone homosexual conduct.4

That doesn't mean we've been good at the "love and respect" part—I think it goes without saying that we have not.5 And I still don't think that the Church is there yet (for what it's worth, I don't think that I'm there yet—but I am trying to be better). But getting there all the way on the love and respect issue, as The Man with a Mustache notes, does not mean believing that we should apply the term "marriage" to gay unions.

I concur that we each have the privilege of disagreeing on this issue. But I respectfully submit that it is Waldorf and Sauron's position that is wrong, and that the Church's position is righteous and inspired.6

No Dice7

1 The Black Sheep cites the title bar, which reiterates that homosexual attractions are not a sin. I thought it was nice that the website even went a step farther to say that people do not choose their sexuality.

2 It doesn't mean, for example, that LGBT people should suffer housing or employment discrimination, nor that they should be denied many of the benefits of marriage—tax and healthcare benefits, for example.

3 To head off any objections here, I am obviously not somehow equating abortion and homosexuality, nor am I suggesting that they are comparable in any way other than the way the Church has approached the issues.

4 Again, conduct, not feelings, attractions, inclinations, or predispositions.

5 For what it's worth, I have not had close friends or family members that have come out, so I have not had firsthand experience there and won't pretend to understand the complexities of those situations.

6 Beyond my substantive disagreements with the above, I'm pretty bothered by the tone of the "optimistically await their inevitable change of heart" line. These are prophets of God we're talking about, and I find the sentiment rather patronizing.

7 Thanks to Waldorf and Sauron for their thoughtful reply below, after which I rephrased footnote 6 but not any of my main response.

A:

Dear Lily,

I really have no desire to get involved in this discussion, but you may be interested in reading this op-ed article written by a gay man who opposes gay marriage

Love,

Azriel

A:

Dear friend,

Since it seems like way more Board writers agree with the legalization of gay marriage than the Church's stated position, I'll just go ahead and say I agree with the Church's position, lest you come away from this question thinking we all agree in supporting gay marriage. As a sort of libertarian at heart, I started out agreeing with the Church in opposing gay marriage mostly because I felt like that was the counsel the prophets had given, even though it seemed to disagree with my personal philosophy of basically live and let live, but the more research I have done about the issue and the more I have thought about it, the more my own heart and mind have aligned with the Church's position. 

This doesn't mean I hate gay people; this doesn't mean I don't want them to be happy. For me, I don't think defending the current legal definition of marriage (as between one man and one woman) is bigoted or "legislating morality." Or rather, if defending the historical and Biblical definition of marriage is "legislating morality," I don't see why attacking and replacing the historical and Biblical definition of marriage is not legislating morality. 

Anyway. I could write a whole essay about this, but I feel in the minority here and I don't want to get into a giant debate on this when I have a deadline on this draft of my next novel (gotta be done by Friday!), so I'll leave it at that.

- Lexi Khan

A:

Dear No Dice,

My comments above may have been overstated, and I apologize for any rhetorical arrogance. (For what it's worth, I had in mind everyone who disagrees with me, not specifically the brethren, in my last sentence — though whether that makes what I said more or less patronizing, I'm not sure.)

To address the substantial point of your objection, you argue the Church's stance is based on "Biblical condemnation of homosexual practices," which I cannot fully agree with as the sole motivating factor. Christian factions and biblical scholars are fiercely divided on what the Bible actually teaches about same-sex relationships. In our church, we regularly teach that the multiplicity of interpretations of the Bible is one reason God has given us further scripture and revelation. And, frankly, neither the Book of Mormon nor the Doctrine in Covenants add any clarity to the issue of same-sex relationships, nor has the Church canonized any modern-day revelation on the subject.

The very mode in which our community interprets the Bible (or any other scripture) is itself bound up in a matrix of other cultural values, traditions, and beliefs. I shouldn't have to list many examples to indicate just to what drastic extent dominant interpretations have changed. For one, The Word of Wisdom, once taught as an optional set of "guidelines" (with Joseph Smith even drinking alcohol on the night of his death), was only loosely instantiated as a requirement for a Temple Recommend in 1902. Not until 1921 did it become an absolute requirement. And although for a while violation could bring about church discipline such as disfellowshipping, it no longer does.

Another example is Paul's teachings about women in church in the New Testament:

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

Now, we obviously don't practice like that currently, and we generally accept these teachings as something of an artifact and reflection of Paul's local cultural upbringing, rather than as a universal rule to be applied to modern worship. But some churches still interpret this teaching as if it was the direct, universal, inviolable word of God. (Is it any wonder that some have also questioned whether Paul's statements on same-sex relationships were rooted more in his cultural milieu than in revelation?)

My point here is that scripture itself does not require us to practice one way or another; rather, it is our collectively-negotiated interpretation of scripture into concrete policies, practices, canonical doctrines, and folk-doctrines that governs the dominant position of the Church on any given issue. And my assertion is that historically, the Church's interpretation of the Bible in adamantly opposing homosexual relationships (even outside the sphere of Church membership) has been heavily influenced by many other prevalent cultural forces. I'm not sure one way or another whether our church has been a) sufficiently attentive to the historical, cultural, and linguistic context of Biblical passages that apparently condemn homosexuality, and b) sufficiently reflexive about how much of our interpretation of these passages might have been influenced by other anti-gay-marriage logics which are external to the Bible. The statements of Church leaders have often embedded wider contemporary political beliefs, whether speaking out against communism, arguing against the prohibition repeal, or intervening in LGBT issues. 

I'm not arguing that we're necessarily 100% backwards on homosexuality — and that God is 100% fine with all same-sex relationships. But I am arguing that our church's civic, culturally-antagonistic actions may have been disproportionately extreme. We always have a choice of what extent we will tolerate or enable behavior we would not engage in ourselves. Brigham Young owned a bar in Salt Lake City to extend hospitality to out-of-towners and local non-members. Is that the kind of paradigm the Church will have to accept going forward? Increasingly, Americans will have to come to terms with same-sex marriage as a concrete cultural and legal reality, and once the cat is out of the bag, I think we'll find ways of co-existing just fine.

I want to close by reiterating what many have said, that the Church has made enormous strides in the last few years in terms of listening, empathizing, and reaching out to members with same-sex attraction. For many (like some close to me), it is too late, as years of mostly-unintentional shaming and well-intentioned-but-terrible-advice from a naive church community has caused irreparable mental and emotional scarring — and in far too many cases contributed to suicide. I hope that this current collective reflection and soul-searching will ensure that the next generation turns out differently.

Love,

Waldorf and Sauron

A:

Dear everyone,

And on that thread, I really want to emphasize that our community still has to keep moving. One answer above says that when the Church supported the basic gay rights ordinance in Salt Lake, the Church made its support for these rights clear. I have heard others say that the website has made the Church position clear. The truth is that I know so many people to whom it is not clear. So many people remain convinced that the Church, its members, and their God hate them. The website and the few comments in the last General Conference are good strides but they are not enough, frankly. We (and I include myself in this we) have to keep moving forward.

- The Black Sheep

A:

Dear Reader,

I have strong beliefs, and have never been ashamed to express them, as I feel they’re generally grounded, to the best of my ability, in logic, morality, and consistency. But there is one subject that’s caused me extreme cognitive dissonance: gay marriage.

For years most religions have spoken out openly against homosexuality. For decades the Christian church’s position seemed to be, “Homosexuality is a choice: a wrong choice.” If that is correct, then it seemed rational that it should be condemned, like other wrong choices, e.g., murder, theft, perjury, adultery, etc.

While this position (that homosexuality is a choice) always seemed like a stretch to me, at least it wasn’t inherently contradictory. I.e. if it is a choice, it stands to reason it might be the wrong one. So why did this always seem like a stretch? Well, it involves me looking a gay man in the eyes, him telling me “I was born this way.” And me telling him. “No you weren’t.” Gay Man: “No really, I’ve always felt this way.” Me: “No you haven’t.” You see what I mean? Statistically, there’s a chance I might be right. But if you were a betting man, you’d probably put your money on the other guy.

Over the past 50 years, Christian churches (LDS included) seem to be gradually shifting towards acceptance of the fact that homosexuality is not a choice. If anyone disagrees with me on this point, note the transition from Black Sheep's inflammatory Spencer W. Kimball quotes in the 1960s (above) to modern quotes from Hinckley when talking to Larry King (on those who have a problem with homosexuality):

KING: “A problem they caused, or they were born with?”
HINCKLEY: “I don't know. I'm not an expert on these things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these things.”

…to our current www.lds.org website, in a Church pamphlet “God Loveth his Children” dated 2007: “These (homosexual) temptations, which are generally uninvited…”

To me, that is the tipping point. If we acknowledge that homosexuality is not a choice, but something people are born with, then I can no longer tolerate its legal condemnation. You may disagree with it morally, the way we disagree with pre-marital sex and adultery. But the law shouldn’t discriminate against someone for acting upon the way they were born. Telling a gay person to stop being gay is like telling a straight person to stop being straight. Like telling a person with clinical depression to “stop being sad,” or telling someone like me with tourettes to stop twitching.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting our previous leaders were simply products of a less-enlightened time, and our church is now moving towards fixing it. Mormons don’t have a doctrine of Papal Infallibility. So when previous Church leaders contradict current Church leaders on the subject of homosexuality, there are only 3 possibilities: Either our previous leaders were wrong, our current leaders are wrong, or God changed his mind about gay people.

I believe gay people should have the right to legally marry. Do I believe acting on homosexual tendencies is morally wrong? Possibly. But until you’ve voted in favor of something you’re personally against, you’ve never truly stood up for freedom. You may claim freedom of religion, but in reality, you mean “Freedom of My religion.”

Many dismiss homosexual relationships as wrong because they’re not conducive to the natural process through which children are born. As a heterosexual parent who’s spent countless hours in fertility clinics trying to circumvent nature, I have to laugh at that argument.

Have you ever wondered how you would’ve acted had you lived in a different era? If you were an upper-class white person in 18th century America, there’s an excellent chance you would’ve owned slaves. That was simply the societal norm- the way people were brought up and told was acceptable. But there were a few people, a very small minority, whose consciences told them “No. This is wrong.” No matter how much society, tradition and everything they’d ever been taught, said otherwise. Would you have been in the large majority? Or is there a chance you might’ve had the courage to tell 98% of the people around you they were wrong? As Mark Twain once explained, “In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce man, Brave, Hated, and Scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, For then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.” I’m not going to wait 50 years for our society to openly accept gay marriage before I look back in hindsight and think “Huh. I can’t believe we were all against that.” During the Civil Rights movement, many argued that desegregation could lead to such horrors as interracial marriage (illegal in the US prior to 1967), causing the destruction of the family, and downfall of society. Today, many believe that tolerating homosexuality will lead to… can you guess?... the destruction of the family, and downfall of society. Really? Monogamous gays? That’s your prediction for the downfall of civilization? Because us heteros have been holding society together all these years with the great job we’ve done protecting the sanctity of sexuality?

Many people wait for a personal experience to change their views. E.g. Waiting until one of your family members is gay. To me, that’s not good enough. If everyone in history waited for a relative to struggle with something before turning on their compassion switch, we’d still be living in the dark ages. Just like Abraham Lincoln didn’t need to have a black son to realize slavery was wrong, I shouldn’t need to wait for a gay family member before I accept homosexuals.

If we acknowledge that both straight people and gay people are biologically programmed that way, then all we have to do is flip the situation around to understand exactly how the other side must feel. I love my wife more than anything. Now imagine if the government told me it was illegal for me to marry her, as only gay marriages were considered socially acceptable? Would that seem Constitutional? Now what if my religion offered me two options: I could forego the greatest happiness in life by giving up a family for a life of celibacy, or I could try to overcome my “straightness” and marry a dude. Can you imagine if you were in that situation? I’d hate us too.

So do I personally feel homosexuality is morally wrong? I don’t know. I really don’t. I can see both sides. I can understand why gay people would want to be with the person they love. On the other hand, I do have some concerns. I feel gender is an essential part of life. Men and women are different. And I believe the best place for children to be raised is in a loving home with both a mother and a father. While I abhor the implication that homosexuals are akin to pedophiles or miscreants, I understand how same-sex attraction can lead to valid concerns when dealing with programs like Boy Scout camp-outs, high-school locker rooms, and military barracks. So I’m still not sure how I feel about this topic morally. But whether I agree or disagree with someone else’s choices, I’ll stand up to defend another citizen’s right to pursue happiness just as passionately as I’d want them to defend mine.

Many reading this will probably wonder about my commitment to Christianity and the LDS Church. As it happens, the very principles of Mormonism and Christianity that I hold so dear are what compel me to speak out for liberty, love, and acceptance. I stand with Joseph Smith when he said “For all men are, or ought to be free, possessing inalienable rights,...to think, and act, and say as they please, while they maintain a due respect to the rights and privileges of all other creatures, infringing upon none.” I stand with Book of Mormon prophet Mosiah in declaring “And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike.” And I stand with Jesus when he admonished, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

-Thor

A:

Dear love the sinner,

Short answer: no.

-Petra

A:

Dear love,

In short, I do not agree with the Church's stance on gay marriage. As Waldorf and Sauron, I dismiss any attempts to use the Bible as good evidence for why homosexuality is a sin (just as most Church members dismiss much of the Law of Moses; anyone care for some bacon?). I believe that any claims about the "evil" nature of same-sex relations comes from the modern Church (and the culture of Christianity over the last couple thousand years). 

I've made it pretty clear on the Board where I stand with my Church membership (hint: I'm an agnostic, but active LDS member). My lack of full belief in the power of revelation means that I try to use sound moral reasoning to guide my choices and opinions. This means that I agree with Church teachings about morality most of the time--with gay marriage being a huge exception. To me, a huge potential moral pro of allowing gay marriage is that so many more of our brothers and sisters will feel like valued, loved members of society (which hopefully will correspond to fewer mental health problems associated with coming out of the closet). I hope that in the future, members of the LGBT community can raise their children in loving, moral homes. The only potential moral con that I can think of is that perhaps children raised by two moms or two dads (or something in between) won't turn out as well? After paying attention to how messed up most families are already, I just don't buy that argument (and in any case, I'm not willing to disallow certain classes of people who the government thinks is "bad" or "abnormal" from having children). This of course leaves out the argument that "the eternal family has a man and a woman at the head of the family," but I'm not much of a believer in the afterlife, it turns out. 

I think when push comes to shove, people who are against gay marriage are essentially saying "homosexual relations are icky and I don't want icky people to have the same civil rights as I do." This obviously only refers to civil marriage, not the temple sealing, but that's a conversation for another day. 

--Pilgrim, who doesn't think the government should be involved with heterosexual marriage, either

A:

Dear love/hate,

Like many others, I've done a lot of thinking on this. I have one new element to add, and then I'll get to my opinion. This article is really interesting; it's from Elder Lance B. Wickman to the J. Reuben Clark Law Society about the changing relationship between religion and law. I read it around 4 am while I was up with a sick kiddo, so to be honest I wasn't following it all. However, I think the main point is that from a legal perspective the Church was so opposed to Prop 8 in California and the like because they will change the relationship further to the point that a religious belief can't be used in support of any legal stance. Just read the article. On this kind of issue I wouldn't want to summarize incorrectly. 

So my opinion: in short, yes, I agree with the Church. At first I wasn't so sure, because I'm a bit more of a libertarian at heart, too, but what it really has come down to for me is that if the Church and its leaders feel so strongly about this I need to go on faith on this issue. A friend put it well: if we sustain these leaders, part of that is following what they've asked. I've now also changed my opinion for the most part in line with the Church's stance anyway, though it's still a somewhat muddy issue. 

Opposing gay marriage is not denying a person's right to be homosexual. It was implied above that the law shouldn't condemn homosexuality---of course not. It doesn't (though it used to, but that's not our current debate). I don't think anyone at this point is questioning whether it should be legal to be homosexual, but being homosexual does not require being married. The law can disallow gay marriage without making homosexuality itself illegal. 

The other big factor that has swayed me is this: God's plan is for his spirit children to come to earth. For that to happen, he created us with the ability to procreate and have children. So whatever confusion Paul's writings might have, or however much our past or current stances are influenced by the culture of our time, I don't think gay marriages are part of God's plan for His children.
 
We still have a long way to go in terms of tolerance and Christian kindness, no question, I just don't believe that needs to include allowing marriages. My favorite answer I've ever heard is to remove the government from anything having to do with marriages of any type. The government can create civil unions, and anyone who chooses to enter one should be allowed the "rights" that are normally afforded to married people. There is no reason that the rights of kin in hospitals and all that sort of thing should be denied to anyone. Marriage, by it's nature, has nothing to do with the government. It has traditionally been a matter of religion, and individual religions can grant whatever marriages they choose. 
 
fine print
A:

Dear love,

To be honest, I don't know what the Church's exact political stance is on gay marriage - I vote according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow all men and women the same privilege. I do know what they teach about marriage, specifically in the Proclamation on the Family, and I absolutely support that.

What many leftist civil rights activists seem to overlook is that currently, everyone has the exact same marriage rights, which are defined by your state. You don't explicitly have the right to marry someone who you love, are sexually attracted to, or would be a good parent with; you have the right to marry a consenting, un(closely)related adult of the opposite gender, presumably for the purpose of establishing nuclear families which have been the basis of our society (and functioned very well in this role). Nobody is being denied this basic civil right.

Obviously, there are many cases where that doesn't fit what people actually want to do. That doesn't mean it's discriminatory. Should concessions be made to allow for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when a minority's inherent traits or behavior doesn't fit with the standard? Yes, I think so. But I don't believe any good comes from broadening the definition of marriage or the nuclear family. I also don't believe that the federal government should step in and change or monitor marriage rights that have always been the states' to grant.

Sincerely,

The Cleaning Lady

P.S. I take issue with W&S's earlier comment that those who disagree with them on this issue will have an "inevitable change of heart" - I find that totally dismissive and patronizing. It is very possible for many people (or one person at many different times) to explore this issue with the same degree of depth, compassion, and intelligence and arrive at different conclusions. That's why democracy is such a good thing.

A:

Dear Let's Focus on Loving the Sinner,

I think it's tragic that this important debate about what marriage means in our society is so often reduced to absurd and unfair classifications of the massive group of people who disagree with you.

I love some of my gay friends, and I think some of them are jerks. Neither of these facts has advised my stance on gay marriage, which is that "the Lord had a perfect church until he let all of us inside!" (Neal A. Maxwell) I am of the personal belief that black people were denied the Priesthood for so long due to human error. I'm also one of those psychos who believes that opposing the repeal of Prohibition was actually a very good idea.

Will the LDS Church marry gay couples in our lifetimes? I doubt it, but surely there were people who doubted black people would ever get the Priesthood. Is the LDS Church right to oppose the expansion of the definition of marriage politically? Well, I don't know. I kind of go back and forth on that. And, coming from someone who spends a lot of time on either side of this debate, please enjoy:

A QUICK GUIDE TO EMPATHIZING WITH YOUR OPPONENT IN THE (LDS) GAY MARRIAGE DEBATE:

Dear proponents of gay marriage: You guys are great. I appreciate your willingness to take a stand even against adversity from those who come from within your own faith. Your ability to step back and take a pragmatic look at the situation is admirable, as is your compassion for those who do not share your philosophy.

Some people who oppose gay marriage do it because they hate gay people, I'm sure. Possibly they do it because they're motivated by "fear" of gay people, whatever that means. These people are a tiny minority. If you've never heard a good argument against gay marriage, you're not paying enough attention. As has been pointed out above, either decision on the question of gay marriage is a moral one. Either the United States as a political unit believes that homosexual marriage is of equal societal value to heterosexual value, or it does not, as reflected in its laws. This is not one party trying to force their beliefs on another, this is two parties trying to do that to each other.

Fiddling with ancient institutions such as marriage is not something that should ever be done lightly. Every other human society up until very recent history, while having varying stances on homosexual activity, has agreed that marriage is between a man and a woman. Now, maybe we can dismiss every last one of our ancestors as idiots and bigots, but I think that is a simplistic, even dangerous view. 

Dear opponents of gay marriage: You guys are great. I admire your readiness to stand up for your beliefs when it's rapidly becoming unpopular to do so. You face a lot of hatred from people who call you hate mongers, and you absorb a lot of vitriol and name-calling that is officially sanctioned by popular media. Your tenacity and your conviction are both worthy of praise.

It is very, very unlikely that homosexuality is a choice. Ipso facto, gay people are not evil. In fact, they are an awful lot like you. If you've never heard a good argument supporting gay marriage, you're not paying enough attention. For good or ill, the debate of redefining marriage has been renamed the "marriage equality" debate in most circles. Whether you're cool with that name change, the fact is that our homosexual friends don't feel like they're receiving equal treatment under the law, and that's not okay. If you oppose gay marriage, then it would be wise to devote significant effort to see that injustices against gay people are aggressively prosecuted. (For example, the housing bill passed in Utah that was mentioned above.) If your friends come out to you, respond with love and sensitivity, not condemnation. Once you've done this, once you've really truly convinced yourself that a gay person are in every way your equal and should be treated as such under the law, see if you can reconcile this with your stance on gay marriage. Statistically speaking, you probably love a gay person, whether they be a family member or a friend, and whether you know they're gay or not. Imagine yourself buying that person frozen yogurt, looking them in the eye, telling them you love them, and then explaining your stance on gay marriage to them. Can you do it? Are your reasons compassionate, loving enough? If not, please reconsider why you feel how you feel.  

The problem here is failing to differentiate between calling someone to repentance and hating that person. You cannot call someone to repentance if you don't love them, so if you don't learn a true, abiding love for your opponents in this question, you will ultimately fail.

END OF GUIDE

tl;dr Everyone is awesome, and should be treated as such. I really didn't intend to ramble this much. I just meant to post this video.

 ~Hobbes