Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flip-flopping like a Massachusetts senator
(or, for that matter, a Massachusetts governor)

Elder Lance B. Wickman, member of the Quorum of the Seventy, ca. 2007:
It really doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, “That is not right. That’s not appropriate.”
Official LDS church press release, 13 August 2008:
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.
Salt Lake Tribune, 17 November 2008:

In a written statement to The Salt Lake Tribune late Monday, church spokeswoman Kim Farah said, "The Church is not planning on commenting on civil unions for the time being."

But spokesman Michael Otterson suggested a few days ago to a Washington Post reporter that the church's post-election remarks were "based on civil unions in California and that no decision has been made regarding similar rights in Utah," the paper said. "I don't want to give the impression that the church is saying civil unions in all cases are OK," Otterson was quoted as saying.

So now I'm confused. Are civil unions okay or not? Why would you say one thing in one context but something completely different in another context? Perhaps this explains it:

Leaked internal memo, LDS church, 4 March 1997:
Elder Oaks was the first to recognize that in the political process that in order to win this battle, there may have to be certain legal rights recognized for unmarried people such as hospital visitation so opponents in the legislature will come away with something. This is proving to be the case [in Hawaii and California].
In other words, in liberal states like California and Hawaii, the church is willing to allow gay couples little perks like hospital visitation rights in order to get them to shut up, but in ultra-conservative Utah no such concessions are necessary. When passing Prop 8 was all that mattered it was important to make it clear that they're pro-marriage, not anti-gay; now that they've won it's not so important.

It's one thing to see politicians put words together creatively and even lie in order to get what they want, but it's downright depressing to see religious leaders, who you'd expect to be concerned with truth above all else, so skilled at the dirty game of politics. I was angry this morning but tonight I'm just sad.


Sarah said...

I can relate.

Just goes to show that they are human men, even if they are also Prophets, seers and revelators, and God allows them to make their own decisions and maybe even mistakes sometimes.

They've kind of gotten themselves into a pickle with this one, haven't they.

Scott said...

Not really any flip-flopping, just carefully crafted wording.

"... the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage" would imply the whole enchilada, and the Church is against that (no matter where they are).

They don't object to rights (already established in CA), but they specifically list the ones they don't object to: hospitalization and medical care, housing and employment, probate. Presumably they do object to everything else.

From the Trib article, we learn that the Church isn't saying civil unions (presumably the "whole enchilada" type) are okay. (The "in all cases" is thrown in there to confuse us. It could just as easily have said "in any case").

We also learn that the Church hasn't decided on rights (that is, the specific list from the press release) in Utah, but that's okay because they specifically indicated that they didn't object to these rights that were already established in CA. That leaves them free to object to them wherever they aren't already established, or indeed even places where they are already established, as long as those places aren't California.

The leaked memo does tie everything together and confirms that the Church's real position is:

We don't want gays having any rights, but if we have to give them some, then here are the specific ones that we're okay with (hospital, medical, employment, housing, probate). Even with those we would prefer to withhold them, but in states where they've already been granted (at least if those states are California) we'll not object to them (because we realize that such objections would be pointless). In a nutshell, we don't support any gay rights, but we'll concede a few if we have to.

Mr. Fob said...

Thanks, Sarah. You're right--they're not devious villains, they're just human and I should remember that. It's just unfortunate that they're human error has such a large impact on so many people.

You're also right, Scott. I suppose what I'm saying is that I expect such carefully crafted wording from politicians but it would be nice to get direct and completely honest statements from religious leaders. But "nice" and "reality" don't always correspond.

Mr. Fob said...

And speaking of human error, "they're human error"? Yuck. Me hang I'm head in shame at I'm poor grammar.

Scot said...

I'm so emotionally tired having such word play from strangers in a faith we don't follow being so important to my ability to legally protect my family here in Utah.

I just don't get why they can't just skip these games, treat my family the way they'd want theirs treated in law, and debase us however they want in church. I guess I'm just frustrated.

Mr. Fob said...

Sorry. I know it sucks for you in ways I can only imagine.

Guy said...

Very sad, indeed. And tired of it. Yet grateful to at least have the protections our family does have here in CA, compared to Utah. It makes any potential move back there highly unlikely. I feel deeply for those who continually have to struggle with these issues there, especially with children. I remember too well living across from the Capitol and having to look at the constant reminder of the inequities our families face there and the church's constant role. It drove me crazy--and away.

Rebecca said...

Blech. This is such a great example of the "us vs. them" mentality that Mormonism (and, I'm sure, other religions as well) breeds. It was a prevalent and even somewhat encouraged attitude at BYU.

I remember one girl at BYU smugly telling me that her Sunday School teacher told them that if Christ came back today he wouldn't consider most Christians his followers. I just stared at her and was like, "YES. EXACTLY."

This reminds me of that. They can say they're all about love and unity, but their actions speak much, much louder.

I'm going to post this to my facebook account.

Mr. Fob said...

Guy: It always drives me crazy when Yes on 8ers say "Oh, but we're not taking any rights away--domestic partners have all the same rights as spouses do." Besides the fact that they're missing the point, the fact is that California is the exception, not the rule. And if anyone believed Prop 8 was really just about California, all those millions of dollars wouldn't have come pouring in from out of state. But anyway, yes, I am also glad that at least in California you have those rights and protections. Here's hoping the rest of the country catches up soon, and then we can all move toward true equality.

Rebecca: Blech indeed.