After months of hearings and deliberation, yesterday the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8 and deemed DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional. Since the court's hearing, I've seen Facebook riddled with both jubilant rejoicing and apocalyptic innuendos. I've heard the terms "Prop 8" and "DOMA" mentioned with nostalgic reverence and vehement disdain. If you have been following my blog, it will come as no surprise to you that I was elated to hear about the Supreme Court's ruling. It was the conclusion I had been waiting for. But as with many things in my life, this happiness was not devoid of conflict and introspection.
For those who have heard the epitaphs but are unsure of the terms' political or social significance, let me break it down for you. I've had to do my own research to be sure that I know what I'm talking about before making bold statements on the subject...
Proposition 8 was a 2008 majority-supported ballot that amended state constitution, deeming that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California". The ballot won by a small margin in November 2008, and overturned the Supreme Court's May 2008 ruling that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. While many celebrated Prop 8 as a victory, the amendment was viciously battled, resulting in civil and government lawsuits which conjectured the amendment unconstitutional under the US Constitution's 5th amendment. On June 26th 2013, California state government refused to defend Prop 8 in the Supreme Court hearings and the amendment was overturned.
DOMA was a bill signed in 1996 by Bill Clinton as a federal law allowing individual states the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages. The law outlined a federal definition of "spouse" as being derived from a heterosexual couple, thus denying same-sex couples' federal spousal benefits, such as Social Security, retirement, filing joint taxes, immigration or hospital visitation rights, regardless of their states' stance on same-sex marriage. In 2010, Edith Windsor filed a lawsuit against the United States District Court after her wife, Thea Spyer, passed away and left her entire estate to Windsor. The marriage between Windsor and Spyer was recognized by their home state of New York, but Windsor was denied a federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses and was made to pay $363,000 in estate taxes because the tax exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages. On June 26th 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Windsor, finding DOMA unconstitutional "as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." This does not automatically make same-sex marriages legal throughout the United States, but it forces the federal government to issue spousal benefits to same-sex couples residing in states where gay marriage is legal.
Ever since I've "come out" as a Mormon liberal, other members of my faith have asked with earnest intentions how I reconcile my belief in modern-day prophetic revelation with my ardent belief in gay rights. It is no secret that in 2008, the presidency of the LDS church issued a statement that urged Californian Mormons to support Prop 8. The short but honest answer is this: I don't. I can't. These two beliefs- the beliefs who make me who I am- are incongruent. They are irreconcilable. If I have faith that the LDS prophet is the direct mouthpiece of God, then I must believe that God does not (nor will he ever) support Gay marriage. This is not to say that God/Mormons hate gay people, as many slanderous liberal advocates suggest, but it is to recognize that God has an eternal order, and part of this order is procreation and the union between man and woman. If I believe in everyone's equal right to agency and support civil rights to the core (as I do), then I automatically relinquish my right to say I wholly follow the Prophet. You see- I don't just advocate for gay rights as a political or social opinion. I can't accept that God would be so exclusive to deny anyone the right to love.
In late night, hours-long conversations with friends I have debated and wrestled with my paradoxical creedence. How could it be that I believe so ardently in two implacable ideas? Is it due to a lack of faith in my religion, or is my trial in life to continually grapple with these two irreconcilable ideologies?
A good friend once told me to remember the times where I've felt the spirit attest to the Gospel's truthfulness, and that should negate any existential questions I hold about the LDS church. The truth is that my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unwavering- Jesus never mentioned the subject of homosexuality. My problem is that I cannot accept the Prophet's stark stance on homosexuality, and so I am told that I do not believe in modern-day revelation. It seems a very "all-or-nothing" notion, and this brings more turmoil than you know.
Another friend told me that if I do everything I'm taught-pray earnestly, read scriptures with real intent, keep my temple covenants- then the truthfulness of the LDS religion and all its tenets (including modern-day revelation) will be apparent and my other temporal grapplings will become less important.
"She's right", I thought. "Maybe I'm not doing enough. Maybe if I pray harder, maybe if I sing louder and listen more intently in church I'll be able to reconcile these two sides of me that have created a schism in my mind and heart."
But I've done all those things, I DO all those things to the best of my mortal ability, but my belief in gay rights is not quelled. There seems to be no reconciliation, as much as I fight for it. There is an eternal order to things that I must choose to believe, or reject.
And so my optimistic, maybe idealist conclusion is this: I will continue to pray. I will continue to ask God for answers. I will continue to follow the Prophet. I have felt for myself the truthfulness of the LDS church, and though it would sometimes be easier to deny it, I believe. But I will also continue to believe in gay rights. I can't accept that two people loving each other is wrong. I just can't. I will allow myself this discretion and not be too hard on myself. There is no spiritual or rational way to defend or explain my disparaging beliefs and I just have to accept it. You may think that I'm choosing the best of both worlds, and you may be right. But I promise you that trying to balance these two conflicting worldviews is anything but "best". It's difficult, and taxing, and tumultuous. But what else can I do in my ambivalence?