My friend, Brent Holloway, shared his feelings on the church and Proposition 8 in his column published on the opinion page of southern Utah’s Daily News. He’s been a compassionate voice for tolerance for the gay community and their families in an area where tolerance isn’t a given. I think this is something we should all read:
Every once in awhile, I sit back and marvel at the wisdom of our founding fathers. They put into place an incredible system of checks and balances to ensure that no one person, no one party, or even a majority vote of the populace could take complete control over the government. There is no other way to describe our system of government than genius — pure genius.
What concerns me now are the efforts of certain groups who want to dismantle this system of genius. Some Californians apparently don’t like our representative form of government. Because they haven’t been able to succeed in any other way, they believe that policies of government should be turned over to a simple majority vote. Hence, the referendum. They want popular opinion to establish political rule. And so, we saw an issue of morality being decided at the ballot box. It is a saddening move.
Referendums do have their place. Last year, the State of Utah overwhelmingly decided against funding private schools with taxpayer money. Personally, I believe it was more of a mandate to our legislators to quit messing around with the issue and simply put their support behind public schools. This is a proper use of the referendum. It didn’t create new law. It didn’t challenge individual rights. It was more directive than anything. The same is true of referendums on bonding and taxing initiatives.
But referendums like Proposition 8 in California are a mistake. Questions of morality or civil rights should never be turned over to a majority vote. My faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, erred in supporting this type of political initiative. Yes, I understand their reasoning. They want to express their moral voice on a political issue. But they must have short memories of Mormon persecution in Missouri and Illinois, where the majority mobs trampled the individual rights of Mormon citizens. Majority rule is not always a pleasant thing.
Minority groups, like gays, need to be protected from the ballot box. Whether or not they have a right to marriage shouldn’t be decided on the whim of a popularity contest. Even when we don’t agree with some decisions, our Court system is the best place to determine the Constitutionality of questions of civil rights — and gay marriage really is a question of civil rights.
My Church has every right to voice an opinion. I realize that it does not fully accept gays for who they are and probably never will. It has the right to deny their marriage within its own institution or even to exclude gays from membership in the Church. This is a question between the Church and its membership, and I hope the government will stay out of the business of a Church’s decisions on morality. By the same token, I would really rather that my Church doesn’t try to place its definition of morality onto the general public — especially through a referendum vote. This was a mistake.
I especially hope that we continue to honor the brilliance of a few determined men who saw the need for restraint from the ever changing winds of popular sentiment upon our governmental system. This grand experiment doesn’t always give us everything we want, and it can be a bit messy at times, but it remains a functional and beautifully elegant design. Let’s let it work the way it was intended.