Mormons on Prop. 8: Is Gay the New Black?

In June of 2008, the California State Supreme Court gave gays and lesbians the legal right to marry.

This was followed, shortly thereafter, by the collection of signatures to hold a referendum to create an amendment to the California constitution, limiting legal marriage to “one man and one woman,” effectively removing the right that had been granted for same-sex couples to marry.

The result has been California’s Proposition 8, on the November ballot. In this election, a “yes” vote will change the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage; a “no” vote will allow the constitution to stand, unaltered.

It’s an unusual and controversial thing for voters to remove the rights of citizens by referendum.

In the third presidental debate, Barack Obama said:

“And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn’t be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote.”

In other words, our Democratic system was designed with a series of checks and balances in a time that could never have foreseen the implication of wealthy special interest groups pouring out-of-state money into a referendum. In an era of electronic communications and sophisticated advertising, grabbing a vote is more like selling a pair of sneakers than what our founding fathers could have envisioned.

So now, the gay and lesbian population of California finds itself spending oodles of money — money that could have been used for pressing social and human services issues — to defend a basic right granted by the court and available to all other adult Californians: the right to marry.

One of the major players in the campaign against the right to same-sex marriage is the Mormon Church.

Which makes me ask, “Is Gay The New Black?”

You see, gay marriage has unfortunately become what’s known in political circles as a “wedge issue”. It was used to drive conservative voters to the polls in the year that Al Gore lost the presidency to George Bush. For older voters who have seen administrations come and go, who live in conservative areas of country, and might be apathetic voters, it was a way to light a fire under them… to give them something controversial to motivate them to go to the polls.

For generations, the Mormon Church took a strong racial position, discriminating against people of color for reasons that were deeply ingrained in the church’s literature and teachings. There was a belief that dark skin was a mark “of the curse of heaven that had been placed upon some portions of mankind” for historical religious wrong-doings. (This, and similar, language remains in Mormon texts.) In short, it was believed that people with dark skin had angered God and were therefore lesser in the eyes of God than white people. This extended to most medium-brown people of indigenous descent as well, who the Mormons refer to as Laymanites, a term that is as polite as George Bush’s reference to his half-Mexican grandchildren as “the little brown ones”.

(In fact, in the mid-1980s, I attended the wedding of a friend whose uncle stood to give the toast. Addressing the sizable group, he — a Mormon — went into a long spiel about how the family had accepted the bride’s mother, despite the fact she was a Laymanite, in this case, Peruvian, I believe. Even 25 years ago this was regarded as a racist and tacky thing to do and quite shocked the guests. Someone had to explain the word to me as I had never heard it before.)

Then in 1978, the Mormon Church announced that it would remove the restrictions against people of color, and would allow dark-skinned men to ascend in the church. This happened because, the church reported, church President Spencer W. Kimball had received the divine word of God, telling him it should be so.

In other words, the church’s racist practices were so darned wrong, that God had to call and say “cut it out”.

Of course, the fact that the IRS was questioning the church’s tax exempt status may have speeded up God’s phone call.

This divine change served the church well. In 1978, the Mormon Church had approximately 4 million members, most of them in the western United States. Now there are more than 13 million members, many of them outside the U.S., in countries primarily populated by people of color. Suddenly losing the racial bias not only helped the church expand its membership rolls, but swelled the coffers through member tithes, property, etc.

Recently, someone commented on one of my posts about Proposition 8 saying:

Have you noticed that the Mormon church has never before taken a political stance on gay rights? That they’ve never asked their members to campaign against domestic partnerships? They’ve taken a moral stance on homosexual behavior, yes, but not a political stance on gay rights.

So what is different this time? I believe that the leaders of the Mormon church are concerned about the effects legalizing gay marriage will have on the family. The Mormon church is well known — perhaps best known — for its advocacy and support for the family.

I have to admit, this comment got me to thinking. You see, The Mormon Church has historically been softer than some religions on what it calls “same-sex attraction,” insisting that homosexuality is a behavior, but not a “type” of person. (It has regarded the behavior as changeable and has advocated “treatment” that has included electric shock therapy among other things. But unlike some churches, it hasn’t summarily condemned or banished homosexuals.)

But what’s different this time is that a black man is on the ballot for the nation’s highest ranking position.

Yes, the Mormon Church is known for being pro-family, within its own guidelines. But it’s also known for being historically discriminatory against people of color (and not that far off in history, within the lives of ranking members of the church administration). Some would argue that despite the 1978 divine transmission to President Skinner, racial bias is still rooted deeply in the foundations of the Mormon Church.

Is is possible that the Mormon’s Church’s sudden interest in repealing the right of same-sex marriage isn’t really a pro-family action, but a political wedge being used to drive Mormon voters to the polls in the hopes they’ll vote against Barack Obama, the nation’s (potential) first black president?

Is it coincidence that the language the “Yes On 8” campaign has so carefully crafted, words like “indoctrination” and emphasis on the impact on children, reflect the actual expansion technique of the Mormon Church? That the (incorrect) fear expressed in ads that gay marriage will impact the tax exempt status of churches finds its genesis in the actual experience of the Mormon Church relative to its racist practices?

(Make no mistake, what I’m saying here is that Mormons are much more interested in indoctrinating and converting people, including children, than homosexuals ever will be.)

Would it be far-fetched to presume that the money tithed by people of color all over the world in the areas into which the church has grown more than threefold, is being used against Obama, in the guise of a “family values” campaign?

Is it possible “Yes On 8” isn’t pro-family, but rather anti-black?

I think it might just be so.

Since the beginning of time, some religious factions have always had to be positioned against one group or another. It’s not enough to stand alone in celebration in the light of God. These groups have had to find, or invent, a “shadow-side” against which to contrast their own shine.

And in that, it seems that now the Mormon Church is making gays the new black.

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