Legend has it that one of the roots of Valentine’s Day stem from a third century ban on marriage passed by Roman emperor Claudius II who thought married men made poor soldiers. A priest named Valentine continued the marriage tradition by marrying couples in secret, but was tragically caught and jailed, then put to death.
Thankfully modern-day tactics are not quite so severe, but 18 centuries later there remains tension between church and state in the regulation of marriage, most recently as it relates to gay marriage. Mormons of course are no stranger to the controversy as seen in their efforts for the passage of California’s Prop 8.
At the heart of the debate is what the marriage certificate actually means. Is it just a piece of paper or is there something more? What drove those couples to seek the help from Valentine all those years ago? Believing the paper and the name carries not only legal rights, but a history and legacy, people and organizations are working to change laws to recognize gay marriage. HRC has launched a new campaign of New Yorkers 4 marriage, gathering clips of celebrities including unlikely ally Barbara Bush, the daughter of George W. Bush.
While the chorus for marriage equality grows louder, the choices facing Mormons with these convictions is complicated. The church’s position toward the gay community has softened over the years, but its opposition to gay marriage remains steadfast. We see it not only in vaguely worded addresses during General Conference, but also political efforts. In fact, for the past 30 years no other issue has received as much of the church’s time, energy and focus in the political arena.
In 2008 I found myself between a rock and a hard place in terms of the Prop 8 debate. As the church took even greater strides to make this constitutional amendment a reality, I believed my silence to be approval and felt compelled to speak up for my gay brothers and sisters and for other Mormons who feel this way too. I made what I considered to be a compassionate video outlining my position and submitted it to Mormons for Marriage, a site dedicated to respectful dialogue about the issue. My motives were to speak for myself in the political arena according to the dictates of my own conscience. I wished the church no ill, and I made every effort to be reasonable and stay within my own stewardship. Looking back on the video 2 plus years later, I still do not know a more respectful way to have expressed my position, which is that the morality of homosexuality has nothing to do with this debate, loving others means allowing everyone the recognition and rights we wish for ourselves in expressing love and building families.
I did not discuss the video with my local leaders before making it public, but they were directed to it by church headquarters. At the end of some very heart felt discussions, my speaking out with this video threatened my temple recommend and my calling, and I ultimately chose to take it down to protect my standing in the church.
I have lived to regret the decision. And so today, in honor of the Valentine legend and in support of the love that drives so many of us to share our lives with each other, I stand up once more in favor of marriage, all marriage, with my Prop 8 video.