Gay marriage remains controversial. So, Dear Reader, let’s start instead with some other, presumably less-nuanced, questions:
1. Is it OK to kill people for having gay sex? 2. Was it OK to do so 2,000 years ago?
You might think the associated answers are straightforward: “No.” And, “No.” And you might think that reasonable folks—especially folks at the recent Utah Pride parade—would jump at the chance to say it loud and say it proud.
For the celebrated Mormons Building Bridges group, that’s just too big of a gap for their bridges to cross.
To its credit, MBB is encouraging its members to “love thy neighbor”—including gays. That’s certainly better than, say, rounding up gays into concentration camps, or killing ’em outright, as other religious organizations have recently promoted. And, granted, even such pale emotional support is better than none.
Hosannas and hallelujahs have been thrown at MBB for its presumed bold leadership and tolerance. But let’s not kid ourselves in overanxious gratitude for the least bit of acceptance. In reality, many of the MBB’s faithful fall right in line with the church’s positions on homosexuality, gay rights and same-sex marriage.
MBB founder Erika Munson is quite explicit on this point. “We are pointing everybody toward the church statements on homosexuality on LDS.org,” she said in an interview at the Pride Parade. “We’re not taking a stand on marriage equality one way or the other.”
And just what does LDS.org preach?
It rails against same-sex marriage, of course, promoting marriage as a sacred, eternal bond between a man and a woman, ordained of God. (At least till God changes His mind again, one supposes.)
And as for “Love thy neighbor?” Sure. We’re all children of God. But let thy neighbors fully love each other, too? Sorry, no. Not if they’re LGBT.
When it comes to homosexual love, LDS.org tells us clearly that the New Testament (Romans 1:24-32) considers it “sinful,” and that in “Old Testament times, Moses included in his law that homosexual relations were against God’s law (see Leviticus 20:13).”
That’s God’s own law, remember, which states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
And as for the Christian New Testament? Romans 1:32 tells us, “They which commit such things are worthy of death.”
Remarkably, when asked to rebuke the Leviticus passage cited at LDS.org and to reject the command that gays be killed, Munson repeatedly and explicitly refused to do so.
Apparently, loving thy neighbor doesn’t mean speaking out against killing them.
MBB member Kendall Wilcox readily acknowledged that, when it came to the expression of anti-gay sentiments, Mormons’ “silence and acquiescence in the past has caused damage.” To his credit, Wilcox also stated, clearly and unambiguously, that killing people for having gay sex is wrong in today’s society.
But, when it came to times past, was it right to kill gays then, as Leviticus so clearly states? “Possibly,” Wilcox said. “That’s a much more nuanced conversation.”
What could possibly prevent fair-minded, caring people from endorsing gay marriage and from rebuking the bloody slaughter of gay lovers?
In a word, religion. So says Dan Ellis, president of Salt Lake Valley Atheists, and media contact and vice-president of Atheists of Utah, a group to which I also belong.
People’s “ridiculous religious views” are the “only justification that anybody apparently has for denying gay people the same rights as everybody else to marry who they love,” Ellis says.
For Ellis, no nuance is required: God’s command to kill gays for having sex is wrong now, and it was wrong 2,000 years ago. The prohibition against gay marriage is also wrong. It’s simple. Gay rights equal human rights. Ellis doesn’t have to wrestle with a god who said otherwise—or with prophets, followers or apologists.
Both Lizel Allen, president of Atheists of Utah, and Adam Isom, president of University of Utah’s student group Secular Humanism, Inquiry & Freethought (SHIFT, to which I am the faculty adviser), agree with Ellis. They each express their unequivocal support for gay marriage.
For many atheists, it’s a matter of separating church and state. Marriage is a civil right. The LDS Church has no more right to impose its religious beliefs to deny gays a marriage license than to deny them a driver’s license.
Love conquers hate, some gay-rights advocates would have us believe. And, for many of the atheists, that appears to be true. But when it comes to MBB and the Mormon church, religion still conquers love.
Ms. Munson shared her testimony: The bridge that MBB really wants to build is to LDS.org.
But for Ellis, Allen and Isom, that’s a bridge to nowhere—or, at least, to nowhere good. For the LGBT community to receive the full equality it so rightly deserves, that’s a bridge that needs to be burnt, not built.
Private Eye is off this week. Gregory A. Clark, Ph.D., is an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah, faculty adviser to the student group SHIFT, and member of Atheists of Utah. The views expressed are his own.