Since the passage of Proposition 8 in California, there have been several protests aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These protests are of course understandable. California Latter-day Saints did, after all, play a formidable role in donations and phone calling in support of the measure. This participation was formally encouraged by the general leaders of the Church in Salt Lake City. Considering how big of a deal this is for so many same-sex couples and others in support of same-sex marriage, these protests are inevitable and I welcome this exercise of free speech.

What I disagree with, however, is the “stop the hate (H8)” rhetoric. As if everyone in favor of Prop 8 is hateful and bigoted. Especially Mormons. This message is coming off to be awfully disingenuous and overly dramatic, and also sidesteps the major issues that need to be debated. Just because someone is not in favor of gay marriage does not mean they are hateful. Nor does it mean they are bigoted. They simply disagree with you, in terms of what should count for marriage.

I recognize that there certainly are hateful people. I have seen hate on both sides. Still, I think that most supporters and opponents of Prop 8 do not hate each other nor are they bigoted. For this reason, I hope that we can extend the same-sex marriage debate to a higher plane.

I fully recognize that there have been a lot of stupid arguments and accusations made on both sides of the debate. You’re not going to hear me talk about what social science research has shown (a hopeless argument on both sides, if you ask me, and one that ought to be irrelevant to civil rights concerns). I hope that both sides can recognize, though, that hate does not justify hate. If the message of same-sex marriage advocates really is “what the world needs now is love sweet love,” then I would hope that they would stop making demons out of those who disagree with them. In fact, Barack Obama (who I voted for, as well as a whole lot of Prop 8 supporters) is a great example in this regard — Obama would advocate for us speaking about the issues and not resorting to name calling.

In addition to avoiding demonizing, I would hope that people on both sides will drop their straw man fallacies. I want to focus in this post on a few straw man arguments that are continually made by Prop 8 protesters. I welcome respectful dialogue about these issues — and I will exercise my right to discriminate against straw man arguments and ad hominen attacks (from both sides).

My major contention is that many Prop 8 protesters want to have an “equality for all” rhetoric but continue to eat a marriage philosophy that inherently discriminates.

Let’s be clear that almost everyone is in favor of discrimination in terms of marriage. I haven’t ran into a lot of people who will admit being in favor of siblings marrying, for example. Or even cousins marrying. Or groups of three or more. (I’ll simply set adult-minor relationships aside.)

Here are my questions to opponents of Prop 8: Is it conceivable that two siblings could love each other and want to marry? Is it conceivable that their love is just as genuine as the love between two gays or lesbians? If so, then does it mean that an opposition to their being legally married is hateful and bigoted?

You might say, of course, that this example is too extreme — how many siblings want to marry each other? But prevalence is irrelevant in regards to civil rights arguments (which Prop 8 opponents are making). Moreover, I could make the same argument for polygamous relationships, which are quite prevalent.

You might argue that such relationships are unnatural or a crime, or even question that such love could genuinely exist. Here, though, you would be guilty of the same kind of judgments that have been made throughout the years towards lesbian and gay relationships. Would this make you a bigot? Bigotry does not depend on the existence of clearly identified and politically dexterous groups of people.

You might argue that a sibling-sibling marriage is clearly not good for society — you could perhaps make an argument concerning birth defects. Again, these arguments are irrelevant to civil rights concerns. Moreover, these arguments do not pertain to same-sex sibling partners or to those who are unable or unwilling to have biological children (an argument that gays and lesbians ought to be sensitive to).

Or, perhaps, you might argue that we ought not discriminate against two siblings who want to marry. If this is the case, then this betrays the fact that there is much more behind the Prop 8 debate then discrimination towards same-sex relationships. Rather, it is a question of whether there ought to be discrimination at all in terms of marriage. If Prop 8 protesters think there should not be any discrimination whatsoever, then they are being disingenuous about their desire to radically change the meaning of marriage — to the point that it becomes nothing more than a social contract between two or more adults who want to live with each other for any reason.

The merits of this radical change, I would argue, are certainly worthy of debate. Perhaps our nation will decide to go down this path. But it’s not a civil rights debate. Rather, it is a debate about the fundamental meaning of marriage — and its consequences certainly will impact everyone. I see these potential consequences, not hate or bigotry, as a reason for why many are in support of Prop 8. They believe that this fundamental change of marriage will destroy the family as we know it. It might not harm current families, but it certainly will change the way many of our children and their children view what marriage is. Prop 8 opponents might argue that these issues will have to be taken one step at a time. This may be true, but it is naive to think that voters are not going to be thinking down the road.

If opponents of Prop 8 think that the legalization of same-sex marriage will not change marriage in this way, then that is an argument I welcome them to engage me with. And not only me and other Mormons — but other groups of people like many African-Americans and Hispanics (who, unlike Mormons, it is not politically correct to make scapegoats out of).

Hopefully we can have this debate without demonizing each other.

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