Today's legal and religious conflict over same-sex marriage reminds me of a novel I wrote half a century ago. The novel was about a Mormon man who fell in love with an African-American woman. It was called Sins of the Fathers.
Both the man and the woman had the mistakes of their "fathers" visited upon them. At that time, most states outlawed interracial marriage, and the LDS Church did not sanction "mixed" marriages.
My fictional characters struggled toward tragedy as they confronted the internal conflict between the sins of their fathers and the values of their fathers.
My novel took place in 1955. Utah repealed anti-miscegenation laws in 1963, the Supreme Court declared all such laws unconstitutional in 1967, and the LDS Church reversed its position in 1978.
Today, we face similar challenges with regard to same-sex attraction and marriage. Many states outlaw it. Some churches, including the LDS Church, oppose it. And the Supreme Court will soon rule on whether the Constitution allows the nation to restrict marriage to "one man and one woman."
Conditions today are not much different from when the nation and its people rejected the sins of the fathers with regard to racial discrimination.
The same will happen with restrictions against same-sex marriage. Traditional values will win out over traditional prejudices. Mistaken attitudes will be recognized for what they are – sins of the fathers.
The characters in my novel were forced to develop their love in secret, but that did not make love any less compelling. The story took place in the South, where her southern culture made it impossible for the two of them to be seen together. And his Utah heritage provided deeply personal barriers for both of them.
Around my fictional characters, the world was changing. More and more states repealed inter-racial marriage laws. World travel increased diversity throughout the country. Long-held prejudices crumbled, even while public opinion continued to reject racial mixing.
And the military played a larger role in facilitating change than most realized. First, the services were integrated. Second, the draft placed draftees in racially mixed relationships they would never have known in civilian life. Third, foreign nations where U.S. forces served were less prejudicial than our own. Fourth, the military and its industrial infrastructure provided civilian jobs with minimal wage discrimination, helping move restricted groups into the middle class.
Today, similar things are happening with regard to sexual orientation. No matter how strong public opinion may be, it's only a matter of time until same-sex marriage is accepted as universally as interracial marriage is.
The question is no longer whether it will happen, but how long it will take for this generation to reject attitudinal sins. As in the past, finding answers to difficult questions creates roadblocks. But the roadblocks will fall, because it's the right thing to do.
Clearly, we have not completely overcome the sin of racial prejudice, but we have come a long way. And we are headed in the right direction to reject the sin of homophobia.
I wrote Sins of the Fathers, not because I wanted to change the world, but because I wanted to understand myself. I gave my fictional characters substance in my non-fictional reality. They could not survive in my world, and that made my world evil.
Today's prejudice is against some forms of sexual orientation.
It is no less evil. And it, too, must be rejected.
G. Donald Gale has written about the human condition for six decades.