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"Hi, my name is Brad Carmack, calling on behalf of Protect Marriage Maine. Will you vote to maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman?"
This was my phone pitch in October of 2009. Calling from Provo, I was a volunteer in the effort to persuade Maine voters to oppose same-sex marriage. The following month the Maine referendum prevailed by 53 percent to 47 percent. Victory!
Now it's coming up on 2 1/2 years since my anti-same-sex marriage activism and I find myself on the opposite side of the fence. During my last year at Brigham Young University, I risked my diplomas (MPA and JD) by writing and openly distributing a book about same-sex marriage and homosexuality entitled Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student's Perspective.
As I wrote I discovered the science behind sexual orientation, the social arguments for and against same-sex marriage, and the heart-wrenching stories of gay Mormons. This experience, along with some soul-searching and prayer, eventually convinced me to support same-sex marriage.
Mormonism is unequivocally pro-family. So is same-sex marriage. This is the strongest reason Mormonism can abide gay marriage. To my surprise, I've learned that same-sex couples can and do make wonderful parents.
Homosexual orientation is about more than lust; it's about companionship, emotional intimacy and romance. Just like heterosexual orientation. The gay couples I know experience the same troubles and joys as my opposite-sex friends. Same-sex couples (and their children) stand to gain from the mutual caretaking, community support, and stabilizing effects of marriage. Risky mixed-orientation marriages (such as a gay man and a straight woman) and lifelong celibacy threaten healthy marriage more than do monogamous same-sex partnerships.
I also discovered that there is room within LDS theology for embracing gay families. Yes, I know the church vigorously opposed same-sex marriage in Hawaii, Alaska and California. Yes, many cite the church's "Family Proclamation" and the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions as clear condemnation of all homosexual behavior. However, the church's law of chastity has always been explicitly tied to legal marriage in which case a monogamous, legally married LDS same-sex couple in Massachusetts is already abiding the law of chastity.
What about scripture? We have no record of Jesus condemning homosexuality during His ministry. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are silent about same-sex relationships. As many scholars have persuasively argued, the five or so Bible verses frequently referenced do not condemn homosexual conduct per se.
The "Family Proclamation" is not doctrine (compare it to both Official Declarations, which were voted on by general church membership), and even if it were, it does not provide an applicable test for discerning one's spiritual sex (witness intersex persons).
I believe this is the moral issue of my LDS generation. After all, it is my (mostly straight) generation that will become the parents of tomorrow's gay and lesbian children. My peers and I are fiercely committed to building a world where a robust opportunity for a healthy marriage is not limited to our straight children.
I pray for the day when more Mormons come to see the value of same-sex relationships, and seek to match an institution to the reality of homosexual orientation that will yield the same personal and societal benefits that flow from matching heterosexual marriage to heterosexual orientation.
Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Can we make a Sabbath marriage that is made for mankind gay/lesbian mankind?
As Latter-day Saints, I for one believe that we can. And I hope that we will.
Brad Carmack is an attorney and lives in Phoenix, where he is an active member of the LDS Church.