Thomas Monson, the President and Prophet of the Mormon church and a Utah resident, recently directed members to donate their "means and time" in support of a constitutional amendment in California that nullifies same-sex marriages because "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and "the church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal." In doing so, he ignores important constitutional principles of equal protection and crosses the line separating matters of church and state.
The establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from adopting the doctrine of one religion over another. It was written as a prohibition of sorts to the establishment of the Church of England as the official religion in the colonies and has been broadly interpreted as creating a separation of church and state. The California Constitution is similar, guaranteeing the "free exercise and engagement of religion without discrimination or preference."
While many religious organizations, including the Mormon church, filed briefs before the California Supreme Court stressing the importance to them of prohibiting same-sex marriages, our Court decided that the state's refusal to permit these marriages "impinges upon the fundamental interest of same-sex couples in having their official family relationship accorded dignity and respect equal to that conferred upon the family relationship of opposite-sex couples." In a nutshell, the Court determined that the various religions in our state could define marriage for their congregations however they saw fit, but the state could not discriminate against same-sex couples by denying their fundamental right to marry.
In a democracy that protects free speech, Mr. Monson has every right to speak his mind, and as an important church leader, he must advise his congregation on key moral issues. However, directing members to impose their religious views of marriage through a constitutional amendment on other, non-believers, misses the critical benefit of living in a state that treats all citizens equally and maintains a separation from organized religion.
Mr. Monson should consider what happens to a pluralistic society when these principles are not respected. The historic and modern examples with their disastrous consequences are numerous. As Mr. Monson knows, Mormons too have been subject to persecution and bigotry stemming from the religious intolerance of others. Perhaps at times they still are. Regardless, we, as believers or not, straight or gay, should remember that it wasn't long ago that polygamy and racial discrimination were unequivocally a part of this church's teachings and position; the prohibition on the consumption of alcohol still is.
About G. Carlos
Causes G. Carlos Smith Supports
San Francisco Aids Foundation
Friends of Music at Stanford
National Center for Lesbian Rights
Children's Health Council