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“Allowing People the Freedom to Plant Their Spiritual Roots”

Attorney John W. Mackay is one of many Latter-day Saints who believe in marriage equality
Attorney John W. Mackay is one of many Latter-day Saints who believe in marriage equality

On the Eve of Supreme Court Debate on Prop 8, a Growing Number of Mormons Are Coming Out in Support of Marriage Equality

by Hugo Salinas

Three weeks from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Prop 8. Lawyers working for the LDS Church recently filed an amicus brief restating arguments against marriage equality, yet none of those arguments changes the reality of the historic time we live in: Today, a record 61 percent of Californians support marriage equality, and a majority of young Americans also support same-sex marriage. Do you know what that means? Even if the Supreme Court were to rule against marriage equality, LDS leaders are fighting a cause that they already lost in the court of public opinion.

For me, nothing is more hopeful than what I see at the grassroots: A growing number of Latter-day Saints who support equality not despite their religious beliefs, but because of them. Many Mormons today find inspiration in LDS teachings about justice and equality. To paraphrase a scripture we all learned in seminary, many Latter-day Saints want to “bring to pass much righteousness,” “do many things of their own free will,” and “be anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Not merely engaged, but anxiously engaged in good cause!

There are many examples of this dramatic move—from the grassroots organization Mormons for Equality to prominent Latter-day Saints like Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Jon Huntsman. Morris A. Thurston, a Mormon lawyer from California, recently wrote a critique of the Church’s amicus brief in which he compares some of the arguments the LDS Church is making for Prop 8 to the kind of discrimination that once banned interracial marriage. Kevin Kloosterman, who until last year served as an LDS bishop, joined a coalition of clergy and faith leaders on a press conference in support marriage equality in Illinois. Spencer Clark, executive director of Mormons for Equality, joined Affirmation leaders in a response to the LDS brief by saying, “I personally know and admire many loving gay families and find it unconscionable for them to be treated any differently under the law than I myself would like to be treated and I invite everyone to get to know some of these families, who are our neighbors and fellow citizens.”

The most recent of these Mormon voices calling for equality is John W. Mackay, an LDS lawyer from Utah who co-authored a 52-page amicus brief in support of marriage equality. “In places like Utah, there is a system of laws that chips away at hope and dignity at every step in the life of a gay man or lesbian woman,” Mackay told LDS author Joanna Brooks. “And to me, that was compelling enough, but it was also compelling to me that those are the same spiritual principles I identify within my Mormon faith. We care about human dignity and potential; we care about allowing people the freedom to plant their spiritual roots.”

I want to invite you to think about the historic moment we live in—a time when a majority of Americans no longer believe that same-sex marriage is a curse, but a blessing; not a threat to society, but one of its strengths. At this time, we join people of all faiths and stripes who believe, just like we do, that governments must make and administer laws “for the good and safety of society” (D&C 134:1) and that “happiness is the object and design of our existence” (Joseph Smith, April 1842).

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2019 Affirmation International Conference

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