Question: Is it hypocritical for Mormons to oppose same-sex marriage, when the Church itself practiced plural marriage?

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Question: Is it hypocritical for Mormons to oppose same-sex marriage, when the Church itself practiced plural marriage?

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage

Critics of Mormonism argue that it is hypocritical for the LDS Church to oppose same-sex marriage, when the Church itself had an alternative form of marriage.

The Church supports all of the rights for same-sex couples that they sought for polygamous families plus some. Same-sex marriage is doing more than extending rights to same-sex couples, but is setting a new standard that excludes people with same-sex attraction who are living the gospel standards. The Church never sought to force polygamy on other people, yet the Supreme Courts and many gay right organizations are seeking to take away rights from people who do not live up to the new standards.

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Anti-polygamy laws did not allow men to live with their wives. Men were arrested for living in the homes where their children lived so that they could fulfill their parental responsibiliies. However, even where laws do not allow for same-sex marriage, same-sex couples may form a family and live together. They may even choose to hold their own "marriage" ceremony and introduce each other as husband or wife.

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others. The church never sought for polygamy to be held up as a national standard, requiring all citizens to accept a moral equivalence between polygamy and monogamy. In fact, the Church has already championed rights for people with same-sex attractions that go beyond any right they ever sought for themselves in their practice of polygamy. The right to set a new standard for marriage that would apply to the rest of the United States was not a right that the Church sought for polygamous families. It should not be a right that same-sex couples should seek for themselves.

Different levels of rights

Often, when we talk about rights, different kinds of rights get lumped together into one group. Everyone knows that humans have certain inalienable rights, but we often don't discuss what happens when those rights conflict. There are several different kinds of rights associated with sexual practices.

One basic right is the right to practice your desired sexual relationship. In most modern societies, any number or gender of consenting adults can usually practice their desired relationship without fear of legal retribution. But, even in the most liberal societies, this right is generally tempered by the right of other people to disagree about the morality of that relationship.

Another right is the right to legal protection from discrimination. This would include laws that would penalize people for treating you differently because of your sexual practices. For example, in most countries, it is illegal to treat an inter-racial couple or a same-sex couple differently when it comes to housing or employment. The church has been a strong supporter of protection against discrimination in housing and employment for people with same-sex attraction, including same-sex couples.

Another set of rights includes government help in maintaining your family. This would include legal recognition of your relationship and associated rights such as visitation rights. It may also help subsidize the cost of your relationships, through tax breaks and other benefits. Some modern societies have extended these rights to same-sex couples, and the church has publicly stated that they do not oppose these rights.

A final right that might be discussed is to have your government adopt your sexual relationship as a model, requiring it to be taught in schools as the moral equivalent of traditional marriage. The church is strongly opposed to this infringement of their religious right to determine their own standards of sexual morality according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Rights associated with plural marriage

When the church supported plural marriage, they were seeking for that most basic of rights - the right to practice their religion. They were not seeking for the United States to recognize their plural marriages, to subsidize their relationships with tax breaks, or to force all citizens to accept it as the moral equivalent of their own monogamous traditions. They only sought to be left to practice their religion in peace.

But the federal government would not allow them even this most basic of rights. Husbands were forcibly separated from their wives and children. Men who tried to sneak into their homes to provide food for their families were arrested, if they were caught. Some moved to other countries so they could continue to be with their families.

Rights for same-sex couples

There are many rights that same-sex couples do not have. The church has publicly supported many rights and have pressed for changes in legal system to afford these rights to same-sex couples. The rights that the church supports for same-sex couples goes BEYOND any right that they have ever sought for polygamous families.

The Church has no problem with people living life as they see fit when it doesn't interfere with other rights. However, as is often the case, when some rights expand, others diminish. For example, while supporting the rights of people with same-sex attraction to be free from discrimination in employment and housing, the church was in essence restricting the rights of landlords to choose their tenants and employers to choose their employees.

Many people think legalizing same-sex marriage is a necessary step to ensure that same-sex couples have the rights they need to protect their families from discrimination. They do not understand why they Church would be opposed to these rights. As stated earlier, the Church is not opposed to these rights, but adopting same-sex marriage as a national standard equivalent to opposite-sex marriage goes beyond simply living peacefully with those who choose to live a different standard. It is disregarding the old standard and replacing it with a new standard. This will have a detrimental effect on those who do not live up to the new standard.

New standard being introduced with same-sex marriage

The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is setting a dangerous standard of what is expected for people with same-sex attractions. It used to be that society expected people with same-sex attraction to get married to people of the opposite-sex. This type of expectation can cause damage for people with same-sex attraction who are not ready for marriage, and has been opposed by the Church for decades. (See Same-sex attraction/Marriage as therapy

Now, a new expectation is beginning to form that people with same-sex attraction can't have a fulfilling and faithful marriage with someone of the opposite sex and that they must marry someone of the same sex. Expectations of any sort are dangerous and hurt people who do not meet those expectations. About half of faithful members of the Church with same-sex attraction are heterosexually married, and many others have found fulfillment in celibacy. The new standard being adopted by several courts does not have room for these faithful members.

For example, the California Supreme Court ruled that, for people with same-sex attraction, their "choice of a life partner will, by definition, be a person of the same sex", and that was what their "true identity" should be. Later, Judge Walker ruled that the marriages of many members of the church with same-sex attraction was "unrealistic". The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that these relationships were "unappealing" and was "no right at all".

While many same-sex marriage supporters do not wish to harm those who follow the law of chastity, many major organizations have actively sought to take away rights from those people who do not live up to the new standard. For example, the Human Rights Campaign has actively opposed anti-discrimination employment rights for gay people who do not have gay sex.[1] It is ironic that while the Church has been actively lobbying to extend employment rights for all LGBT people, the Human Rights Campaign has worked and has succeeded in taking away those exact same rights from LGBT people who live Church standards.

By the Supreme Courts encoding this new standard into law, people with same-sex attraction who do not live up to the standard can be discriminated against in the private sector. For example, Apple recently removed an app from its iTune collection because the organization who put it up was composed of gay Christians who lived the law of chastity. A spokesperson for Apple explained that having an app for gay people who live the law of chastity "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people". [2][3][4] There is a difference between seeking for the right to live an alternative lifestyle and taking away rights from those who do not choose your lifestyle because you find it "offensive". It is interesting to note this organization has made a statement supporting people's right to choose same-sex relationships.[5]

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