Mormons, Opposition to Gay Marriage, and Support for ENDA: Inconsistent?
By Ken K. Gourdin
To help readers understand why a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might support the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which bars employers from firing employees based solely on their sexual orientation, while those supporters, at the same time remain opposed to gay marriage, I’d like to call your attention to something I wrote on the blog previously. This is an excerpt:
I don’t support those who engage in verbal or physical assault directed to those with same-sex orientation. I don’t support discrimination against those with same-sex orientation in schooling, housing, employment, or in any other service or amenity offered to the public. I believe everyone deserves a good education, a decent place to live, and [provided he meets an employer’s non-invidious, bona fide requirements for employment] a good job which is free from these oppressive influences. I believe that, whatever other traits a person may possess (whether those traits are racial, cultural, gender-based, socioeconomic, et cetera) he’s a human being, first and foremost.
. . . I don’t oppose same-sex couples being granted the same rights as their opposite-sex counterparts, such as hospital visitation and healthcare disclosure rights, the right to make end-of-life care decisions for one another, inheritance rights, and so on. . . . [G]enerally, I have a “live-and-let-live” attitude toward those who do things which my religious beliefs proscribe[, and] I don’t demand that people with a different paradigm accept my paradigm, including its moral and religious features.1
Supporting human needs such as the ability financially to support oneself (being able to make a living) simply are a matter of basic human decency, regardless how one might feel about the behavior of his fellow human beings. To illustrate, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why someone would attempt to reinforce the point that acting on homosexual inclinations is morally wrong (a point with which I agree), by, for example, withholding a tip from a waiter and leaving a “preachy” note instead.2 (Not to mention that I’m completely bewildered how these patrons could have deduced that the waiter is gay without resorting to stereotypes, which is something I also don’t support). The fact that this action apparently was undertaken as a misguided attempt to proselytize or to “witness” to the waiter strikes me as the equivalent of an attempt to give someone “Living Water” through a fire hose which is set at full blast.3
At various times in the early history of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, various individuals and groups of people decided that their hatred of Mormons as Mormons justified many despicable acts, including (but, alas, not limited to) murdering, raping, robbing, stealing from, pillaging, and plundering their Mormon neighbors and those neighbors’ property. After being driven from their homes half a dozen times in the preceding fourteen years (not to mention having two of their leaders murdered) Church member William Clayton penned these poignant lines: “We’ll find the place which God for us prepared, far away in the west. Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid. There, the Saints will be blessed. We’ll make the air with music ring, shout praises to our God and King! Above the rest, these words we’ll tell: All is well, all is well!” 4
Given such a history, in my opinion, no Mormon should oppose measures designed to ensure basic human dignity to their fellow human beings (to their brothers and sisters), no matter what other disagreements the two groups might have. Any Mormon who opposes such measures would do well to remember the words of Martin Niemoller:
In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.5
1. Ken K. Gourdin (May 29, 2013) “Telling Managers What to Say at the DOJ” (Blog post), accessed on line at http://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/telling-managers-what-to-say-at-the-doj/ on November 12, 2013.
2. Lindsay Jolivet (October 25, 2013) “Homophobic customers leave anti-gay note in lieu [of] tip for waiter,” Yahoo! News, accessed on line at the following address on November 12, 2013: http://www.news.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-buzz/homophobic-customers-leave-anti-gay-note-lieu-tip-184104528.html.
3. See the King James Bible (1611) John 4:13-14.
4. William Clayton (1846), “Come, Come, Ye Saints” in Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985) no. 30, accessed on line at https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/come-come-ye-saints?lang=eng on November 12, 2013.
5. Philip Niemoller (circa 1946), “First They Came,” accessed on line at http://www.en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Niem%C3%B6ller on November 12, 2013 (original paragraphing altered).