Friday, November 6, 2015

"Family First" Includes Same-Sex Families: Why the LDS Church Updated Its Policies Concerning Same-Sex Marriage

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an ally of the LGBTQ community and have long-supported their right to equal protections under the law. So you can imagine my response when I read that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints updated their policy concerning the definitions of apostasy (and includes the possibility of excommunication) to include individuals who are in a same-sex marriage. It also added a policy concerning children of parents who are in a same-sex cohabitation or marriage that requires two things in order for a child to become baptized:
  1. The child "accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage," and 
  2. The child must be "of legal age" and not living "with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."
I was stunned. 

The Church had been making so many steps forward in building bridges with the LGBTQ community that this updated policy would seem to many to be a step back. And honestly, I don't think it's going to do a lot of PR good.

So, needless to say, it's been a rough night for many.

I wasn't surprised about the policy concerning those in a same-sex marriage. Church doctrine and our belief concerning life after death and the possibility of raising eternal families would not be possible for those in a same-sex marriage. While I don't love the idea of excommunication, assuming that is what the disciplinary action would lead to, I imagine its reasons for being considered apostasy is a means of clarifying the Church's position that it will not perform same-sex marriages, of protecting the Church's right to perform religious sacraments according to its own beliefs as protected by the first amendment. I support the Church's right to perform their religious sacraments the same way that I support any Church's right to perform theirs, and I will continue to defend any Church's rights to perform the marriages that they believe God ordains, including same-sex marriages.

For me as well as many others, it's the second policy change that has left me feeling the most ... lost. These are children we're talking about here.

I'm a logical person. I try to avoid reacting emotionally. I can't deny that my heart sunk when I read the news, but before I allowed myself to form an opinion about it, I wanted to try to understand it.

So, taking a step back to look at it logically, we should compare it to other instances where children are baptized into the church without their parents being members - which happens regularly. It is not uncommon to baptize children whose parents aren't abiding by our precepts. Whether the family is engaged in activities of which we disprove (like drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex outside of marriage) or are simply of a different faith, we have welcomed them.

Except that there is a catch:

  1. All biological parents of the child must approve of their baptism, and 
  2. The child, as part of their baptismal interview, must state that they agree with all of the church's teachings, including those with which their parents might be engaged.
For example, children of divorced parents who want to be baptized must have the approval of both parents in order to be baptized, and for many of them, that approval has been denied. In that event, the children must wait until they are no longer minors and are legally on their own in order to be baptized. 

Why is this policy in place?

The Supreme Court has ruled many times that parents have a "fundamental right" to raise their children as they wish. Private organizations, like the Church, that interfere with how parents wish to raise their children are in violation of this law. Additionally, our Church has a phrase that we hear all the time:

Family First

Not Church first. Family First. Including same-sex families.

Remember: In order for a child to be baptized who wishes to the join the church, they must state that they agree with the Church's teachings that may go against what their parents might be engaged in. If that behavior is a same-sex marriage, then the Church would be interfering with the fundamental right of the parent to raise their children as it would directly contradict their family structure, and it would require a child to turn their backs on their parents. It would literally be tearing a family apart.

That would be reprehensible. 

The only thing additional requirement for children of those in a same-sex marriage is that the children must not be living with their parents, and this is understandable for the same reasons.

Once the child is a legal adult, living on their own, they are free to make the choice to be baptized or not. They must then state that they agree with the Church's policy that same-sex marriage is not the Lord's way, but as they are not living with their parents and as they are legal adults, this would be no different than any adult child doing something that their parents disapprove of, like changing political parties, leaving the church of their parents, dropping out of college, or moving across the world. Families can be difficult; we all know that. This policy is just trying to minimize family stress.

So in the light of the new day, I get it.

Am I happy about it?

That's a different question. Because while I understand the reasons behind it - the importance of maintaining family unity and avoiding legal ramifications - how many children were planning to be baptized soon? How many were hoping to receive their priesthood ordinations? How many are now going to have to wait to receive their patriarchal blessings?

We just have to remind ourselves: All of these wonderful things will happen; they may just take a little bit longer, and we can be sad about that.

But there are other repercussions to consider as well. How many members of the LGBTQ community feel - once again - like they are being excluded? Like they aren't loved? As though their children are unworthy or evil? Even if the policy change is done in order to protect LGBTQ families, I know many will feel unloved and unwanted.

But I also know this:

I welcome you - into my church, into my home, and into my arms. 

The world gets complicated, but my acceptance of you is not. I will continue to fight for your legal protections. I will continue to stand by you as you live your life and your beliefs. I will continue to reach out to you with nothing but love.

That is a promise.

No comments:

Post a Comment