Open Letter to HRC and NOM

on 01 May 2009

I am sick and tired of this elitist attitude that everyone surrounding the Gay Marriage debate has. And after re-reading Empire by Orson Scott Card and reading his afterword in which he describes how a civil war could easily break out due to the extreme polarization of the Left and the Right, I am here to call out both sides.

First some brief background. My name is David Baker, I am 20 years old, I am Gay and I am Mormon. I feel that I am in a very good position to understand both sides of this issue because of these two facts. Being Gay I want equality, but being Mormon I understand the need and desire for protections from persecution. I intend to systematically offer a solution to this issue that is a compromise much like our founding fathers did at the constitutional convention. Each side might think I am crazy or that I am trying to deteriorate their position but lets face reality, no matter how strong you think your stance is you are not going to win… either side. If Gay marriage advocates get all that they want then the religious advocates will resist at every turn, protesting, seeking reform and it is quite possible that a civil war could break out. If religious advocates get everything they want, there will most likely be protests and boycotts and pickets as attempts to achieve their goals. So why can we not come together?

I am addressing this to the two largest groups for each side but they are intended for both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

Human Rights Campaign:

The Human Rights Campaign mission statement states

HRC seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans through innovative advocacy, education and outreach programs.”
Breaking this down and stripping away the rhetoric it appears that you are advocating for what you dub equality in the following:
1. Workplace equality
2. Family/Marriage equality
3. Public support of this equality through education

These seem to be admirable goals, an attempt to ensure the fair treatment of gays and lesbians. This must stem out of the fears and oppression of the Stonewall era and the desire to be protected from hate crimes of force or discrimination. Marriage equality is a main goal, perhaps the most important, because it signifies legal protections from this harm that can invade your life and wreak havoc in the event of a death or injury of one of the unwed partners. These goals are wonderful and the fears are all too legitimate, but lets look at the National Organization for Marriage’s side and see if we can see any similarities.

National Organization for Marriage:

The National Organization for Marriage has no clear mission statement but they do have talking points. Number 4 especially “What’s the harm from [Same-Sex Marriage]? ‘How can Adam and Steve hurt your marriage?’” provides an accurate description of their fears and in a sense their goals.

A: “Who gets harmed? The people of this state who lose our right to define marriage as the union of husband and wife, that’s who. That is just not right.”

A: “If courts rule that same-sex marriage is a civil right, then, people like you and me who believe children need moms and dads will be treated like bigots and racists.”

“Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage."

“Public schools will teach young children that two men being intimate are just the same as a husband and wife, even when it comes to raising kids.”

“When the idea that children need moms and dads get legally stigmatized as bigotry, the job of parents and faith communities trying to transmit a marriage culture to their kids is going to get a lot harder.”

“One thing is for sure: The people of this state will lose our right to keep marriage as the union of a husband and wife. That’s not right.”
After breaking these and the points from the Gathering Storm commercial down and stripping away the rhetoric I have come to a few key points and fears that same-sex marriage increases.

1. Gay marriage will take away your right to define marriage as you see it.
2. That you will be persecuted for your beliefs concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage
3. Loss of tax exempt status and use of public lands
4. Children will be indoctrinated in school with the belief that same-sex marriage is ok
5. In a world where same-sex marriage is legalized the ability for you to teach your children your beliefs will be increasingly difficult
6. Jobs will be on the line because of your religious views
7. Same-sex couples are seeking to change the way you live

These fears are understandable and given my heritage as a Mormon I can understand the fear of persecution for your religious beliefs as the world around you changes. You fear that you will be forced by the government to go against your faith, that you will be ostracized from the community because of your religion and what you want is for things to stay the same as they were 5 years ago before Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage and barring that, at least keep the status quo where it is at and allow same-sex couples to cohabitate but not marry.

Now while I could make obvious attacks at both statements pointing out that HRC isn’t about universal equality because of their views on the bigoted nature of religious beliefs that disagree with their agenda. Or by asking NOM why their right to keep marriage as it is defined is more important than my right to change it. But that would drive the wedge farther between the two groups instead of trying to bring you together.

Looking at both sets of fears I can see an obvious similarity. HRC fears any continuation of the Stonewall era discrimination and oppression and NOM fears any oppression or being labeled and treated as bigots for their religious beliefs. Shouldn’t this speak volumes to both of you? You both are acting out of fear of the same thing and your actions are reinforcing those fears in the other group.

What we can do about this wedge

HRC, would it really be so bad to take a step towards the middle and offer to ease the fears of the religious community that you have lived with most of your life and understand and offer an olive branch, a peaceful solution? Would it be that difficult to advocate for workplace equality with protections built in for religious beliefs however backward you might see them to be? Would it be that difficult to allow doctors the right to refuse non-lifesaving treatment based off of their religious preference? Or how about allowing them to keep their tax-exempt status even on lands of public use because of their religious convictions? Is there really a need to enforce education in lower elementary grades concerning homosexuality, cant it wait until 5th and 6th grade maturation and allow parents the option of a traditional concept of marriage versus a contemporary view?

NOM would it really be so harmful to step down off of your position of only traditional marriage for people who do not hold the same religious beliefs as you, while continuing to be able to practice and teach your religious views? Would it be difficult to try to bring everyone together around a working solution that provides equal protections to both homosexuals and religious peoples? Would it be so painful to recognize one another’s fears and work together from preventing both? Granted neither side would get everything they wanted, but does any side in any debate ever truly gain all they want?

Granted I am merely a 20 year-old college graduate, perhaps I am naive and this vision of cooperation is only achievable by the great men who founded this nation but I cannot help but have hope. Hope that the rhetoric will decrease and the tensions lessen as we work together. Perhaps this is a false hope and this is an unattainable goal but just as I seek to find balance in my life with two nearly irreconcilable characteristics that shape and define my life, I seek to find balance and peace in this debate. Both sides are free to argue that they are being reasonable, that it is the other sides fault, but both sides are at fault and I can not help but see this as going to the point that Dr. Seuss predicted in his Butter Battle Book, a point of near war or war simply over two different views of how things work. After all, can’t we just get along?

3 comments:

Chedner said...

I agree with a lot of what you've written. The biggest point I would critique is:

Is there really a need to enforce education in lower elementary grades concerning homosexualityIf they were teaching about homosexuality in the sexual aspect of things, I would agree with this.

However, as far as I am aware, what is taught is merely the existence of families headed by gay couples and that one should treat these families with respect. It's really no different than, say, a private Christian school teaching about Islam -- teaching that one should respect those who hold such religious beliefs even though one believes that it is vital to take upon oneself the name of Christ.

To try to keep children ignorant of the existence of different beliefs... well, that's really not condonable or praiseworthy in my book. In fact, I would say it's quite cowardly and insecure.

But as far as things such as allowing doctors who provide supra-health benefits the right to refuse service to anyone, I support such 100%.

Aly said...

WOW David. This is excellent! I agree with everything you've said. You're not alone in thinking that both sides are in the wrong. I'm so proud of you for who you are and what you do. It takes some serious maturity to resist this polarization that we seem to be roped into and- dare I say it?- think for yourself.. Brilliant Mr. Baker. Absolutely brilliant.

El Genio said...

These are interesting ideas. Some states are already trying to make compromises similar to what you mentioned here. California's 2010 equality initiative has specific exemptions for schools and churches. The LA Times also had an article today on several measures passed by other states to try and assuage these fears. My personal belief is that these "fears" are really just excuses, and even if specific exemptions are made people will still fight against gay marriage. I suppose the only way to find out for sure is to call their bluff.

Either way, in 50 or so years this whole issue is going to be more or less resolved.

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