Proposition 8, a hot-button issue on the upcoming California ballot, is one the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is actively engaged in. Letters have been sent out to Mormon congregations, encouraging members to actively do all they can to urge the passing of this piece of legislation, which, as I understand, amends the California constitution to recognize only marriage between a man and woman.
Personally, I would like the government out of marriage. I know this for some is fairyland, as government, for at least tax reasons, is inextricably entwined with marriage partners (and has been for decades) in what I consider to be invasive ways.
From this perspective, supporting Proposition 8 is surely an act of faith. But there are rational reasons for me to support this expansion of government which I find consistent with my principles. The problem with inaction? Positive Rights.
Traditionally, Lockean government existed to protect individual negative property rights: my neighbor has no right to assault me, for instance, or steal my stuff, to use technical terms. My rights are protected by government.
Positive rights are a different matter entirely. Instead of the right to be protected from something, positive rights are the right to receive something, like health care, a “living wage”, home ownership, and the like. This necessitates something being confiscated from someone else and given to you. It is this mindset of entitlement which concerns me most about this proposition.
Implications of positive rights as applied to proposition 8 to me include messy litigation cases. All it takes is one or two high profile lawsuits and the consequences could become very difficult. These could tie up precious tithing money as the Church defends itself from accusations of discrimination. They could result in LDS Bishops being unable to perform marriages to heterosexual couples only. I see even parts of temple worship, like the sealing ordinance, could be at risk, perhaps not in the immediate future, but down the road. I could see where, in the not-too-distant future, excluding practicing homosexuals from ordinances could be considered discriminatory. These scenarios seem uncomfortably plausible and it would pain me to see the Church fight these type of unnecessary and destructive battles.
And so I urge anyone residing in California to support a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman, not to enlarge the powers of the state, but to prevent unwanted encroachments on private religious organizations.
By the way, for those interested, the Church posted an official commentary called “The Divine Institution of Marriage” on its website, which is quite interesting.