We went walking the precincts again today in support of proposition 8. The turnout was pretty good. We probably had two or three times the number of people show up today as we did two weeks ago. As can be expected on a Saturday morning in Camarillo, nobody was home in about half the houses we visited. They were probably out at a soccer game with their family.
Of those we spoke with, about half had not heard of the proposition and did not seem to mind learning a little about it. That’s all we’re trying to do at this point – inform voters about the proposed state constitutional amendment. The other half who had heard about it were in favor and said they would probably vote yes or were “open” and had not yet decided.
I personally did not encounter anyone on the streets that I visited who was opposed to the amendment. Again, I think that’s a reflection of the demographics of this sleepy little town, a bedroom community with a lot of small high tech businesses. The mixture of registered voters was equally Republican and Democrat with a few “other” in the mix.
Poll numbers don’t seem right
I noted that the most recent poll numbers from the Public Policy Institute of California don’t reflect my experience in walking the precincts. They cite only 40% as being in favor of the amendment and 52% opposed. Although the Public Policy Institute is located in San Francisco, they claim that the survey was conducted statewide, by telephone, between August 12th and 19th.
The wording of the proposed amendment was recently changed by the State Attorney General to read that a yes vote means that you are eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry. I don’t see it that way. When we walk the precincts we present the yes vote as being in favor of restoring the traditional definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
In 2000, 61% of the people in California voted that marriage is defined as only between a man and a woman. The ruling was overturned earlier this year by four judges. To me, the right of same sex couples to marry was not granted by the people of the state, but by four judges. So if the amendment is defeated this time, we will then know the will of the majority of the people.
Only Mormons walking the precincts
I keep reading that others in the coalition are supposed to be joining us as we go walking door to door but from what I have seen, it is only the Mormons who are actively participating in this part of the campaign. I guess that’s because we have a lot of experience in going door to door. But the turnout today included a lot of couples and individuals who had never been missionaries.
When I returned home from the morning’s activities my son was visiting and saw the materials I had been handing out. He said, “So you’ve been out trying to take away the rights of the gays?” Trying to set the record straight I said, “No, just trying to let the people know about the issue so they can vote on it. We want to restore the legal definition of marriage in California.”
He didn’t buy it. He said, “Why do you Mormons hate the gays?” I restrained my desire to defend what we are doing and let it slide while the conversation went to other subjects. As he was leaving I asked, “Do people think that Mormons hate gays?” He replied, “You guys have a big problem in this area and have had for a long time.” That gave me something to think about.
Perception is reality
Now our son knows that his parents don’t hate gays. Carol and I have both worked with people who identify themselves as homosexual. We don’t shun them. We don’t avoid them. And we are grateful that he is accepting of gay people as well. His point was that the LDS church in general has a problem in being perceived as less than accepting of gays and their lifestyle.
He is right. This is a problem. It is especially a problem with young people his age. From what I can tell, the majority of people in our society under thirty are not opposed to the gay lifestyle or same-sex marriage. As I thought about my experience in walking the precincts today, I realized that most everyone I spoke with was older than thirty and most were in support of proposition 8.
So the fact that it is mainly members of the LDS Church that are out knocking on doors telling our neighbors to vote yes on proposition 8 could be perceived in the way he described. It is not true, or at least I have never seen it in my own experience in the church. I have read accounts of LDS parents rejecting their children who are gay but I hope those are few and far between.
Do Mormons hate gays?
At President Hinckley’s funeral the Westboro Baptist church came and picketed with signs that read, “Mormons love gays,” and worse. If you know anything about the people of the Westboro Baptist church of Kansas you know they feel that everybody in America loves gays. They are especially active in claiming that dead American soldiers in Iraq are a result of this love.
“When asked what President Hinckley had done that enabled homosexuals, one woman said it was because the leader of the LDS Church preached that God loves all his children, including the gay ones. That’s it? God loves all his children, and that makes us a gay church? She emphatically nodded an increasingly smaller head.” That quote is from Robert Kirby, beloved LDS humorist.
Here’s what President Hinckley said: “Our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. It is expected that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct.”
God-given rules of conduct
And there is the point of my essay today. We do not hate gays. I affirm what President Hinckley taught. We love them as sons and daughters of God. It is the part about rules of conduct that many young people seem to miss. It has been my experience that most young people don’t like rules of conduct. It just seems to go against their basic principles to have such rules.
I’m not sure why some do not believe that God has a right to set the rules for our conduct in this life. Perhaps it’s because they do not believe in God, or at least say that they don’t. Rules of conduct are important to me. I have written previously that I believe in government and that we can and should legislate morality. Of course, whose idea of morality do we legislate?
To me, that’s the real problem that we face in our society today. In our conversation today my son pointed out that there were so many other things to spend our energy on besides this gay marriage thing. I disagree. I think this is one of the most important issues facing our state, our nation and our world today. Following God-given rules of conduct will bring great blessings.
Summary and conclusion
No, Mormons do not hate gays. You may argue otherwise and many of you have as I have written about this subject in the past. I expect I will hear from you again with contrary points of view. You may be right. Some Mormons probably do hate gays. That’s unfortunate. I’m a Mormon and I don’t hate gays, or at least I don’t think I do. I try not to hate anybody.
Hate is not becoming of a Christian. Hate does not come from God. It comes from the devil. We have been accused of acting for the devil because we are involved in advocating proposition 8. I do not feel that way. I am following the counsel of a prophet to give this proposition my best effort. My time and my money are precious to me but I give them to follow a prophet.
I believe I will be blessed for following a prophet. I don’t always know how. Was it difficult for me to go walking in my neighborhood today talking to people about proposition 8? Yes, it was. Will I be blessed for my efforts? Yes, I know I will be. Please don’t accuse Mormons of hating gays. That’s not true. We focus on teaching doctrine and behavior that will bring happiness to all people.