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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “Constitutional Amendment”

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“Republicans in the U.S. Senate are pushing hard to get a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage to the floor by July 12. That would force Sen. John Kerry to vote on the controversial issue on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, which will begin in Boston two weeks later to cement his presidential nomination.…

The problem, according to the Republicans, is that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has ordered that same-sex marriages be allowed in that state, those marriage have been performed there, and soon other states will be asked to recognize them.

The trouble with that argument is that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which has been on the books since 1996, permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages in other states.…

The Congress should take the time to deliberate carefully any proposed tinkering with the Constitution. That is not what is happening under the current timetable.…” (Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 2004)


“The Senate’s partisan showdown over gay marriage fizzled Wednesday as Republicans failed to muster enough support to even put their proposed constitutional amendment to a vote.

A motion to end debate on the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment failed 50 to 48, 12 short of the 60 votes needed to force a vote on the measure and significantly less than the 67 required for any constitutional amendment to pass the Senate.  Six Republicans broke ranks and joined the Democrats in voting against cloture.…” (Christopher Smith, “Amendment fails to make it to a vote; backers vow to keep pushing,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 15, 2004)


“The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints agrees with many other religious bodies and leaders that an amendment to the Constitution of the United States is necessary to protect and preserve the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. The church has previously issued two statements in support of a constitutional amendment on marriage.…” (“Church Supports Call for Constitutional Amendment,” LDS Newsroom, April 24, 2006)


“About 50 prominent religious leaders, including seven Roman Catholic Cardinals and about a half-dozen archbishops, have signed a petition in support of a constitutional amendment walking same-sex marriage.

Organizers of the petition said it was in part an effort to revive the groundswell of opposition to same-sex marriage that helped bring many conservative voters to the polls in some pivotal states in 2004. The signers include many influential evangelical Protestants, a few rabbis and an official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (David D. Kirkpatrick, “A Religious Push Against Gay Unions,” New York Times, April 24, 2006)


“The LDS Church has joined a national religious coalition to push an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

LDS apostle Russell M. Nelson joined 50 prominent Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish leaders in signing a petition explaining why they see a need such a constitutional amendment.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Update: LDS Church supports constitutional amendment for marriage,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 24, 2006)


“Attached is a letter from the First Presidency sent to us today by Elder Sleight regarding upcoming Senate marriage legislation. He has requested that this letter be read in each of the Sacrament Meetings in our Stake tomorrow.…” (Dan Romney, Executive Secretary, Washington, DC Stake, to Bishops, Branch Presidents, High Council and Stake Presidency, May 27, 2006)

We are informed that the United States Senate will on June 6, 2006, vote on an amendment to the Federal constitution designed to protect the traditional institution of marriage.

We, as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have repeatedly set forth our position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship.…

We urge our members to express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.” (First Presidency to General Authorities, Area Seventies, and Stake Presidents in the United States, May 25, 2006)


“Disagreement over a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage doesn’t mean Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is at odds with his church over the issues behind the amendment, a Reid spokesman said Saturday.

Reid, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will vote this week against a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.…

‘It’s very important to recognize that elected officials are representatives of their constituent and are responsible to their constituents,’ [Michael] Otterson said. ‘Senator Reid or any other elected official does not represent the church. They are free to go anyway they choose.’…

The amendment is widely seen by critics as a Republican election-year tactic to shore up support among religious conservatives.” (David Kihara, “Reid, his church agree to disagree on amendment,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 4, 2006)


“The leaders of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently spoke out against gay marriage and asked members to encourage their U.S. senators to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting homosexual marriage.

As a member, I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as LDS general authorities; however, I reject the premise that they are thereby immune from thoughtful questioning or benevolent criticism. A perfect God does not require blind obedience, nor does He need unthinking loyalty. Freedom of conscience is a divine blessing, and our privilege to express it is a moral imperative.

When the church hierarchy speaks on a public issue and requests that members follow, it is difficult indeed if an individual feels the content of their message would make bad law and is unethical as well. I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral.

Currently the preponderance of scientific research strongly suggests that same-sex attraction is biologically based. Therefore, it is as natural as a heterosexual orientation, even if rare. It seems it might be caused by environmental conditions in the mother’s womb, before birth, triggering the DNA to give the fetus a homosexual orientation. Neither the mother nor the child has any choice in the matter; it is a completely natural process.

Truly, God would be unjust if He were the creator of a biological process that produced such uncommon, yet perfectly natural results, and then condemned the innocent person to a life of guilt, while denying him or her the ordinary privileges and fulfillment of the deep longing in all of us for family and a committed, loving relationship.

Even if the scientific evidence does not yet establish this beyond reasonable doubt, it seems that virtuous moderation and loving kindness require us to exercise caution before making constitutionally binding discrimination against a whole class of people based only on fear and superstition. In fact, when we examine the statements opposing gay marriage, we find few reasonable arguments. It is not enough to claim that we should oppose gay marriage because historically it has never been recognized. This is the fallacy of appealing to tradition, which was also used to fight against civil rights and equal treatment of women.

Further, to say that gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage and the family without giving any reasons why is the fallacy of appealing to fear. Indeed, once you get past the emotion, it is quite an unfounded claim. How could the union of two committed and loving people negatively affect my marriage? I believe that quite the contrary is true; namely, legalizing gay marriage reinforces the importance of committed relationships and would strengthen the institution of marriage.…

As for the statement by church leaders that God has ordained marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, I find it quite troubling. It sidesteps the role of polygamy in past and future church teachings. It seems to me that if church leaders at one point in time, not very long ago, told members that the union of one man with several women was important for eternal salvation, but now leads them to believe that God only recognizes the union of one man to one woman, then some explanation is required.” (Jeffrey Nielsen, “Op Ed: LDS authority and gay marriage,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 4, 2006)  [NOTE: NIELSEN WAS AN ADJUNCT FACULTY MEMBER AT BYU AT THE TIME HE WROTE THIS ARTICLE.  HE WAS SUBSEQUENTLY FIRED FROM THAT JOB.]


“Just three weeks ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seemed content to state its principles on marriage and let it go at that. To press harder would only solidify ‘misperceptions that the church hates gays. Nothing could be further from the truth,’ a spokesman adamantly insisted. But what emerged from a leadership discussion in the temple just a week later was an ‘incremental shift toward the tactical,’ perhaps driven by perceptions the amendment had acquired fresh momentum.…” (R. B. Scott, “Mixing religion and politics: Oh, what a tangle web…” Salt Lake Tribune editorial, June 4, 2006)


“An apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood alongside other religious leaders here Monday supporting the proposed federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as the Senate began debate on the controversial measure.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a press conference with the Alliance for Marriage, a group that supports the ban. Elder Nelson also met with President Bush at the White House just before giving a statement in support of a constitutional amendment.

‘Together we share a duty to preserve marriage and family as established by God,’ Elder Nelson said. ‘The time has now come when a constitutional amendment is needed in this country to protect our divine inheritance. Such action does not reduce our regard for individuals who choose to live by other standards. But it confirms our conviction that marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue and the foundation for eternal exaltation.’…” (Suzanne Struglinski, “Elder Nelson touts marriage amendment,” Deseret News, June 6, 2006)


“A Mormon apostle was among the religious leaders flanking President Bush at the White House on Monday, urging Congress to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage and stating that marriage between a man and woman is the will of God.

It marks the first time since the church opposed the Equal Rights Amendment that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have so outspokenly involved themselves in a constitutional fight.

Elder Russell Nelson, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles of the LDS church, joined Bush as the president pressed the Senate to approve the change the Constitution.…” (Robert Gehrke, “Bush, LDS Church united on marriages,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 2006)


“The U.S. Senate rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Wednesday, following nearly two straight days of debate and thousands of phone calls, letters and emotional arguments from constituents.

In Utah, where nearly two-thirds of voters in 2004 approved a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, conservatives were disappointed in the 49-48 procedural vote to stop debate and vote on the amendment itself.  The test vote was actually 11 votes shy of what is needed to halt debate.”  (Deborah Bulkeley and Suzanne Struglinski, “Senators reject ban on gay marriage,” Deseret News, June 8, 2006)


“[Russell] Nelson went on record that lobbying for an amendment banning gay marriage was needed ‘to protect our divine inheritance.’”  (Holly Mullen, “Unusual role for the LDS Church,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 8, 2006)


“My ‘summer of discontent’ began in May when the First Presidency decided to have a letter read in all of the United States wards and branches supporting the proposed amendment to the Constitution that would deny ‘marriage’ to homosexuals and asking all members to write or call their representatives in Congress to support the amendment. I perceived that injunction is a direct attack on the civil rights of my gay children and gay people generally.

That letter was buttressed by a second public announcement that the church had joined a group of conservative organizations called the ‘Religious Coalition for Marriage,’ a group that sent a letter to all elected congressmen urging their support for a constitutional amendment that was ‘for the exclusive union of one man and one woman.’ (A direct quote from that letter.) Elder Russell Nelson, just six weeks after having a second wife sealed him for time and all eternity, shamelessly signed the document on behalf of the church. I still wonder if he understood the irony.” (Gary Watts to Jeffrey R. Holland, Quentin L. Cook, Cecil O. Samuelson, and Rolfe Kerr, July 23, 2006)


“Some weeks after a Senate vote on whether to end debate on the amendment, [Sen. Harry] Reid wrote to letter to Nevada Mormons bishops explaining his position. That letter sparked a letter from James Howard, president of the Las Vegas East Stake between 1994 and 2005, who wrote to Reid in the strongest possible language.

Howard wrote that by not supporting the constitutional amendment, ‘You chose your party’s agenda over Nevadans’, over your Prophet’s wishes, and defied God in the process.… You have sold out for power and position. Whining about how offended you are that your “Brethren” are not supportive of you anymore is not becoming of a leader of such high position. Justifying your weak stance in direct opposition to your Church’s position is lame. You fear your party more than God.’…” (Jane Ann Morrison, “Letter from member of Reid’s church illustrates wide rift on gay marriage,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 19, 2006)


“In 2006, [Peter] Danzig finally felt compelled to protest.  BYU adjunct professor Jeffrey Nielsen lost his job for arguing in a The Salt Lake Tribune column that the LDS Church was wrong to oppose gay marriage and to enlist Mormon support for a constitutional amendment against it.

The dismissal appalled Danzig, who had explored the questions of homosexuality while pursuing a graduate degree in clinical social work.

‘I wish to express to Jeffery Nielson that I admire his courage and that I stand with him,’ Danzig wrote in a letter The Tribune published on June 14, 2006. ‘I was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ.’

What happened next is disheartening to many who believe the church should allow its members to express divergent political and personal views.…

Within a week, LDS officials contacted Danzig with concerns about the letter. They suspended him from the orchestra and for the next year, he and, ultimately his wife, defended their loyalty, faith and actions. No amount of persuasion or pleading could convince these ecclesiastical leaders they meant well.

Ultimately, the Danzigs moved out of their Levan house and, in December, resigned their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than face excommunication.…

Set in motion: It began with a call from Michael Watson, secretary to the church’s governing First Presidency, to Barry Anderson, orchestra administrator, and Mac Christensen, president of the Tabernacle Choir, which is associated with the orchestra. Danzig said Anderson told him Watson wondered whether ‘an enemy had infiltrated the orchestra.’…

Danzig wrote an outline of his version of events and sent it to several of the leaders, offering to correct anything they thought was inaccurate. He received no reply from the orchestra or choir reps, but local leaders said if he published any part of his outline, they would hold a disciplinary hearing.…

Shifting approaches: Between June 2006 and December 2007, the LDS Church came out with several statements acknowledging homosexuality may be inborn and difficult to change, even with much effort and prayer. It was exactly the position Danzig had been defending.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Fallout from debate over gays leads musician to leave LDS Church,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 23, 2008)

McCurry: The piece you are interested in is the 1996 debate around DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act].  The critical piece of information is that that was an election year.  I think it was introduced in both houses [of Congress] in the spring, probably sometime around May.  There was enormous debate within the White House about how to respond to that.  We were having political strategy meetings once a week.  We’d go up and meet in the executive mansion on Wednesday nights.  The President and Vice President Gore were always there, and very often Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton were there.  And then there were all the senior staff people, all the people from the Democratic National Committee, and the people from the reelection campaign.  

I remember some very heated conversations about what the response would be.  The President’s key strategist was Dick Morris, who is quite an odd character in many ways.  He would take the polling data that were generated by Mark Penn and Doug Schoen, who were the two primary pollsters for the reelection campaign.  He would come in and make a presentation and interpret the data.  At that time, it was very clear that a majority of Americans had not accepted the idea of same-sex marriage.  It was polling well in excess of 60% who were opposed, at that time, to allowing gay couples to marry.

Prince: Was the feeling that the Congress had introduced this to become a wedge issue?

McCurry: Yes.  There was a definite sense that there was a political motivation behind a lot of the sponsorship of the bill.  They knew it would put President Clinton on the spot with the LGBT community, which had been largely supportive.  Remember, Clinton was the first President ever to go to speak at a dinner at the Human Rights Campaign.  I think that was 1995, the first year I was at the White House.  So he had signaled that he wanted to appeal to that constituency.  Of course, they were absolutely determined to prevent anything that would interfere.

The critical public argument was triggered by a guy named Andrew Sullivan, who wrote his New Republic piece, “Here Comes the Groom.”  He made a very passionate plea, based in part on a religious appeal on the sanctity of marriage, and why that needed to be available to gay couples.  That had had a very profound impact, and lent some momentum to the argument, and within the gay community there was a real sense that, “This is an advocacy moment and we can really press for full inclusion and for equal rights when it comes to marriage.”  So there was a lot of pressure coming from that side.

But then, there was pressure politically, because the vast majority were against that.  Clinton was very ambivalent about it.  At least in all the discussions he kind of went back and forth, back and forth.  You could tell his heart was not in signing DOMA, but the argument that began to develop in the course of the summer—I can’t remember when it passed, but he didn’t sign it until September 21st.

Prince: And then with zero fanfare.

McCurry: That story is an interesting one.  The argument that began to crystallize in the White House discussions went something like this: “If we don’t pass this legislation and provide some kind of federal protection for traditional marriage, there will then be a grassroots effort at the state level to pass a constitutional amendment.”  That’s the argument that finally Clinton succumbed to.  I would say he didn’t embrace it enthusiastically, but he acknowledged that there were a number of states that were beginning to talk about having some constitutional amendment, and so he embraced the theory that the way to prevent the Constitution from being amended around this was to pass the federal legislation.

I thought it was a bit of an artificial argument, and I think a lot of people in the White House did, too.  I think maybe even Bill Clinton thought it was a bit artificial, but that’s what he publicly articulated as his main reason for doing it.

(Michael McCurry, December 19, 2014)

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: On the issue of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-gender marriage, there are some Latter-day Saints who are opposed to same-gender marriage, but who are not in favor of addressing this through a Constitutional amendment. Why did the Church feel that it had to step in that direction?

ELDER OAKS: Law has at least two roles: one is to define and regulate the limits of acceptable behavior. The other is to teach principles for individuals to make individual choices. The law declares unacceptable some things that are simply not enforceable, and there’s no prosecutor who tries to enforce them. We refer to that as the teaching function of the law. The time has come in our society when I see great wisdom and purpose in a United States Constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is nothing in that proposed amendment that requires a criminal prosecution or that directs the attorneys general to go out and round people up, but it declares a principle and it also creates a defensive barrier against those who would alter that traditional definition of marriage.

There are people who oppose a federal Constitutional amendment because they think that the law of family should be made by the states. I can see a legitimate argument there. I think it’s mistaken, however, because the federal government, through the decisions of life-tenured federal judges, has already taken over that area. This Constitutional amendment is a defensive measure against those who would ignore the will of the states appropriately expressed and require, as a matter of federal law, the recognition of same-gender marriages — or the invalidation of state laws that require that marriage be between a man and a woman. In summary, the First Presidency has come out for an amendment (which may or may not be adopted) in support of the teaching function of the law. Such an amendment would be a very important expression of public policy, which would feed into or should feed into the decisions of judges across the length and breadth of the land.

(“Same-Gender Attraction,” Newsroom.LDS.org, August 2006)