Mormons Absorb SCOTUS Prop 8 Ruling

U.S. Supreme Court decisions striking down DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 mean a reflective morning for Mormon people. No religious group invested more heavily in the fight against marriage equality in California than members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who make up 2% of California’s population but who are estimated to have contributed between 50%–70% of the $40 million raised by the Yes on 8 campaign and the majority of its on-the-ground volunteer labor force.

Today, a vocal minority of Mormon progressives are celebrating the Court rulings. Said Spencer Clark, the head of Mormons for Marriage Equality, “We heartily applaud the decision of the US Supreme Court to strike down Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. This is a victory for hundreds of thousands of families across the country and in California, including many Mormons, who have sought to marry the same-sex partners they love and care for their children.” Another celebratory gesture came from bloggers at Feminist Mormon Housewives who changed the long-running blog’s background to rainbow colors, honoring Mormon feminists’ longtime commitment to marriage equality.

Meanwhile, Mormon conservatives seem to be accepting the news quietly, with some staking out a defensive position in defense of religious freedom. (Read the official LDS Church reaction here.) In one Washington, D.C., area stake, LDS Church leaders sent an email message to members requesting their attendance at a National Day of Prayer on religious freedom convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this Thursday in Arlington, Virginia. “We have been encouraged to have 20 members from our stake attend this event,” the message from local leaders read.

As initial reactions continue to arrive, today is a thoughtful day for Mormon people. With the support of the U.S. Supreme Court, LGBT families and their allies now take a great step beyond the prejudices of history and the hurt of the Proposition 8 campaign. But for Mormon families and congregations, however, the damage from Proposition 8 remains, and will remain—largely unaddressed and unremediated.  

Who has fully counted the costs to Mormon families and congregations of having our places of worship mobilized as political cells in a gravely expensive, divisive, and futile political campaign? I simply cannot count the number of Mormons who have told me that the reason they started to question their church or left it altogether was Proposition 8, nor can I begin to enumerate the strain on relationships in Mormon families and congregations and between Mormons and their non-Mormon friends and neighbors.

What are the lessons to be learned?

Erika Munson, founder of Mormons Building Bridges, a grassroots LDS organization that supports education and reconciliation around LGBT issues in Mormon communities, writes:

Mormons Building Bridges has from the beginning chosen to step away from the same-sex marriage debate; our organization exists to help members who want to work within the current context of LDS church policy and doctrine. But whether you are delighted or distressed by today’s decision, we can all agree that change in prevailing attitudes toward LGBT people has taken place at breathtaking speed. It is natural that such rapid change can be disorienting. The Supreme Court can resolve questions of law but they cannot insure that we reason together about the deeper issues that inform those questions. Mormons Building Bridges encourages people on all sides of the issue to respectfully ask the person you think you have the least in common with, ‘Tell me what it’s like to be you.’ It is our universal duty as human beings and children of God to listen, learn, and try to understand.

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.