Monday, 23 December 2013

Marry Christmas, Utah Gays

posted on 12/23/2013 by the Salt City Sinner

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down the anti-gay-marriage amendment that Utahns passed by a large majority in 2004, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah. 

The ensuing flurry of activity befits the Beehive State, whose word is "industry," after all. Same-sex couples immediately began snagging their marriage licenses and tying the knot by the hundreds, with some even waiting overnight on Sunday to get their licenses when offices opened this morning.

Predictably, Gary Herbert, our dour, doughy Governor, released a flotilla of legal maneuvers, all of which have failed as of the afternoon of December 23rd, the day before the day before the holiest day of conservative Christian pouting, indignation, and public piety. 

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in these proceedings has been the decision of some county clerks – indeed, some counties in their entirety – to flat-out refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples. A few conservative Mormons I know have applauded this act by low-level government bureaucrats; more than one have compared the decision by Judge Shelby to the infamous (in Utah) Edmunds-Tucker Act. 

A quick overview: in the late 19th century, the “lifestyle choices” of most LDS Utahns included polygamy, which rubbed the Federal Government very much the wrong way. To deal with the threat that the US Government thought that the LDS church posed, they brought the hammer down – hard. 

Among other things, the Edmunds-Tucker Act required an anti-polygamy oath of voters and elected officials in Utah, disincorporated the LDS church, disenfranchised women ( ! ), and amended inheritance laws. For any Thin-Skinned Christian Crybabies, allow me to point to the ETA as a genuine, bona-fide example of what religious persecution by the government REALLY looks like. 

The Edmunds-Tucker Act also marked the moment when, in my opinion, any insurrectionist or explicitly Utopian/separatist tendencies in the LDS faith had their spines and internal organs mortally crushed. Before Utah decided (as much as one can decide literally at gunpoint) to join the United States, Mormons had a surprisingly subversive culture that included collective ownership of some resources and suffrage for women*. Indeed, the journey of the Mormon church from 1890 to Mitt Romney is, in a way, the story of the very last Christian faith to come into the “traditional marriage” fold, and is also the story of a faith's journey from potentially revolutionary force and persecuted minority to a (sometimes depressingly) mainstream entity. 

The inside-out logic that allows some right-wing Mormons to compare allowing people to mary to banning a religious practice and (effectively) trying to crush that religion is hard to follow: it reminds me of Paul T. Mero's famous deadpan assertion that “polygamist marriages, although plural, were between one man and one woman.” (no, seriously) Anyway, as a friend of mine pointed out, the clerks sticking it to the gays in Cache and Utah Counties might need to revisit their Mormon scripture, notably Article of Faith 12, which states that “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (emphasis mine) Despite some grinches in clerk's clothing, it has been a stunning weekend before Christmas in Utah. 

Marry Christmas, gays!

*: I do not in any way believe that the way early Mormons ran Utah was ideal. The LDS Church's opinions about women, minorities, etc. were terrible.

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