As a follower of a traditionally conservative faith who also happens to be quite liberal, I find myself continuously faced with reconciling a lot of conflicting ideas, really having to sort out what I believe from both cultures. Due to where I find myself in life (whatever that means) I cannot bring myself to fully deny either, and I'm learning to find peace despite - or possibly IN - the tension.
I understand and value the focus on families that my religion places. I believe that adults, when they choose to become parents, should place their children's needs among their highest priorities, that parents can have a huge effect on (and carry tremendous responsibility for) the moral and psychological development of their children. And, if I end up finding an intelligent and virtuous man whom I end up marrying, then I too would love to embark on the journey of parenthood with him, to teach the next generation about what we know pertaining to truth and love and virtuous living.
I have to admit, however, that I was immensely hurt and frustrated when I learned of the role of the LDS church in defeating Proposition 8 in California. It shook me to the core that my religious leaders would encourage the members to monetarily support such legislation, that funds from sacred religious offerings were being used (albeit indirectly) in the media campaign against a proposition which I did not and would never support. Like many other liberal-minded folk, I was baffled at how people's value of children and family life could be at odds with the legal status of homosexuals to marry. Utterly flabbergasted. The two could not have been more unrelated in my mind. All of this "protect the family" logic seemed totally out of left field (or RIGHT field? har har har). I have thought about this deeply and for a long time and I think I understand the direction from which they approach the issue. Bear with me, this might be a little bit wordy.
Okay, as background, it seems there has been a philosophical shift regarding marriage in the past half century or so. In previous times, marriage was almost inextricably connected with child-raising. Sure, unofficial hetero- and homo- sexual unions occured, but traditional heterosexual marriage was created to guarantee paternity of the children, and to create a pretty stable environment for them in which to be raised.
Until recently there didn't seem to be a reason for homosexuals to want to be married, as marriage was pretty much ONLY for creating the next generation of humans.
The feminist movement and modern contraceptive measures, most notably the birth control pill, seem to have shifted the focus of heterosexual marriage in our culture away from propagation of the species toward sexual and emotional fulfillment of the two parties, since pregnancy was no longer the automatic effect of heterosexual intercourse. However, I would guess that a large proportion of hetero couples still find the child production/raising to be an important part of the union (just not the PRIMARY purpose).
Regardless, once marriage became refocused in our culture on the emotional fulfillment of the adult parties, it makes sense that couples would get married for that reason alone, and it makes additional sense that couples who were previously excluded from this category would want to join it.
The issue that religious folks have seems to be that they oppose this shift itself, not necessarily the gay movement. They believe that marriage should be first and foremost for the production and raising of children. They see this shift as a negative one, a selfish one, and one which will lead to the breakdown of our society. It is true that self-centered parents and unstable home situations can and usually do have a negative impact on the children involved. So I agree that in many ways the shift is a negative one, as the emphasis goes from the children's emotional needs to those of the parents (I am not certain that emphasis on parents' emotional needs is a bad thing, but I also do not think it should occur at the expense of the children). Anyway, in terms of the religious right --- including the majority of mainstream LDS --- who perceive this as an overall negative societal shift, "the legalization of gay marriage" is something that is easier to "fight" than something like "parents who are not dedicated to their children" or "parents who are not dedicated to each other" or "lack of societal support for working parents." These issues are more complicated and are difficult to package into a bite-sized idea, whereas the gay marriage issue is a tangible, discrete battle with quantifiable results. Are we not all guilty of this type of reasoning at one time or another?
Anyway, hopefully I am not being offensive here. What I am trying to get to is that somehow, for me, understanding the greater issue at stake here, for which gay marriage is primarily a simplified proxy, helps me to understand better where my fellow churchgoers are coming from. When I look at it this way, even though I feel the efforts are misdirected, I can surely appreciate the motivations. It helps me to feel less anxious and troubled, helps me to feel a greater peace with events that have transpired.
In other words, there is a great deal of common ground between the two sides, and that is what keeps my thoughts and opinions at least somewhat consistent as I daily try to balance myself between these oft-seeming opposing forces my identity. I guess what it boils down to is that I truly believe that strengthening ALL families is the direction we must head as a culture and as a nation.
There is a lot I haven't mentioned here: homosexuals who desire to raise children of their own, through adoption or artificial insemination, the LDS doctrine of eternal gender identity (which still has never been sufficiently explained to me, but which is often used in the argument against gay marriage), etc. I never intended this to be a thorough treatise on the subject, however. I am greatly interested in your opinions and comments, but please be kind and respectful.