Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How Conservatives Tried to Ban All Same-Sex Marriage

by Brig Bagley

11 June 2014

Since 2002, conservative groups have submitted constitutional amendments to the US constitution 7 times to define marriage between a man and a woman only. The point of putting it so deeply into law is so that it would take 75% of all of the states to remove it again, and it would also prevent judicial courts from ruling same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. 

In 2006, the LDS Church encouraged members to contact their state representatives to approve of the amendment. I was one of them, and trying to be a "good Mormon", did so in hopes to gain "blessings for my obedience". I received a response (probably from a secretary) from CA senator Barbara Boxer, saying that she appreciates my concern, but she believed that marriage was a state issue, and she would not vote for the amendment.

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton. The law was to clarify that the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages. This was in response to Hawaii's law that (at that time) permitted same-sex marriages. Conservatives didn't want to stop there. They wished to prevent states like Hawaii from starting a trend of permitting marriage for same-sex couples across the nation. This is what gave birth to the several proposed "Federal Marriage Amendments" that started in 2002.

With the several failed attempts to get the amendment passed at the US constitutional level, conservatives sought to target major states' constitutions for marriage amendments. In 2008, California became eligible to put a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage by popular vote. It passed with a mere 52% majority.

Once the LDS church was aware of the ballot measure, it immediately mobilized its entire California membership to make calls, knock doors, and display signs to support Proposition 8. I, as well, was again guilt-ridden to participate in the efforts to pass the law. I remember calling citizens in San Francisco and getting chewed out for asking for their support. The LDS Church even asked students at BYU that were from CA to make calls from Utah to CA. It was also known that non-California residents at BYU also helped in the phone calls. 

The LDS church also asked members to donate significant funding to the cause. Although the LDS Church reported that it contributed almost no money, its combined donations from its members numbered over $20 million. The LDS Church was later taken to court for committing election fraud by the California Fair Political Practice Commission and was fined $5,538. It has since stepped away from getting involved with marriage politics.

Conservative groups have continued to push for similar laws in several other states, also succeeding.

Now that both DOMA and Prop 8 were taken to the courts--all the way to SCOTUS--and struck down as unconstitutional, conservatives have inadvertently paved the way for national recognition of same-sex marriage. Traditional marriage supporters have proposed the Federal Marriage Amendment once in 2013, but the momentum for it has dropped significantly.

In polls, popular approval of the Federal Marriage Amendment has gone from 57% in 2003 to 38% in 2013 (in a conservative poll) and 24% (in a liberal poll).  A year later, popular support for banning same-sex marriage will have dropped even more, possibly creating a super majority of US citizens that approve of same-sex marriages. Although majorities may not exist in some ultra-conservative states, such as Utah, the split has been shown to be very close.

Now that homosexuality has become the everyday talk, more people are accepting them, and more people are willing to identify as LGBT. Large companies have publicly declared support for LGBT, also influencing people to accept them. 

The current judicial cases have now struck down 14 bans on same-sex marriage. With the momentum growing, conservatives are calling "foul" on liberal, activist judges overturning the will of the people, even though the "will of the people" was rallied by conservative groups years ago to vote in said laws. Like-minded people agree with this sentiment, forgetting that constitutional review is in place to strike down majority vote laws that violate the constitution. This time, conservatives want marriage to be decided by the states, now that it appears that the federal government is moving to permit same-sex marriage nationally.

A final last-resort by conservative groups is to pull out the "religious freedom" card, claiming that their rights to discriminate against LGBT people is part of free speech and rights to practice their religion in their personal lives, as well as in business affairs. All but one state (Mississippi) that have proposed such laws have failed to pass religious freedom preservation that ultimately legalizes discrimination. 

Religious and conservative people and groups will continue to find ways to fight the approval of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. They still believe they have a winning chance in the courts with cases such as the Amendment 3 case in the District 10 Appellate Court in Denver. State officials, such as Utah Gov. Herbert and AG Reyes will also fight the case to the top, most likely accelerating the national legalization of same-sex marriage.

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