There’s a certain irony in watching Utah deal with a similar legal-marriage system that some members of that state helped enforce in California back in 2008. That is, until one remembers that real peoples’ lives are upended by the attempts to block marriage equality.
In 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ leadership rallied its troops to support California’s Proposition 8. (The LDS was later fined $36,928 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for 13 violations of state campaign regulations.) And now, slightly more than five years later, Utah’s discriminatory marriage laws have been overturned, which resulted in more than 900 legal marriages between partners of the same sex.
Like the status of the 18,000 legal same-sex marriages in California that existed following the passage of Prop. 8, Utah will now go through a trying period of having some legally married gay and lesbian couples and many others that are deprived of that civil right.
The tide has turned for marriage equality. The LDS realizes this, having issued a statement to the effect that its religious beliefs about marriage remain unchanged.
But not a single one of those 900 marriages took place in LDS temples or other places of worship. Just as was true in California, before Prop. 8, civil-marriage equality does not infringe on religious freedom. Churches—including the LDS—remain free to refuse to marry any couple that does not meet their doctrinal requirements for marriage.
Those 900 Utah couples were married in public courthouses and in churches that support marriage equality. And, thankfully, Americans are—rather quickly—coming to see that marriage equality is no threat to religious freedom. In fact, marriage equality will actually strengthen the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, as those religious organizations who support marriage equality will finally be free to practice it.