Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Here we go again

The legislature of the state where I live is just about to enact marriage equality for same-sex couples. A number of Republicans have crossed party lines to support the bill. There is good public support for the proposed law, and the governor has pledged to sign it.

In other words, it's only a matter of weeks before Tobi and I will be equal to other couples under state law. (Federal law is another matter.)

Religious conservatives have vowed to place a Prop. 8-style referendum on the November ballot that would reverse the action of the legislature and write discrimination against gay families into our state's constitution.

Powerful out-of-state interests, such as the fact-challenged and unscrupulous National Organization for Marriage (NOM), are swooping in with seemingly limitless funds. It's looking virtually certain that I'm going to have to live through a year of high-profile political campaigning that is specifically targeted against me and my family. To say that I'm not looking forward to it would be an understatement.

Unlike Maine and Minnesota, there are a lot of Mormons where I live, probably as many or more as California as a percentage of the population. A lot of these folks are prosperous and have the means to contribute to lavish political campaigns. What will the LDS Church ask its members to do?

I'm not going to make predictions. My track record on predicting what the LDS leadership will do on this issue is poor. (I was completely blindsided by Prop. 8.) However, it's worth looking at the Church's options.

1- Do nothing. There are expensive billboards all over my town with smiling, racially-diverse faces saying "I'm a Mormon!" Public engagement in controversial, divisive politics would undo every bit of this campaign, and more. The Church might decide that it's just not worth the cost.

As an aside, the folks I've talked to who've seen the ads think that they are weird and creepy. People are justifiably suspicious of advertising that does not directly state its value proposition. It's what scammers do.

2- Act covertly. The LDS Church could easily act by proxy simply by funding an organization like NOM. Such funds are untraceable. There are existing ties to NOM: the Church helped create this organization back in the Prop. 8 days, and highly-placed Mormons have been on its board of directors. In any case, NOM isn't the only channel the Church might use. There are other ways to work behind the scenes without being detected.

3- Use code words to ensure deniability. The Church might try to have it both ways. We saw this in Minnesota with advice from the pulpit to "Prayerfully read the [anti-gay] Proclamation and vote your conscience." Anyone who has had even brief exposure to Mormon culture knows what a verb in the imperative mood means when modified by the adverb "prayerfully."

4- Repeat the Prop. 8 fiasco. It's possible that the Church could turn its meetinghouses into precinct halls as it did in California. As hard as it is to believe, they might willingly sign up to repeat the Prop. 8 PR train wreck.

So that covers what the LDS Church might do. But a more important question is what I should do. Clearly, this is an issue that is close to me. So far I've committed to donate money to the cause of marriage equality, and I may end up on the phone banks if my stomach can take it.

But I have another thought, which I want to throw out for consideration, dear readers. It's an idea so crazy it just might work.

What if I went back to church?

The idea is this: attend sacrament meeting for the four months before the election. I (and any who joined me) would simply be present during the meetings on a weekly basis. If I did this, I'd make sure to be extremely quiet and respectful. If the folks at the pulpit wanted to speak against me and my family, they'd have to do it to my face. If I had a chance to meet any of the members or leaders personally (for example, in the foyer afterwards), I'd be open to hearing them out and might even invite them to dinner at my home if I got to know them a bit.

I think I'm at a point with my Mormon identity where I could do this. I feel no need to challenge anyone on points of doctrine or any other topic. I just want members of my tribe to look me in the eye and say whatever they have to say to my face.

One glitch is that Tobi has a very bad impression of Mormons. I'm pretty sure he'd rather swim in a sewage pond than step foot in an LDS chapel, and I'm not sure how he'd react to LDS dinner guests. He might have to stay out of this plan.

What do you guys think? Is this a horrible idea? Does it have a possibility of doing any good? Would I just be signing myself up for unproductive conflict?