H. David Burton signed his name to the letter Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods that Stand and Fall Together for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints. The letter is written to incite “people of good will” to stand against marriage equality. Who are people of good will? I guess they are the people who stand against marriage equality, and it sounds like you’re not a person of good will if you stand behind marriage equality.
The letter also seems to strip gay couples of titles that would make them appear to be similar to straight couples. For example, notice the quotation marks in these sentences:
…Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex “spouses”…
…So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly “married”…
Why do I care? They’re just words. Spouse. Marriage. They don’t mean much. Or do they? To me, this is reminiscent of the argument for separate but equal status: it segregates Dan and me from the rest of society–not only can we not get married, we aren’t allowed to refer to ourselves as being married. That’s something only straight, awesome people can do. When conversing with religious people, they sometimes deliberately avoid the use of words like marriage and spouse or husband and stammer for a word they feel is an appropriate middle ground (i.e., is separate but totally equal). It’s like when LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley referred to gays and lesbians as “so-called” gays and lesbians.
They’re just words, so I won’t be offended by them.
But other people seem to care about the words used to refer to them so maybe I should care. Remember when Robert Jefress called Mormonism a cult? And said Mormons aren’t Christian (i.e., don’t believe in Christ)? Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with Mormons repudiating his claims. Maybe Jefress was just stammering for words he feels are appropriate to separate his god-fearing religion from Mormonism. Here’s a refresher from Anderson Cooper.
They’re just words, and nothing should offend them.
Are “marriage” and “spouse” really just words? Linda Stay answered the question beautifully in this clip from 8: The Mormon Proposition. Her son married in California (before gay marriage was overturned), and she shared her thoughts about what that marriage did for her son’s relationship.
Words are powerful, especially the word marriage. Denying others the opportunity to use the word is also powerful and is not without its consequences.