Sunday, October 26, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Election Day is just 9 days away and it looks like California’s Proposition 8 limiting marriage to a man and a woman will pass.  On Intrade the odds are approaching 3 to 2.  I give a lot of weight to Intrade because participants bet on outcomes with real money rather than hyperbole.  The LA Times is also out with a new poll provided by the Public Policy Institute of California.  The poll is not tied into either side of the debate and is considered reliable.  It shows Prop 8 favored 52% to 44%. 

Of course the LDS church has been deeply involved in efforts to get the measure passed.  The church’s efforts have been organized, well funded and effective.  These actions have not gone unnoticed.  In fact, the church seems to be emerging as the most visible party in the fight and the entity that will be given the most credit for its passage.  The Wall Street Journal last week credited the LDS church with drumming up nearly 40% of all money raised to support the proposition  – more than any other group.  Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic Monthly credits the Church contributions with “bankrolling” the pro 8 advertising campaign.

I know it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, but for the sake of argument, let’s say these numbers hold and Prop 8 passes. What does this get the Church?  Will the Church become the poster child (justified or not) for stifling gay rights?  Sure, the Church has the right and apparently the power to fight gay marriage, but it seems to me that it runs a high risk of being singled out for special recognition by gay rights groups as being intolerant and homophobic.  Mind you, I am not commenting on the propriety of such labeling, I just think it is a likely outcome. 

Now there may be some people who think that Church’s success here will play to its strengths.  That the kind of people who will look down upon the Church for this are the kind of people the Church will never win over anyway.  And that there will be many people who are pro-family (in the Mormon sense) who will respond favorably to the Church’s reputation as the entity that beat back gay rights in favor of traditional marriage.  Perhaps they are right.  But is it worth the backlash?

My personal hunch on this is that the Church is in for some stormy weather.  I think gay rights are the new civil rights and it is only a matter of time before gays are afforded the same rights as everyone else.   And much like it was during the civil rights movement, the Church is way behind the curve.  The gay rights train has left the station and the LDS Church cannot turn it back, although it clearly has to ability to hinder its progress.

Do you think this will help or hurt the Church – or both?