Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Op-ed: Amendment 3 supporters not motivated by bigotry

By Michelle Mumford

First Published Feb 15 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Feb 17 2014 12:27 pm

This paper recently published an op-ed entitled, "Utah cannot justify marital apartheid." The authors, frequent contributors, accuse supporters of Amendment 3 of anti-gay animus.

But their use of "apartheid" to describe Utah’s Amendment 3 actually shows why the term is inapplicable. "Apartheid," literally "apart-hood," connotes the horrid and murderous history of racial segregation in South Africa whereby laws were imposed to keep majority black citizens separate from the minority white Afrikaners by threat of criminal penalty.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Efforts to equate Amendment 3 with miscegenation laws in American history are similarly unfair. There also, laws were enacted to criminalize marriage between men and women of different races. People who married in violation of those laws were actually subject to imprisonment for their actions.

The amicus brief recently submitted by the consortium of churches in Kitchen v. Herbert relies in part on a citation to the Supreme Court case of Murphy v. Ramsey. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the Edmunds Act disenfranchising and imprisoning Mormons who sought to maintain their polygamous families — relationships that were legal when entered into. To see real "apartheid" on this issue, in other words, we need only look back in Utah’s history.

In contrast, laws like Amendment 3 do not impose criminal punishment to enforce an "apart-hood." They seek merely to preserve the history, ideal, and status quo of marriage, defined as between a man and a woman.

I understand the debate to be a maddening contrast of competing tautologies. On the one side, opponents of same sex marriage argue: Men and women are different. Thus, marriage between men and women will produce something unique. And the state has a rationale basis, founded in history, social science or otherwise, to define that relationship as "marriage."

On the other side, same-sex marriage supporters argue: But by defining marriage as man-woman, Utah has, by definition, excluded other relationships. This is equally true. A legal definition will always exclude. What is left is whether the distinction is permissible according to our principles of equity and fairness.

While I personally disagree with Judge Shelby’s recent ruling, and as a lawyer, I think he kind of turned constitutional analysis on its head, I can appreciate where he was coming from. I think we are all a little uncomfortable with the idea that our friends and neighbors feel victimized and excluded. It is not something we want.

Judge McKay used to say of criminal defense law, "But for the grace of God, it could be me." Despite calls against "activist judges," I think we are all more comfortable with a judge who errs on the side of individual liberty.

But in this ever-increasing environment of expanded individual liberties, the marriage debate gives many Utahns pause. And it is not because we are bigots. It was not fair to conclude that supporters of Amendment 3 were motivated by anti-gay animus. And it is not fair for opinion writers to accuse those same Utahns of seeking a system of "marital apartheid."


story continues below
story continues below

I would like to see more emphasis on our unity as opposed to apart-hood as we consider this issue. For example, Amendment 3 was passed at the same time those very same Utah citizens in many cities across the state, with the support of the LDS Church, expanded increased legal protection and accommodation to same-sex couples. And such a bill would have likely passed at the state level during this session had this ruling not stirred the pot in late December.

Perhaps those opinion writers would say, yes, just the kind of sweeping nefarious plot you would expect from anti-gay bigots. But would it not be more fair to acknowledge that people of good will can sometimes disagree on how we should bridge the gap of tautologies and define marriage in the law?

I feel like I have a unique perspective on this issue. My husband and I lived through the Prop 8 battles in California. In the aftermath of the election that year, we attended church with protesters outside calling us "Mormon maggots" for our beliefs. I personally experienced the gay community mobilizing to punish and discriminate. Yet I refuse and reject imputations of animus or bigotry to both sides of this debate.

For better and worse — even in sickness and in health — it’s e pluribus unum when it comes to these contentious issues. Or as I want to say to those accusing us now of "marital apartheid": E pluribus frickin’ unum (in the appropriate Utah dialect). We may disagree, but whatever we face here, we face it together.

Michelle Mumford is the assistant dean of admissions at BYU Law School and a former 10th Circuit Court clerk.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.