Voting One’s Conscience

[This is an editorial written by my wife Cheryl and me in 2004. Amendment 3 to the Utah Constitution passed handily that November. It disallowed gay rights, including marriage.]

The Emperors Have No Clothes as
They Sally Forth in Utah to Vote on Amendment 3
by Cheryl and David Pace

Strutting the election road in Utah 2004, our Emperors–spokespersons for and against Amendment 3–have no clothes, and there seem to be none among us who will say so. Amendment 3 is a hot-button topic, about which swirls rhetoric deliberately designed, we think, to obscure the obvious.
The obvious is that Amendment 3 is about homosexual marriage. The obvious is that in Utah, where a Mormon majority is about to vote, both the LDS and the non-LDS community spokespersons seem to be making sweeping, prejudicial assumptions about how Mormon individuals will vote; therefore, they speak to manipulate the anticipated bloc vote, more often than to inform it.
For example, the separation of church and state rhetoric of secular and non-LDS communities is, in our view, not less than a misleading and tyrannical effort to convince faithful LDS that to vote their conscience is to violate the rights of fellow citizens, to thumb their noses at American democracy. We also believe that the rhetoric of those LDS spokespersons who would reduce Amendment 3 to a simple defense of family, is equally misleading and tyrannical.
Proponents for both sides of the argument seem to demonstrate a shared belief. They seem to believe a faithful, voting member of the LDS Church has no brain.
The thought of anyone not voting his or her conscience is a frightening thought to us. Our brother and brother-in-law are a non-traditional family and not religious. They will take conscience into the voting booth in the ethical form of moral seriousness. We are a traditional family and religious. We will take conscience into the voting booth in the form of what we believe God wants us to do. The only difference between us as voters is that for us, there can only be the integration of church and state. Each of us enjoys a Constitutional right to freedom of belief–and we have the right to try to vote our beliefs into civil law.
In the Opinion section of the Deseret News on Sunday, Oct 10th, two of our Emperors wrote articles that ran side-by-side. The authors–attorney Daniel Greenwood and Representative Chris Cannon–were eloquent, moving and almost convincing. Almost convincing in that both authors failed, we think, to disguise fear, prejudice and a condescension to other voters as the driving force behind their respective opinions.
Writes Greenwood, “Amendment 3 is not only evil, but stupid as well.” He neither sufficiently identifies the nature of the evil of Amendment 3 nor the particulars of its stupidity. What he does do, is make it clear that a “yes” vote on Amendment 3 will testify to substandard character and capacity in the voter.
Writes Cannon, “We will not accept, at the hands of activist judges, definitions of marriage conjured up in places like San Francisco.” He does not make it clear why activism–writing a piece for the newspaper, for example–is a bad thing. He does, however, make it clear that opinions from San Francisco are to be feared. We think that is because he wants us to imagine he as Emperor is wearing clothes–that is, he hopes we will not notice the scorn and fear-mongering that informs his choice of San Francisco.
We think Greenwood and Cannon both failed to address the questions that persons of faith–which is to say the majority of voters in Utah–are really facing with regard to Amendment 3. As persons of both civic responsibility and faith, our foremost concern is with social justice and the condition of the individual soul in relationship to God.
If homosexual love is a sin and a crime, one could argue it is a victimless one between two consenting adults. Our question is, as we seek to oppress homosexual sins of commission, are more horrific sins of omission aided and abetted by that oppression? Are we giving personal and legal support to the prejudicial thinking that fosters, for example, the destruction of non-traditional families like our brother’s, discrimination in the workplace or the justification of violence against homosexuals?
We believe we have a responsibility to set a public standard that demonstrates the value of our beliefs. We wonder, what is the public standard we are setting as we vote on Amendment 3, and is it a testimony to the highest commandments of our faith: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart…And…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”?
When the vote is over, will we be facing in the right direction? Will we be focused on greater sins, or distracted by lesser sins? Will we know the difference? When the vote is over, will we be dancing down the yellow brick road behind yet another naked Emperor–who appears to us to be clothed–and joyfully singing, “if I only had a brain?”
Copyright, David G. Pace and Cheryl C. Pace, 2010