photo credit: Caucas

Three months ago, an organization called Equality Utah launched a campaign they titled the Common Ground Initiative. This initiative is a package of bills being considered in Utah’s current legislative session, each of which confers some additional privileges and opportunities to homosexual couples.

Proponents of these bills are implementing one of the most successful and subtle tactics in changing public opinion and shaping public policy: gradual subversion. Were these same individuals to come out and actually reveal their end game—the government-mandated acceptance and implementation of homosexual marriage in the state of Utah—citizens would soundly reject the proposal by a landslide majority.

Instead, gradual subversion is used to slowly chip away at the traditional definition of marriage through small steps and a distracted, ambivalent community. In this way, Equality Utah and their brethren in arms are taking a page right out of California’s recent history books. The California Supreme Court’s radical decision that mandated homosexual marriage in that state could not and would not have ever occurred had there not been a previous conferral of privileges and opportunities to homosexual couples (”civil unions”) that equated in almost every way to heterosexual marriages. By laying the foundation for so-called “equal” rights in that state, and by successfully obtaining a government-created civil union that mirrored marriage in every way except name alone, the Court had some small sliver of a reason by which to argue for the full-out provision of genderless marriage. After all, if homosexual civil unions and heterosexual marriages differ only in their label, then what substantial difference is there, if any?

Californians have now twice rejected by popular vote the decision to so alter the union of marriage. But behind the scenes, a slow and steady erosion was gradually taking place through the continual bestowal of “rights” upon homosexual couples who desired the same incentives and opportunities already afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. Had this subterfuge been recognized for what it was and stopped short, the Court’s decision would have simply remained a fantasy in the minds of the California homosexual community.

But now California’s playbook is open and unfolded to the country at large, and some Utahns are using its pages as a playbook for their own political ploy—thus, the Common Ground Initiative. Ironic it is, that the word “common” would be selected, since by using government to mandate genderless marriages, the institution itself does indeed become common. No longer held as special, granted societal privilege, or conferred any unique status, the partnership once held by many as sacred would indeed become common; if marriage can mean anything, then it means nothing.

Rightly so, then, did the Sutherland Institute name their countering campaign the Sacred Ground Initiative. This battle to prevent an eventual redefinition of marriage requires that it been seen as special (or sacred, in religious vernacular). As Sutherland president Paul Mero notes, some of the current stratagem used by the opposition to chip away at the public perception of marriage’s sacred role has been in play for over a decade:

By 1997, I had the equivalent of my Ph.D. in gay rights, but I was still learning. It was that year that I gained an important insight into the new gay strategy — Utah was to become ground zero in the war over gay rights. I learned this at an event at the University of Utah sponsored by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Sitting there amidst a small group of gays and their loved ones, two lesbian sociologists reported on a community survey they had just completed. Their findings were revelatory in directing their strategies: they said, if we couch being gay in very personal terms, emotionally and with familial sentimentality, Utah’s Latter-day Saint population responds positively – in fact, so much so that they’re inclined to accept gays and give them civil rights, notwithstanding their religious beliefs.

Proposition 8 was not about California. It’s about Utah, and particularly Latter-day Saints. If Utah falls for gay rights, the whole nation falls for gay rights. The strategy to take Utah has been in play for over 10 years now. You can see the growing network of families and sympathetic neighbors who empathize with the plight of their young gay and lesbian family members. Utah’s streets are not filled with ridiculous displays of gay culture as you’ll find in San Francisco. Instead, we’re approached by well-dressed, respectable gays, or better yet their straight parents, simply appealing to our good consciences and moral sense of fairness.

Nothing else has changed. The arguments in favor of gay rights and gay marriage are as vacuous today as they were during the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Bar in New York City. Even their best minds still cannot explain how gay sex or gay marriage, or anything beyond gay fashion sense, benefits society. They simply can’t express a compelling state interest in their lives — a standard that our judiciary has long held important before we make public something that is typically private.

In short, the proposals of this “common ground” initiative are nothing more than the groundwork for an eventual campaign to overturn the 2004 amendment to the Utah Constitution, which states the following:

1. Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
2. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

To achieve this goal, the Utah homosexual community must first strike down the second portion of this amendment which forbids the “California plan”—the bestowal of every privilege of marriage save the word alone. It is no surprise, then, that this action is one of the initiative’s proposals.

With the family as the fundamental and most basic unit of society, it should be noted that the birth of the state occurred long afterward. Thus, as a creation and extension of that unit, in no way is it justified in changing its creator. Marriage and family both predate the state, and thus it is wrong for the government to turn around and impose an alteration of that venerable structure. So stated the New York Supreme Court:

The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.

In a 2004 ruling on a homosexual marriage adoption case, a federal appeals court stated that it does “not sit as a superlegislature to award by judicial decree what was not achievable by political consensus”. Realizing this, the proponents of Common Ground Initiative and similar campaigns seek first to erode marriage through warped definitions of equal rights and marriage itself, thus debasing a once-sacred institution into a common bestowal of government goodies.

Equality Utah hopes to succeed by cleverly crafting campaign talking points in a way that frames this as nothing more than an issue of equality and love, as Mero indicated was already happening over a decade ago. By framing their subversive political proposals in this way, and by downplaying their ultimate end game, Equality Utah and their partners wish to see Utah follow after California after having slowly and patiently laid the groundwork necessary for radical action. If Utahns learned anything from Proposition 8, it’s that such radical action becomes a costly venture to overturn. It’s easier, cheaper, and more effective to prevent the erosion of marriage ahead of time than to take up arms in a fierce battle with a vocal minority. As with other issues, an ounce of political prevention is worth a pound of constitutional controversy.

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