Playing Valentine [posted February 14, 2011]

Legend has it that one of the roots of Valentine’s Day stem from a third century ban on marriage passed by Roman emperor Claudius II who thought married men made poor soldiers. A priest named Valentine continued the marriage tradition by marrying couples in secret, but was tragically caught and jailed, then put to death.

Thankfully modern-day tactics are not quite so severe, but 18 centuries later there remains tension between church and state in the regulation of marriage, most recently as it relates to gay marriage. Mormons of course are no stranger to the controversy as seen in their efforts for the passage of California’s Prop 8.

At the heart of the debate is what the marriage certificate actually means. Is it just a piece of paper or is there something more? What drove those couples to seek the help from Valentine all those years ago? Believing the paper and the name carries not only legal rights, but a history and legacy, people and organizations are working to change laws to recognize gay marriage. HRC has launched a new campaign of New Yorkers 4 marriage, gathering clips of celebrities including unlikely ally Barbara Bush, the daughter of George W. Bush.

While the chorus for marriage equality grows louder, the choices facing Mormons with these convictions is complicated. The church’s position toward the gay community has softened over the years, but its opposition to gay marriage remains steadfast. We see it not only in vaguely worded addresses during General Conference, but also political efforts. In fact, for the past 30 years no other issue has received as much of the church’s time, energy and focus in the political arena.

In 2008 I found myself between a rock and a hard place in terms of the Prop 8 debate. As the church took even greater strides to make this constitutional amendment a reality, I believed my silence to be approval and felt compelled to speak up for my gay brothers and sisters and for other Mormons who feel this way too. I made what I considered to be a compassionate video outlining my position and submitted it to Mormons for Marriage, a site dedicated to respectful dialogue about the issue. My motives were to speak for myself in the political arena according to the dictates of my own conscience. I wished the church no ill, and I made every effort to be reasonable and stay within my own stewardship. Looking back on the video 2 plus years later, I still do not know a more respectful way to have expressed my position, which is that the morality of homosexuality has nothing to do with this debate, loving others means allowing everyone the recognition and rights we wish for ourselves in expressing love and building families.

I did not discuss the video with my local leaders before making it public, but they were directed to it by church headquarters. At the end of some very heart felt discussions, my speaking out with this video threatened my temple recommend and my calling, and I ultimately chose to take it down to protect my standing in the church.

I have lived to regret the decision. And so today, in honor of the Valentine legend and in support of the love that drives so many of us to share our lives with each other, I stand up once more in favor of marriage, all marriage, with my Prop 8 video.

Transcript of the original video: My son Wally came home from Nursery this Sunday with this picture. Underneath the scribbles you can see 4 children of different ethnicities holding hands in a heart, and at the top it says “I will love others”. Wally learned an important lesson: he learned the 2nd great commandment given to us by our Savior, to love others as we love ourselves. Pictures like these are the reason that I go to church; the reason we wake up early on Sunday morning and drag our children and fight them through meetings. I want them to learn that we love others– not just those who don’t look like us–but those who don’t believe like us either. Wouldn’t it be cool if in that picture there was a woman in a burkha or a Catholic priest or even a man with a cigarette. “I will love others.” So why is this church who’s taught me so much about my Savior asking its members for its time and their money and their votes to deny other people marriage, and why should I not follow them? This question has caused me a lot of reflection, and I had to figure out who I really am. I am Melanie Selco, I’m a wife, I’m a mom of five, I’m a loyal member of this church, but I’m also a member of the community at large–and most importantly I’m a disciple of Christ. And that last characteristic is what makes me obligated to follow my own conscience on this matter. I still believe in these pictures that Wally drew and in the primary lessons we teach in the simplest form. I know my church has good intentions in this legal debate. I know they’re trying to protect marriage. But I think my marriage can only be protected as much as the marriage that is least respected in our society right now, and that would be a gay marriage. My Church tells me there is a slippery slope for allowing gay marriage rights, but they don’t talk about the slippery slope of not allowing it. What happens if we give our government the power to decide who can be married based on morality? Who’s to say that they won’t come around in 10 or 20 years and say that my marriage is immoral, that they don’t like the Church that I belong to, or that they think I’ve overpopulated the world or whatever their reason? I want to decide what a moral family looks like for me and try and live up to that, and I think that loving others is allowing them to do the same.

The original video

The description of the video on youtube:

I put this video on during the Prop 8 debate. At the time, speaking out via this video threatened my temple recommend and calling, and I chose to take it down to protect my standing in the church. I regret that decision and put it back up as a tribute to the legend of Valentine:…