Utah Should Look to Its Past to Map Its Future

I have high hopes for the future of Utah, especially in regards to the political climate. Perusing the comments on the latest news out of my home state makes me question if this is actually the case.

As it currently stands, it doesn’t seem like that is a possibility, especially in light of the current fight regarding same-sex marriage. It seems that a lot of the current political leadership is stuck in generations past, all but proclaiming that it is the state’s prerogative to discriminate a group of people because they don’t fit into some outdated definition of what is “traditional” when it comes to marriage. 

Sad thing is, a lot of the people citing that “traditional” marriage is between a man and a woman have apparently forgotten about the history of the state in which they reside. In case they have truly forgotten, here’s a quick rundown:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is founded by Joseph Smith in New York, and in later years, the Church was forced from many stops along the way, primarily because of its then secret practice of polygamy. After the assassination of Smith at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois, the Church followed Brigham Young west, stopping in what is now known as Utah in 1847. Polygamy was practiced by a bunch of folks, most famously by Brigham Young himself, and was a barrier in the early days of the Utah Territory as it attempted to gain statehood throughout much of the second half of the 19th century.

The state sought protection for the practice, claiming it was protected under the First Amendment, and the federal government passed the Morrill Act in in 1862, which banned plural marriage in the states and territories, and the Act was later held as constitutional by the Supreme Court. It wasn’t until Church President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto in 1890 that the Church officially advised against plural marriage, though they continued to happen in small groups of the Church.

Utah was admitted as a state in 1896, but its fights against the federal government, not to mention the heavy influence of the Church in all things state government, have tended to make the state a lead in the fight for states’ rights since it became a state nearly 118 years ago.

Utah’s experience with polygamy over the past 150 years should help inform its current leaders that change is often for the better. Instead, they keep harping on the importance of “traditional” marriage and the damage to future generations if something like same-sex marriage is allowed to happen in their Deseret. They seem unable to grasp that at one time, “traditional” marriage in Utah could have meant marriage between a man and more than one woman. It also mirrors the fight against interracial marriage and racial desegregation in parts of the south during the mid-20th century, with some of the same arguments being echoed by those that support Amendment 3.

My hope is that history will eventually see this fight as ridiculous as the other fights for equal rights that have happened, and eventually we will live in a state (and country) that will give little to no regard for what people do in their private lives. It doesn’t really require drastic change; all that we need to happen is for the current political establishment to gradually leave office, hopefully replaced with people that are more open-minded and not so set in the past. Term-limits would be one way to start limiting the damage, but so will active participation in elections by the currently oppressed minority.

It is my firm belief that my beloved home state will figure things out sooner rather than late. If not, they will go down on the wrong side of history and be forced along against their will. That wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for anyone.

Until next time…

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