In declaring his support for same-sex marriage yesterday, President Obama took his stand on the Golden Rule, Jesus' saying in Matthew 7:12 that is popularly rendered as, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." At the National Prayer Breakfast three months ago, the president referred in his prepared remarks to his non-church-going mother as "instinctively guided by the Golden Rule."
The sociologist Nancy Ammerman has written about "Golden Rule Christianity" as the dominant form of lived religion in the American mainstream. At the end of the day, we Americans find it difficult not to yield to its demands when a case for equal treatment is made (be it for blacks or women or disfavored religious minorities), even when the other side offers up its own religious arguments. Here it's a contest between the Golden Rule and the condemnations of homosexual acts in Leviticus and Paul's Letter to the Romans. I'd say the president has staked out favorable religious ground for himself.
Assuming his position on the other side of the battlefield, Mitt Romney engaged in a bit of what Jan Shipps, the great non-Mormon scholar of Mormonism, calls "speaking Mormon."
"This is a very tender and sensitive topic as are many social issues," he said. "But I have the same views I've had since running for office."
Do a little Googling and you'll find that when LDS folks want to tread carefully, they'll refer to the subject at hand as a "tender topic." And marriage for sure is one of those tender Mormon topics. The last thing Romney wants to do is get into a discussion of the varied marital norms that human communities have embraced over the years. The Golden Rule is hard enough to go up against as it is.