The Supreme Court will hear cases regarding the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. It is important to discuss this issue so that Catholics (and others) may come to an understanding of what Catholics are proposing. What we believe what we do not believe. It is often illogical and irrational people who manipulate the teaching of the Church to conform to their own personal opinion, rather than offering the true teaching of the Church. This goes for people who support the redefinition of marriage and those who oppose it. The Catholic Church is far too often misrepresented by poorly educated Catholics and by bigoted opponents of the Catholic Church. It is also important for Catholics to understand the rational argument against redefining marriage to include same-sex couples to show that, although our faith opposes such a redefinition, rational thought and science also bring us to the conclusion that such a redefinition is itself artificial and problematic. Before we begin, let us reflect on the following scripture passages.
“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you , so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works.”
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
The intrinsic dignity of the human person is central to Catholic theological beliefs regarding the anthropology of humanity. God created the human person in His image, each person specifically willed by the Creator. No person is an accident but a willed reality of the Creator. Each person is known to God and loved by the Author of Love. He who sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die upon the cross so that we may reside in eternity with Him. Not only that, but with the Incarnation, God among us in the person of Jesus sanctifies the human person, redeems each and every person’s nature so that we are more than we were before the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Contrary to many other faith traditions, the intrinsic dignity of the human person cannot be erased by anyone’s actions. Though it may be dimmed and soiled, the light of God remains within the eternal soul of each and every person. The man who murders a child retains his interior light. The teenager who lies repeatedly to her parents about the party she attended last weekend retains her interior light. The promiscuous college student retains their intrinsic dignity. It is impossible for any person to condemn the soul of any other person. The culpability and contrition of any particular person is known only to God and the errant person. However, it is possible, not only through revelation, but also through rational discernment, to determine certain actions to be condemnable, to be wrong and objectively bad for the welfare of the human person and the common good.
These facts must be properly understood and accepted before any discussion on the nature of marriage can be had within society. The likes of Fred Phelps act with viciousness and their actions are to be condemned. Their message is not the message of Christ, it is not a Christian message and not only needs to be rejected, but needs to be rebutted and needs to be fought. The words and actions spewed by people like Phelps and others are evil. They have no place in charitable dialogue. That being said, even in spite of their evil acts perpetrated throughout the country and world, their dignity must be recognized, even they are the willful creation of God, however errant they may be.
Violent attacks on other human beings, whether physical, verbal, or spiritual are unacceptable. The intrinsic dignity of the human person must always be put first and foremost even in the face of disagreement. One cannot do evil in order to do a perceived good.
I pray for the intercession of St. Symeon the New Theologian that the following discussion is charitable and respectful. St. Symeon was a monk in the Church prior to the great schism in the middles ages. Though he is not recognized in the Western Church as a saint this is most likely due to the fact that the schism occurred, he is still recognized as a holy man. According to the moral theologian Dr. Mark Ginter, Symeon wrote in his writings that he was a “sodomite” in thought and deed. This is the middle ages terminology for homosexual. Why is this important to note? The sexual orientation of a person does not determine their place in the heart of God. God truly loves each and every one of his children. It also shows that one’s sexual orientation is not the sole definition of who that person is. We are more than our sexuality, though our sexuality is a part of who we are as persons. Eve Tushnet, http://eve-tushnet.blogspot.com/ a Catholic lesbian who converted to the Catholic faith is an advocate for respecting the dignity of all people regardless of sexuality but also rejects same-sex marriage. Her perspective on the issue of same-sex marriage is pertinent because it offers the reality that once again a person’s dignity is not dependent on their sexual orientation and personal experience cannot be the sole way to define truth and justice. It also shows that the attacks on human dignity are not only from the like of Phelps but from members of the LGBT community as well. When Tushnet was highlighted in the advocate.com the repulsive comments that people left against her and others are no better than the ignorant speech of Phelps. For example: Comment:
One of these things is not like the other. Catholic and lesbian! WTF! REALLY!? How long do we have to endure these self hating idiots!?!? THE CATHOLICS HATE US! Regardless of what you think. THEY DONT WANT US!! WE DONT NEED THEM! STOP calling yourself a Catholic and a lesbian. Either give up your so called religion OR stop licking P****! FOOL!
A rational and respectable discussion on the definition of marriage must be put forth that seeks to respect the intrinsic dignity of all persons. This discussion is not an easy one and it is painful and full of emotions, sorrow, despair, anger, and frustration but it can also be an opportunity for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the dignity of the persons we encounter in our lives regardless of their sexual orientation or their personal convictions regarding “same-sex marriage.”
The discussion must first begin with the definition of marriage. It is a simple definition: The union of a man and a woman to form the basic and most elementary structure of human civilization. The purpose of this union can be argued two fold. First, to give permanence to a communal relationship between two people based on the commitment of one to the other for the rest of their life. It is a promise, recognized and witnessed by the rest of society, that seeks to establish, along the principle of subsidiarity, to form a level of civilization that one person takes direct responsibility for the other. This responsibility is financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual. This is where the first principle of the conjugal act (sex), the unitive principle, comes into play regarding the natural law and sex. Within a committed relationship, the unitive nature of the conjugal act prevents the other from being treated as an object of pleasure instead of the person to be loved. If the unitive nature of the conjugal act is ignored, the other becomes an object and not a subject, something that brings one pleasure only; rather than agape, sacrificial love. 2nd, this agreement of the man and woman to one another should include the openness to propagation of the human race through procreation. According to subsidiarity, the lowest level of society should take responsibility, and has the right to such responsibility, for the care of the needs of their sphere of civilization. In post-revolution China the government broke the familial bonds between parents and children and assumed all responsibility for raising children. Rural children in particular were put in orphanage conditions while their parents were separated into work camps. This violates subsidiarity because the parents should have the direct responsibility to care for their children. The reality is that many parents fail at their responsibility, this is when the higher levels of society have a responsibility, in order to respect the dignity of the children as individuated human persons, to care for children through foster care, adoption, etc. But this is not the ideal, nor the natural order of civilization. This is where the procreative nature of the conjugal act comes into the discussion. The openness to procreation also helps prevent the objectification of the human person by interjecting the promise that one is committed to the other in such a way that they are willing to bring a child into the world with the other and also willing to sacrifice of themselves for a third (or more) person. The important thing to remember regarding the procreative nature of the conjugal act is to remember that an openness to procreation is necessary, although it is not required that a child is conceived with every act.
The criticisms of the definition that marriage should only be between one man and one woman are many. They must be taken seriously and must be answered respectfully.
1st. Heterosexual couples show great disregard for marriage themselves; same-sex marriage is no greater threat to marriage and society than people who cheat, get married after only knowing the other for a short time and get divorced just as quickly.
This is an important criticism. It is very true that many heterosexual couples do not live up to the previous argued definition of marriage. They are, in fact, a threat to the marriage and society. People who show disdain for the institution of marriage, who enter into the union with another without the intent of it being for life, or enter into it without proper discernment, attack the institution of marriage. The true remedy for this is making the conditions necessary to get married more responsible and stringent. Marriage is not solely a private affair. If it were, there would not be a reason for legal arguments to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. If it were a private affair there would be no need for government intervention by those who seek a broadened definition. Because we recognize that marriage has consequences beyond the “individual” it is proper for the greater society to place some constraints on the “right” to marriage.
Marriage is not a universal right, not even for heterosexuals. Furthermore, it is also a conditional right to those it is afforded. First, we do not allow in the United States, for 10 year olds to marry one another although both have attained the age of reason. We do not allow heterosexual persons to be married to more than one person at any given time. Persons who are immediately related to one another (father and daughter, brother and sister) are not allowed to marry one another. Marriages that are permitted are conditioned on very specific laws. In order to be legally married two people must have approval from the state. In Iowa for example, you must provide a picture ID and a social security number. You must pay at least $30 for a marriage license. If you are 16 or 17 you must have parental consent. Somebody must officiate the wedding, whether minister or other religious leader or a justice of the peace. Someone must be a witness for the marriage license to be validated. These laws mean that even when marriage is allowed it has conditions. Marriage is not universally granted to heterosexual couples and neither is it freely allowed.
This is important to the argument because it is valid to the criticism that many people who are legally allowed to get married are a threat to marriage itself. The conditions for marriage should be reviewed. We have waiting periods for gun ownership but not for marriages. A person should not be able to meet someone one day and marry them the next. Their choice has consequences on the whole of society and is not a private act. There should also be mandated marriage preparation, either through religious institutions of the couple’s choice (like the pre-canna classes offered by the Catholic Church) or classes that are offered by the government or other non-profit agencies. If people are to be afforded certain rewards from society they should also have responsibility to society. With all rights come responsibilities. There does not exist a right that does not have a correlating responsibility in society.
It is also irresponsible and a threat to the institution to marriage for politicians to try to force single parents into marriage. This is a disturbing proposition because it can pressure vulnerable women into violent or dangerous legal unions with someone who is not committed to caring for them or their child.
Divorce should also not be so easy to receive (except in cases of danger to one of the people in the marriage). If a married couple receives benefits from society for being married because they have committed to care for one another and therefore deserve means to do so, they should have restitution to society if they choose to dissolve that union.
2nd. The government once prohibited “interracial marriage,” same –sex marriage is no different of a right than “interracial marriage.”
This is a false analogy. Interracial marriage was prohibited based on the racist argument that whites were full persons and people of color were sub-human. A legally recognized marriage between a black person and a white person was essentially considered bestiality. We know that this argument is absurd. There is one race, it is the human race. Blacks, whites and all other ethnicities are not from different races but rather simply different ethnicities. All modern humans are descendants from Africa. The color of skin is no different than the color of hair. We still do not have “interracial” marriage since there is only one race of humans. Our laws recognized that blacks and whites are not from different races, blacks being sub-human, and whites superior race; rather, that all people are, in fact, humans. The laws prohibiting the marriage of whites and people of color were based on a false argument. The laws changed to reflect reality, contrary to the popular argument that they were changed to reflect modern opinions (“get with the times”).
Same-sex marriage is not the same as marriage between whites and people of color because the argument against same-sex marriage is not because people consider a union between same-sex partners to be bestiality, but rather, such a union does not fulfill the rational purpose of marriage, ie, the procreative nature of the conjugal act in marriage.
Something that also needs to be said it that it is a vicious analogy to compare same-sex marriage and homosexuality with bestiality. This is one of the most despicable analogies used in arguing against same-sex marriage. It denigrates the dignity of every human person and is never acceptable as an analogy to same-sex marriage. Furthermore, it is also a false analogy and all comparisons by anyone opposed to same-sex marriage must cease.
3rd. Arguments against same-sex marriage are based solely on religious beliefs and should not be imposed on everyone.
This is not true. Although there are many people who oppose same-sex marriage based solely on their religious beliefs, there does exist a rational argument against same-sex marriage. The definition already provided offers that rational argument. Even if someone disagrees with the argument, it cannot be said that it is irrational or that it is based on a religious belief. Reason and science can be brought to bear to oppose the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
4th. “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one.” Or in a different way, Government needs to stay out of our bedroom.
These popular comments are essentially saying marriage is a private act between two people and should be allowed for each person to decide for themselves. This is also false.
First, there is a big difference between laws that prohibit “sodomy” like the one that was passed in Texas and codifying a broader definition of marriage. Two consenting adults engaging in sexual activities in the privacy of their own home is not necessarily the business of the government. However, same-sex marriage recognized by the government is no longer left to the bedroom. It is codifying, and mandating that all citizens recognize the legal union between two people. This is no longer a private act because it does have direct impact on society. This codification legally mandates all other citizens, under pain of penalty of law, to recognize something that they know to be false according to their religious beliefs and their rational mind. Even if you disagree with their beliefs, it is a constitutional right that citizens are allowed freedom to practice the faith of their choosing. To obligate someone to recognize something that directly contradicts their conscience, particularly because of religious beliefs, is an infringement on religious freedom. There are laws that prohibit certain actions and laws that oblige certain actions. Some may argue that we infringe on religious freedom because we do not allow human sacrifices. This is true. However, this is an example of a prohibitive law. It is a whole other discussion when the government attempts to oblige action on the part of people in opposition of their religious beliefs. Obliging persons to accept and support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples is not the same. In the former example, the religious act (human sacrifice) directly infringes on the dignity of the human person by directly depriving a person of their life therefore it can justly be prohibited regardless of the person’s religion. The latter example seeks to require a person to act in a particular way that is a direct attack on their human dignity because it directly attacks the person’s free will. On the flip side, prohibiting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couple prevents society and persons from attacking the dignity of the human person by preventing the government from obliging religious persons to act in a means that contradicts their very nature and is harmful to their person.
Requiring the government and the people of the society to recognize a relationship between two people has moved the discussion from the bedroom to the public square. Thomas Aquinas argued that not all things that are immoral should be outlawed. This would be a legitimate argument to oppose “anti-sodomy” laws since this is in the privacy of one’s home and legislating all morality is unneccesary and can actually inhibit justice. However, by arguing that the government (and in reality, all of society) to recognize, accept, and support a marriage between people of the same sex, those advocates themselves have taken the issue out of the bedroom and into the public square. It is not government intruding into people’s bedroom, but people bringing the bedroom into to the government.
5th. There are unfair benefits that are afforded to hetero-sexual couples that same-sex couples are not afforded because they are prohibited from being married.
This is an important thing to be addressed in the legal system in the United States. A person should be allowed to have visitation rights to the person they care about. A person should be allowed to bequeath their possessions to the person of their choice. Healthcare should be available to all persons in society. Bereavement leave from work, decision making during end of life, following death, medical decisions. These are all things that are automatic benefits of heterosexual marriages. The reality is that most of these benefits are also available to people who are not married. A single person is able to assign someone as a medical power of attorney. A single person is able to assign their inheritance, etc. For those benefits that are not already available to persons not in a marriage, these are often times benefits that all people should have regardless of marital status. For example, it is a human right to have access to healthcare. The argument that we should just allow same-sex couples to marry in order to rectify healthcare access is not only near-sighted, it ignores the real problem of our society, that all people do not have access to healthcare. What about the rights that should be afforded to the person who is a heterosexual who never finds someone to marry for any number of reasons? Should they not also have the right to determine who should visit them in the hospital? Should they also not have access to healthcare? Should they also not have the right to bequeath their belongings to those who they choose? The argument that because marriage has certain legal benefits we should allow everyone to get married is not a solid argument because this still leaves out single people of all sexual orientations. If this was truly about civil rights, and equal rights, then these benefits should not just be afforded to married people. The real issue is that people who rightly are frustrated with the fact that certain benefits automatically come with getting married are not afforded others should work to help legislatures create avenues so that ALL people can rectify such situations in a simple, concise, and affordable manner. For example, a single person who is a heterosexual should be able to go to the County office and have one single form to sign asserting that another person (a close friend, for example) has legal authority over their medical decisions, legal decisions, inheritance, visitation in a hospital, healthcare (as long as they contribute to the premiums and the other person is a dependent), custody of children, and all other benefits that are automatic with marriage. In order to get married, a couple has to apply for a marriage license so this proposed process would not have any additional burden on a person since they would have to go through this paperwork in order to get married anyway. What it would do is to allow ALL people the ability to assert certain benefits to another person regardless of sexual orientation and relationship status. Though marriage would continue to receive these benefits automatically, this would be a simple legal avenue to remove the argument that benefits are afforded to heterosexual couples that are not available to same-sex couples.
6th. People opposed to same-sex marriage and speak publicly of their opposition are homophobic.
It is true that there are many people who are homophobic in our society. There are also many violent attacks on people because of their sexual orientation. People who have same-sex attraction are demonized, harassed, marginalized, and too-often emotionally and physically violated. This is perhaps the most painful and disgusting reality in our society. Same-sex marriage is not just a theoretical discussion to be had but it involves real people. Too many lives have ended too short, either through homicide or suicide, because of the evil actions of homophobic people. An attack on any person is an act of evil.
In spite of the violence done against people with same-sex attraction, everyone who is opposed to same-sex marriage is not homophobic. To make such a claim is just as offensive and an attack on human dignity as denigration of people with same-sex attraction. People who disagree with same-sex marriage are capable of separating the person from the act and are not phobic of people with same-sex attraction but may still believe that certain actions of government are not permissible for various reasons. There are people who oppose same-sex marriage while still having strong, loving relationships with people who are gay. It is offensive to judge a person’s relationship with others simply from their position on same-sex marriage. It is also offensive to assume one’s intent for opposing same-sex marriage.
7th. Who are you to tell people who they can love?
This is not about telling people who they can or cannot love. Once again there is a difference between outlawing the private actions of two consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom and obligating the whole of society to recognize a broadened definition for marriage. Two people are able to love one another without being married. If marriage was solely about love then what happens to a marriage when two people do not love one another? Does their marriage metaphysically dissolve upon the end of love? Or are people still required to legally seek divorce? The truth is, by keeping the definition of marriage as one man and one woman does not prohibit people from loving one another, nor does it mean that the rest of society does not recognize that two people love one another. What it does is recognize the nature of marriage with respect to rational arguments according to metaphysical realism and the natural law. Put in a simpler way, things exist with specific ends, or purposes. A person exists for a specific end. Government exists for a specific end. Marriage exists for a specific end. These ends are inherent to their nature, they are inseparable from them. These ends do not change with time but are universally true. A person is a person whether they were born in 54 BCE or 2012. Even though the constitution regarded slaves as 3/5 it did not mean that blacks enslaved in the United States were not really people until the government recognized them, but they were, in reality, in truth, persons the whole time. The definition of marriage is not just something that can be rewritten because of changing opinions but must remain the same because its nature, its ends, remain the same. The attempt to broaden the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is similar to the government attempting to define blacks as 3/5 of a person. The government cannot recreate the definition of marriage any more than it can recreate the definition of what it means to be a person. Marriage will still be one man and one woman regardless of what the government defines it as. This is because the person exists prior to the state. Marriage exists prior to the state. Even if there were no government marriage would still be a reality. Consider nations where there is no constitution, no legitimate authority or legislative body, or nations in civil war; marriages do not cease to exist because the government is dissolved; they remain because marriage, though recognized by the government, is not dependent up on the government to exist. Marriage pre-empts the state.
8th. Prohibiting same-sex marriage is discrimination and discrimination is unconstitutional.
Prohibiting same-sex marriage is discrimination but it is not unconstitutional. Discrimination is the act of recognizing differences between two or more things. We talk about a “discriminating taste”. With regard to laws there are two types of discrimination, just and unjust. The most widely accepted form of discrimination in our legal system is the American Disabilities Act, a law that I am in full support. The ADA discriminates against people who do not have disabilities by requiring them to provide access to facilities, employment etc. to people with disabilities, sometimes requiring an institution or business to provide extra funds in order to comply. It recognizes that there is a difference between someone who is bi-pedal and someone who is in a wheelchair, and in order to provide opportunities to live fulfilling lives, it requires of the bi-pedal to ensure access to the person in a wheelchair. This is discrimination but it is JUST discrimination. It is just to discriminate between able-bodied and disabled persons so that disabled people have access to employment, public facilities, etc.. Another example of discrimination is affirmative action, another policy that I support. Again, this is JUST discrimination. It discriminates, it recognizes a difference between persons or parties and the historical obstacles to opportunity among social groups; when all things are equal, this policy favors minorities in order to overcome historical UNJUST discrimination against minorities. The point is, not all discrimination is unconstitutional, or more importantly, discrimination is not necessarily unconstitutional. Simply because something is discriminatory does not mean it in opposition to the constitution. There are just forms of discrimination, the ADA and Affirmative Action, and unjust discrimination, poll taxes against blacks, prohibiting minorities from running for office.
9th. The Government does not have the right to legislate morality.
First, this is not true. There are any number of laws that exist solely because of morality. The FCC prohibits graphic sex scenes on network television. Swear words are prohibited during certain time slots on network television. These are only a few examples of the government legislating morality. This is the right of the government. That being said, as has been stated before, “sodomy” laws are about morality and they are not the same as same-sex marriage, which is not necessarily a morality issue but a natural law, or rational argument issue. One can have an ammoral ideology and still be opposed to same-sex marriage based on the rational argument for the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Although many who oppose same-sex marriage do so because of their moral beliefs this does not nullify the definition of one man and one woman. The government does legislate morality already and those rights have been upheld. Furthermore, opposition to redefining marriage to include same sex couples is not solely a “moral” issue but an opposition based in science and reason.