Redefining Marriage

Pressure Continues to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

Share this Entry

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, MARCH 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The push to legalize same-sex unions continues as special interest groups try to convince legislators that marriage is something that can be redefined to suit the latest social trends.

In Ireland, the newly elected governing coalition of the Fine Gael and Labor parties just issued their list of policy proposals. According to the Irish pro-family Iona Institute, the more liberal-minded Labor party has got its way regarding family matters.

The program commits the government to examine the issue of same-sex marriage, the institute states on its Web site. It also says that the civil partnerships law will be changed to deal with any anomalies or omissions. This could mean giving same-sex parents the same rights as married couples, according to the Iona Institute.

In addition, the program says that transgender people will be given legal recognition and have the protection of equality laws.

Shortly before the program was released the Irish bishops had called on parliament to defend the family. Public policy should support the common good, they said in a March 3 statement issued following a meeting of all Irish bishops.

Achieving this involves strengthening the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, they added.

No defense

Same-sex marriage is very much in the news in the United States. Last month Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the Obama administration would no longer defend in the courts legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that limits marriage to heterosexual couples.

President Obama and Holder now consider the law to be unconstitutional, the New York Times reported, Feb. 24.

“Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as ‘discrimination,'” Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), protested in a statement issued March 3.

Archbishop Dolan went on to point out that marriage based on a man and a woman is the bedrock of society and that historically governments have protected it because of its contribution to the common good.

He agreed that unjust discrimination is wrong. It is not unjust, however, to defend a law that only seeks to protect the meaning of marriage. Nor is it discrimination to affirm that a child is better off having both a father and a mother and that the state has an interest in ensuring this, he added.

“Having laws that affirm the vital importance of mothers and fathers — laws that reinforce, rather than undermine, the ideal that children should be raised by their own mother and father — is essential for any just society,” Archbishop Dolan concluded.

Even as challenges to DOMA continue in the federal courts the debate continues at the state level.

In Rhode Island on Thursday hundreds of people turned up for a Senate hearing on the issue of same-sex marriage. Supporters and opponents alike presented their arguments to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Providence Journal reported March 11.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence is one of those opposing the move to recognize same-sex marriage. In a Jan. 7 statement he stressed that those people with a homosexual orientation deserve love and respect. At the same time he warned that legalizing marriage for them is detrimental to the well-being of the state.

Maryland has also been at the center of a debate over this matter. Earlier this year the state’s senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and it has been debated in the last few days in the lower house of the legislature. Governor Martin O’Malley has declared he will sign the bill if it is approved, the Associated Press reported Mar. 5.

As the proposal was being debated in the House last week it became evident there was not sufficient support for the bill and so the initiative was allowed to die without a vote, the Associated Press reported, March 11.

Drastic alteration

Maryland’s three Catholic bishops were very active in their campaign against the move to legalize same-sex marriage.

“The introduction of legislation to redefine marriage in our state should be recognized for what it is — a proposal to drastically alter a social institution that derives from our human nature as men and women,” declared Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington in a Feb. 8 statement.

“Our focus as a society should be on strengthening marriage, not dismantling it altogether, especially when the harmful effects of the erosion of marriage are so apparent,” they argued.

The statement also observed that if the traditional definition of marriage is abandoned then it will be difficult to arrive at a new definition that will determine which relationships should be supported by government.

In other statements on Feb. 18 and 28 the three bishops also criticized the lack of adequate conscience protections for religious institutions and individuals.

Cardinal Wuerl pointed out the danger of re-defining the meaning of marriage in an article published in the March 13 edition of the National Catholic Register.

Throughout human history marriage has been understood as the commitment of a man and a woman in a partnership for life, both for their own mutual support and to generate and educate children, he explained.

Emptying the term marriage of its meaning for political purposes or in response to lobby groups is a big mistake, he warned.

Polygamy and polyamory

Fears that introducing same-sex marriage will lead to pressure to legalize other forms of unions are not exaggerated.

In Canada, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, a court case is under way in British Columbia to decide if polygamy should become legal.

That’s not the only variation on marriage being proposed. Last year the Boston Globe ran two lengthy articles pondering the benefits of polyamory, which is the practice of being intimately involved with more than one person at a time, with the consent of all involved.

One argument used in favor of recognizing these relationships is that with more than two parents, even if there is a split in the family, the children will still have at least two parents left.

There’s nothing predetermined about today’s prevailing notion of parenthood, proclaimed an article published Oct. 24.

“The law determines what makes someone a legal parent, not marriage, not biology,” said Nancy Polikoff, a family-law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, in the article.

“The law needs to adapt to the reality of children’s lives, and if children are being raised by three parents, the law should not arbitrarily select two of them and say these are the legal parents, this other person is a stranger,” she said.

There’s nothing tidy about marriage today, the article commented, after all the changes regarding divorce, adoption and reproductive technology.

It’s certainly true that marriage and families have been seriously destabilized in the last few decades, but that is hardly a good reason for further debilitating an already weakened institution.

Marriage is good for you, a recent study proclaimed. It improves physical health in men and mental well-being in women and results in a longer and more satisfying life, the Independent newspaper reported Jan. 28.

These conclusions came from a study carried out by Dr. John Gallacher and David Gallacher of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine who investigated the question of whether relationships are good for health.

It’s just one of countless studies showing that families based on a marriage between a man and a woman make a vital contribution to individuals and society. A very good reason why the state should continue to support it.

Share this Entry

ZENIT Staff

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation