By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, DEC. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The approval of same-sex marriage in three U.S. states, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, in last month’s elections sets the stage for a renewed debate on the topic in coming months.
Attention is currently focused on the United States Supreme Court and whether it will hear appeals regarding three cases in lower tribunals. The justices met last Friday to consider whether to review appeals, but so far have not announced anything about what they may do.
The cases regard: The U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples; Proposition 8, an amendment to California’s state constitution that overturned an earlier law legalizing gay marriage; and a 2009 Arizona law granting marital benefits only to legally married state employees.
Once the recent approvals from November’s elections come into effect same-sex marriage will be legal in nine states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington – and the District of Columbia.
Even though voters in three states did approve same-sex marriage in 31 other states the constitution has been amended to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
In the meantime the Catholic Church is continuing its efforts to defend the traditional concept of marriage. The Catholic Conference of Illinois recently published a “Toolkit on Marriage.”
It provided a series of questions and answers on the same-sex marriage issue, along with a list of online resources and suggestion for catechesis and homilies.
<p>“Both reason and faith tell us that the marriage of one man and one woman calls forth the best of spouses, not only for their own sake, but also for the well-being of their children and for the advancement of the common good,” the question and answer section explained.
A stable loving marriage between a man and a woman is the best environment for raising children, the kit argued. It also pointed to the natural complementarity between a man and woman.
“Marriage is also beneficial for adults as the ideal structure for man and woman to live
interdependently, recognizing the equal dignity, beauty and value of one another while also relying on each other’s care and love,” it pointed out.
The toolkit also observed that marriage has existed as a natural reality long before any legal recognition by the state. By changing the laws regarding marriage the state would place in danger the goods intrinsic to marriage.
“So, for the stability and well-being of society, the state has an obligation to give preferred status and legal protection to this most basic cell of society,” the document concluded.
Laws on marriage have an educative effect and so redefining it will have an effect on how people regard it. Legalizing same-sex marriage would, in effect, be telling people that there is no essential benefit to having both a father and a mother.
The institution of marriage has already been weakened by the high levels of divorce and children born to single parents, the bishops noted.
“So we see that if the state sanctions same-sex unions little else will be left to the institution of marriage beyond being a temporary emotional bond between two adults: permanence, exclusivity and procreativity would become mere options in societal norms,” they warned.
In response to the argument that same-sex couples have a right to marry the document commented that the right to marry is a right to enter into a specific type of relationship that has particular social benefits.
“It is neither unfair nor unjust to accept and instill requirements based upon the nature of an institution,” the questions and answers maintained.
There are many arrangements that distinguish between groups and individuals. Moreover, marriage has never been open to all with restrictions placed on it between those closely related to one another.
Redefining marriage is also a serious danger to religious liberty as refusal to accept same-sex marriage by some individuals will bring down upon them coercive state power.
This has already happened, the document explained, with Church agencies being forced out of adoption services due to their refusal to place children with cohabiting couples.
“It is not bigotry or discrimination to treat different things differently,” the bishops’ document insisted. Marriage is unique in that one of its central features is sexual difference. Same-sex couples lack this and cannot procreate or provide a father and a mother to children. It is, therefore, a very different situation to that of previous legal prohibitions to interracial marriage.
Yes, Jesus did welcome all, but being loving and welcoming does not mean we have to accept a redefinition of one of the most fundamental institutions of society.
It isn’t about imposing religious views either, the document defended, as it is about protecting the common good and the welfare of future generations.
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On the NET:
Marriage Toolkit – http://www.ilcatholic.org/cci-issues-marriage-toolkit/