WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Denying marriage to homosexual couples does not demonstrate unjust discrimination or lack of respect, because marriages and same-sex unions are essentially different realities, says the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“To uphold God’s intent for marriage, in which sexual relations have their proper and exclusive place, is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons,” the bishops wrote in their statement, which they overwhelmingly approved at their meeting last month.
“Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth and oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons,” the statement said.
The statement comes at a time of serious debate over the definition of marriage in the United States. A Massachusetts court recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Vermont allows civil unions between homosexuals, and laws in California and Hawaii extend some economic benefits to same-sex couples.
The bishops stressed that marriages and same-sex unions are fundamentally different.
“For several reasons a same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage,” they said. “It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union.”
“Persons in same-sex unions cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage,” they said.
Some proponents of same-sex unions want equal rights for homosexual couples under law. But the bishops rejected redefining marriage to provide legal benefits for homosexual persons.
“The legal recognition of marriage, including the benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society,” they said. “It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage.”
The bishops pointed out that some benefits sought by persons in homosexual unions could already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.
To explain the state’s responsibility in supporting marriage between a man and a woman, the bishops wrote, “Across times, cultures and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance.”
“The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage,” they said. “Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others. Ultimately, the stability and flourishing of society is dependent on the stability and flourishing of healthy family life.”
The bishops concluded that the state or the Church could not redefine marriage, as it was given by God.
“Marriage is a basic human and social institution,” they wrote. “Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.”