Some thoughts on “same-sex marriage”
I find the decision of Judge Walker in the gay marriage case overturning CA Prop 8 to be disappointing and disconcerting, but unsurprising. His opinion seems to lack objectivity and includes a “finding of fact” which attacks religious groups that hold homosexual actions to be sinful as bigoted. On the one hand, the potential implications and ramifications of such a ruling are staggering and frightening. On the other hand, charges of bigotry are to a certain extent understandable. Christians have long failed, and egregiously so, to love the sinner and correct the sin when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Nevertheless, warranted or not, the claims of the judge may spell trouble for religious freedom in the U.S.
On the issue of same-sex marriage itself, it seems to me that its legalization is nigh inevitable and has been so for some time. In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI offered prophetic warnings about the consequences of the widespread use of contraceptives. For example,
. In 1988, Janet E. Smith noted that all the prophecies contained in “Humanae Vitae” had been fulfilled. The encyclical predicted that:
• The widespread use of contraceptives would lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality;
• “The man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion”;
• The widespread acceptance of contraception would place a dangerous weapon in the hands of public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies; and
• It would lead men (and women especially) to think they had absolute and unlimited dominion over their bodies.
Indeed the separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage and the nuptial act has had disastrous consequences. Same-sex marriage can be seen as another one of these consequences. The institution of marriage is no longer understood to be what it actually is. Judge Walker wrote that marriage is
“a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another, and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another, and their agreement to join in an economic partnership and support one another in terms of the material needs of life.”
Jennifer Roback Morse, to whom I have linked above, responds to the above by asking:
How would this definition exclude college roommates? Not only does this definition include nothing about children, it includes nothing even about marriage being a sexual relationship, and certainly nothing about permanence, nothing about sexual exclusivity, nothing about connecting the generations to one another.
After all, marriage is essentially about joining a man and woman together for the sake of their children and for the sake of each other. This requires permanence and fidelity. Sadly however, the working definition of marriage has long since ceased to be such. And in fact, defenders of “traditional” marriage now have little ground to stand on. If we were serious about fighting same-sex marriage, then we should have been fighting no-fault divorce more seriously. At this point, in the public eye, there is little left for us to defend.
So…what are our options?
Realistically, I think same-sex marriage will be legalized. If that is the case, a clear distinction should be made (legally and otherwise) between civil unions and sacramental marriages. On the Church’s part, parishes should more firmly and uniformly insist that couples being married live as if they recognize the sanctity and dignity of marriage and its sign-value. On the government’s part, tax breaks should be reserved for marriages that produce children and that last, (although I could see certain exceptions). These are the marriages which a government should want to encourage.
Frankly, I don’t like this compromise, but since our society no longer acts in accord with the institution of marriage in which we believe, it is unlikely that said society will respect the integrity of that institution. Judge Walker’s definition of marriage, while incomplete, is probably closer to how many people see marriage; even if they wouldn’t use those words, they act in accord with it. And on those grounds, there is little or no reason to exclude homosexuals from such unions.