Why Catholics Have The Fight to Protect Marriage Backwards (+5 Ways To Move Forward)

I’m heartened by the outpouring of commentary in the wake of New York’s move to legalize gay “marriage.” Truly, I am. It means that Catholics care about marriage and are distressed when they see it under attack (as they should).

But the sudden uptick in volume of Catholic voices talking about the threat to marriage represented by its redefinition in New York confuses me, for this reason: we could have stopped it.

Over the past weeks (and months) I’ve worked closely with the National Organization for Marriage to oppose gay marriage bills in Maryland, Rhode Island and New York. We won in Maryland and Rhode Island. And we just lost in New York. And yet, instead of trumpeting the victories in these first two states when they happened, far more ink has been spilt by Catholic voices bemoaning the final result in New York.

There’s a reason for this: Catholic commentary follows mainstream media commentary. The number of headlines earned by a victory for gay marriage far outweighs (I would bet by a ratio of at least 10-to-1) the number of stories written about gay marriage defeats. So a part of this phenomenon is due to Catholics sensing a major shift has happened in the fight to protect marriage only when the media signals us a shift has happened — and the media is careful to only signal such shifts when they like where they think they see things headed.

Thus we are left with the distinctly odd situation where marriage defeats have a thousand Catholic fathers, and marriage victories are made to be Catholic orphans. It should, of course, be just the other way around.

[I should make clear before I go on: I am tremendously pleased with the active role CatholicVote has taken leading up to the vote to activate our members to defend marriage and pray for the legislators in New York to make the right choice!]

Another reason that Catholics talk more about marriage defeats than our victories is that, sadly, many of us –almost always quite unintentionally– have fallen into the careful trap laid by proponents of gay marriage of believing that it is inevitable.

As I briefly outlined in my post earlier this week, gay marriage is not inevitable. In fact, despite the defeat for marriage in New York, this year has been a very good year for marriage: two deep-blue states shut down efforts to redefine marriage (Democrats, by the way, were responsible in both states for this), and several other states (Minnesota, Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa and Pennsylvania — off the top of my head) are moving forward with enacting greater measures to establish one-man, one-woman marriage as the only type of union recognized as marriage in their state constitutions and statutory law.

This is the bird’s-eye view of the marriage fight I see. Unfortunately, I think many Catholics are being presented with a different picture because of how the media portrays the battle, and, in addition, because even Catholic voices they trust often mirror this negative attitude about the real ability we have to protect marriage.

So what CAN we do to protect mariage, besides bemoan when we have setbacks? Simple:

1. If you haven’t yet, become a member of CatholicVote and subscribe to their newsletter. CatholicVote has their fingers on the pulse of this issue and will always keep you up to date.

2. Follow and support the work of the National Organization for Marriage (and their frequently-updated blog). NOM is the most successful national organization fighting to defend marriage and the faith communities that believe in marriage.

3. Find the website for your state’s Catholic Conference of Bishops and see what is happening in your state now which either threatens or supports marriage.

4. As you begin to think about the November 2012 elections, get into the habit now of evaluating candidates and issues in terms of how they impact marriage and the family.

5. Pray for those who fight to protect marriage and family and work to learn more about why marriage is only between one man and one woman for good reasons.

If we all commit ourselves to these five simple steps, the next time we’ll be talking about a major piece of marriage news we’ll be talking about it for the right reason: because we won.



  • Larry

    I think the primary reason the media (and the knowledgeable people who are feeding it) believe that gay marriage is inevitable, is that it is going to come down to a court ruling, like Roe v. Wade. When Perry vs. Schwarzenegger went to court (two Californians whose marriages were taken away by Prop 8 are suing the state of California), and the “facts” and “research” and “proof” against same-sex marriage were truly on trial, all that stuff melted away into a blob of animus against gays. The court has a strong track record of declining animus and supporting minorities. If and when the Supreme Court strikes down Prop 8, all the other state amendments will dissolve.

  • Stacy Trasancos

    […Thomas Peters wrote to remind Catholics not to only bemoan the disheartening New York vote to legalize gay marriage, but to focus on continuing the efforts to teach and effect laws because we can win with truth. I agree and I am ready to be joyful for victories, but I also just got a heartbreaking prayer request and it concerns a little boy in Brooklyn, a boy who had married parents that took him to the park for hot dogs. Amidst dismal statistics, this is a real life incident that shows why we need to battle immorality and evil…]


  • Dena

    The attack on marriage is the attack on family. The state should not be redefining marriage. We are already living with the wreckage of the breakdown of the family. Societies will have marriages with or without the state. Having the state force churches to perform ceremonies for same sex unions and forcing businesses that cater to weddings to comply is taking away freedoms. This has nothing to do with equality.

  • davide

    @JR deacon- you say same-sex “marriages” don’t hurt others? First it hurts the couple. We have to assume the couple are sexing it up so yes it is hurting the couple homosexual sex is immoral. Both are hurting themselves and the other. Then there is the children. We have to assume a child could be adopted by a same-sex couple deny the child the basic human right of being raised by a mom and a dad. A gay man will always be a second rate mother do a daughter. A lesbian will never be a father to a son. Recent studies suggest children raised by two women (lesbians) have higher rate of depression, gender identity issues and homosexual behavior. Children are not puppy dogs are not tomato plants. Same-sex couples adopting children amounts to child trafficking. And you say it does not harm-research it buddy!

  • JR Deacon

    I support marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. I don’t agree with it, but it neither harms me or hurts others. They should be free to live their lives. Protecting gay Andes Ian couples and their families will help our country by creating stronger families. We as Catholics are better than this petty political argument that only harms others and doesn’t strengthen one single Catholic marriage.

    • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

      JR Deacon— I’m perplexed. Do you not know what your Church teaches concerning the sacrament of marriage and what it is all about? Far, far before it is a political issue it is an issue of what it is to be human, and to be in relationship, and what it is to be in relationship to God. Do yourself a favor and study what the Church has always taught regarding the sacrament of marriage and perhaps then, if you can see past simple political or merely ignorant desires, you’ll see why the Church advocates and believes as she does on this issue. Suffice to say your comment betrays a deep ignorance of the faith which you seem to claim you believe.

      • Greg Smith

        But Tom, this discusion is not about the sacrament of marriage. It’s about civil marriage. Please note that most Americans cannot have a sacramental marriage for the simple reason that they arn’t Roman Catholics.

        • Joe M

          Greg Smith. I believe that Tom was referring to what the Catholic Church teaches about supporting gay marriage. When Pope Benedict states that gay marriage presents “the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today,” is there really room for misinterpretation about this? We are entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own Catholic Churches.

  • Jay

    You’re right Thomas: we could have prevented same sex marriage.

    I think one of the other reasons why it was easily passed is due to the fear of some–Christians and non-Christians alike–that do not want to be labeled as a bigot or as archaic (citing the Bible to show marriage has an anthropological source as that of between a man and a woman). And waas it Archbishop Dolan that just recently identified the warm fuzziness of the Church in its stance towards homosexuality as one of the causes?

    I also believe some of us are not strong enough in our defense of marriage due to bad catechism or ignorance.

    When love is used as the central argument, as same sex marriage advocates proclaim as their ‘right’ to marriage, the sentimentalism defeats all reasoning power. Afterall, pathos tends to sway the public more than logos. And to be a witness (martyr) is to proclaim un-apologetically the truth.

    We need to reclaim faith, reason, truth, love, and marriage from the dictatorship of relativism.



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