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.