There’s been a lot of talk about same-sex marriage the past couple of days. And by all indications, it’s not about to slow down anytime soon. Fueled by recent victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington, liberal activists are pressuring lame duck legislatures in Illinois, Rhode Island and several other states to pass legislation that would recognize same-sex marriages.
Though such efforts appear stalled at the moment, Catholics need to prepare for the onslaught the surreptitiously labeled “marriage equality” movement is set to launch in 2013.
One way they can do that is to familiarize themselves with the non-religious arguments for traditional marriage. Of the false narratives built up over the past several years none has been more effective than the absurd notion that there is no secular reason to oppose same-sex marriage, and that opponents of “marriage equality” are simply a bunch of theocrats who support hate groups.
To be sure, millions of Americans – President Obama included – do look for guidance from their faith when it comes to understanding marriage. But just like there are non-Biblical arguments that tell us reigning in government spending is probably a good idea, there are also non-religious reasons to oppose same-sex marriage.
With this in mind, Princeton Professor Robert George, Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson and Princeton PhD. candidate Sherif Girgis set out to write a book that defends the traditional understanding of marriage from a non-theological, reason-based outlook. Their book, “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: a Defense,” was released last month. Professor George sat down with Catholic writer Brandon Vogt to talk about the book for the upcoming edition of Our Sunday Visitor. Here is just part of their discussion (with some editing)
Professor George: Advocates of redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships appeal to the principle of equality. We cannot, however, understand what equality does and does not require without first determining what marriage is.
They hold to the unquestioned assumption that marriage, properly understood, is simply an especially intense emotional bond.
The assumption, however, turns out to lack credibility.
For example, it cannot make sense of why marriage is necessarily a sexual partnership, as opposed to a partnership that could just as well be integrated around other (nonsexual) shared interests, activities or objectives (a love of tennis or literature, a shared commitment to a political or religious cause, or whatever).
Nor — quite crucially — can it make sense of why marriage is a union of two persons, and not three or more (triads, quadrads, etc.) in polyamorous sexual partnerships.
What can account for, explain and justify these features of marriage is the traditional understanding of marriage as a conjugal union. This type of union is a multilevel (bodily as well as emotional) sharing of life that is made possible by the sexual-reproductive complementarity of man and woman. It is oriented to, and would naturally be fulfilled by, the spouses’ conceiving and rearing children together.
Brandon has also published an essay that debunks the 10 most popular arguments in favor of gay marriage. I won’t cite them all, but here is the strongest part of his secular-based argument
4) Same-sex marriage won’t affect you, so what’s the big deal? First, it would weaken marriage. After same-sex marriage was legislated in Spain in 2005, marriage rates plummeted. The same happened in the Netherlands. Redefining marriage obscures its meaning and purpose, thereby discouraging people from taking it seriously.
Second, it would affect education and parenting. After same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, the Toronto School Board implemented a curriculum promoting homosexuality and denouncing “heterosexism.” They also produced posters titled “Love Knows No Gender,” which depicted both homosexual and polygamous relationships as equivalent to marriage. Despite parents’ objections, the board decreed that they had no right to remove their children from such instruction.
Third, redefining marriage would threaten moral and religious liberty. This is already evident in our own country. In Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., for instance, Catholic Charities can no longer provide charitable adoption services based on new definitions of marriage. Elsewhere, Canadian Bishop Frederick Henry was investigated by the Alberta Human Rights Commission for simply explaining the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality in a newspaper column.
Brandon and Professor George’s efforts come at a very important, albeit confusing, time in our nation’s history. As Brandon mentioned in his essay, same-sex marriage advocates often argue if you are not gay, same-sex marriage does not affect you. To which one could ask: “If you are not a slave-owner, does slavery affect you?” The answer is obviously yes, it does affect you. Indeed, same-sex marriage affects society in many ways: it denies human rights to children, it restricts religious liberty and curtails freedom of speech, it condones an unnatural union, it intrudes on the rights of educational institutions, and it casts aside thousands of years of tradition.
Even if you aren’t a religious person, there are countless non-religious reasons why you should want to preserve the institution of marriage. If communicated effectively, these arguments should convince more Americans in the coming year that those who wish to redefine marriage are not on the right side of history and that same-sex marriage is not inevitable.