Monday, June 27, 2011

The ideology of so-called same-sex marriage

Late last week the New York State legislature passed a law legalizing so-called same-sex marriage. Not being a nominalist (i.e., things cannot be reduced to what we call them), it bears noting that same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms, along the lines of a rounded square. The bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It is beyond problematic that the governor is a Catholic, as are a number of the New York State legislators who voted to continue the systematic dismantling of marriage and family in our country.

Of all the responses to this travesty, I think the statement of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzo of Brooklyn is the best because it is succinct, sharp, and clear. Bishop DiMarzo is quite correct to note that what supporters call "marriage equality" "is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue." It is true that "marriage equality" measures are most often argued for on the basis of human rights, but it is a very incoherent view of human rights. People are quick to be offended when people write and say things like, "If you permit same-sex marriage, pretty soon you will have to allow polygamy."

Proof that such statements are not very far-off in reality are cultural undertakings, such as HBO’s Big Love, which sought to "normalize" polygamy, seeing nothing wrong with such an arrangement, as long as it is practiced by consenting adults, who do not marry within genetically problematic degrees of consanguinity. After all, Dustin Black, one of the chief writers of the series, is a homosexual former Mormon, who narrated the film 8: The Mormon Proposition, a documentary that was highly critical of the LDS Church’s effort, supported also by the Roman Catholic Church via individual dioceses and the California Catholic Conference, to defeat Proposition 8. Proposition 8, which was on the ballot in California in 2008, was an initiative that sought to change the definition of marriage, not by legislative or judicial fiat, but by means of a popular initiative. The result of the proposition is still the subject of an intense court battle. People take this logic even further, by means of an attempted reductio ad absurdum argument, asking what would prevent a state legislature, or Congress, from legally permitting a person to marry his household pet? Even people who understand marriage are understandably offended by these kinds of attempts, but what people try to demonstrate by using such admittedly incendiary examples is just that such a view of human rights is incoherent.

A human right is something that one only need be human to enjoy, or to exercise. Human rights are not granted and cannot be taken away by any government. All people, by virtue of being human, have rights that must be respected. Of course, even modern history is not short of examples of regimes that sought through legislative fiat, backed up by extreme violence, leading to mass murder, to deprive certain groups of their human rights. That marriage is not a human right per se can be demonstrated by the simple fact that people are still not free to marry within certain degrees of consanguinity (i.e., you cannot marry a sibling). Of course, forbidding marriage between those who are closely related is bound up with even "civil" marriage presuming the link between matrimony and procreation. Without such a presumption, why should the state legally be forbid a man from marrying his male first cousin? If two men, or two women, who are closely-related, can marry, doesn’t it become discriminatory to prevent a closely-related man and woman from marrying? After all, according to proponents of "marriage equality," marriage has nothing to do with the procreation of children, n’cest ce pas? This is but one way to demonstrate how authentic marriage is a social good that merits the protection of the state.

Photo from

In his succinct statement concerning the legalization of so-called same-sex marriage in the State of New York, Bishop DiMarzo cuts to the chase when he points out that the most ardent supporters of so-called same-sex marriage and so of "the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced…" DiMarzo further points out the disingenuousness of proponents of so-called same-sex marriage, who denounce the "bigotry" and "prejudice" of people like me, by noting that even they don’t believe their ideological pronouncements. He does this by asking "how in good conscience" can they offer exemptions to what they claim is a right for institutions, like the Catholic Church? In other words, one does not support carving out conscience clauses for people who oppose human rights, or even legitimate civil rights.

A few years back, in his Mail On Sunday column, Peter Hitchens pointed out what is best described as a kind of ideological tyranny: "I really don’t want to know what other people do in their bedrooms. But these days they really, really want us to know. And, more important, they insist that we approve…We are forced to say that we think homosexuality is a good thing, that homosexual couples are equal in all ways to heterosexual married couples… Many people who believe nothing of the kind now know their careers in politics, the media, the Armed Services, the police or schools will be ruined if they ever let their true opinions show." As a result of this, with Hitchens, I am quite certain that many people routinely lie simply to avoid any problems. Rather, they "cringe to the new Thought Police, like the subjects of some insane, sex-obsessed Stalinist state…" Most insidious of all, the would-be denizens of this Orwellian utopia want us all to make our sexuality the cornerstone of our personal identity.

So, I am particularly glad that Bishop DiMarzo didn’t take any detours in his succinct statement. Sometimes truth is most charitably offered sans the spoonful of sugar, or, straight, no chaser. These events should draw our attention to the great need we have, which Santa Fe's Archbishop Michael Sheehan addressed in a pastoral letter, to do more within the Church to insure the integrity of the sacrament of matrimony. Over the years I have written much about marriage, including two posts concerning Sheehan's Santa Fe pastoral: Marriage as a sacrament of salvation, a channel of God's grace and More on marriage and pastoral care. My most recent post on the Church's teaching about marital sexuality, "Not everyone can receive this saying".

Catholic politicians should bear in mind these words spoken by the Lord, which are recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels: "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36- ESV) I was especially reminded of these words when I saw pictures of Gov. Cuomo being celebrated at a "Pride" parade, along with the news stories now touting him as a presidential contender in 2016. As Archbishop Dolan, whose post, The True Meaning of Marriage, is well worth reading, said, "We've been let down by the politicians." To which I respond with more than a tinge of sarcasm, "What else is new?"


  1. I am privileged to have had several gay couples as friends over the last twenty years- as we live in the UK they have been able to legally make a civil union in the last few years and their fidelity is something anyone can emulate. They struggled with bullying and all kinds of prejudice throughout their lives and yet they are kind, gentle and non judgemental. I don't agree with your views here.

  2. The True Meaning of Marriage was an excellent article by Archbishop Dolan. Thanks for the great, thoughtful post.

  3. My husband and I live in a town where we know more gay couples than we do divorced couples. Apparently their presence and their fidelity to one another has not affected the strength of traditional marriages. If anything, they approach committment in a much fuller way because they are going against tradition and have to really think things out. I don't expecct the church to marry gays, but I do not understand why it is spending time on this issue, as opposed to on abortion, homelessness, and the growing gap between rich and poor in the United States.

  4. The definition of marriage has changed, and this is why people have abandoned their view of marriage to any convenient arrangement that suits them.
    Marriage had and has a two-fold purpose, survival and procreation. it was absolutely essential that the family, tribe, community, town, nation etc. survive through the mutual interdependence of each other. If the family unit didn't work together, they were unable to do what was necessary to survive. It took a family to do this, and children were needed to insure that the family unit could go on as parents grandparents got older.

    IMHO, we are seeing such a radical change in people's attitudes for the reason that one doesn't really need the family unit to survive anymore. We can go to the store to buy our groceries, and we live in such wealth today, that America and western society doesn't need to spend the vast majority of its time just staying warm and getting enough food to survive.

    So called gay marriage makes no sense in light of the needs for survival even 150 years ago. That being said, it does not mean that the core purpose of marriage, mutual support and the bearing of children, is still not the fundamental reason for marriage.

    That other living arrangements are able to exist today is not the result of some idea of equality. it is the result of wealth and affluence in western society. Why some people think that this legitimizes any type of union as equal to traditional marriage is irrational.

  5. Here is a good article from the Canadian Bishops, in my opinion.


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