Wednesday, March 27, 2013

As a Catholic, I Support Marriage Equality

Equality is one of those interesting words that everyone claims to want, but no one is quite sure what it means.  W.C. Fields once proclaimed himself to be free of all prejudices, “I hate everyone equally,” he remarked.  Barry Goldwater, no opponent of “gay rights” himself remarked that “equality... as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty, wrongly understood as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.”  I am not entirely certain what Goldwater meant, but as our society debates the question of marriage rights and equality, a man may be hardly certain what he ought to think about it.  Nonetheless, whatever he may think, what a person ought to think is clear enough:  He ought to support marriage equality.

As a Catholic, I strongly support marriage equality.  I support the right of all men to marry women and the right of all women to marry men.  A man should never be prevented from marrying a woman by the color of his skin, nor should a woman be prevented from marrying a man because of the color of hers, or her social or economic status.  An Italian man should not be denied the right to marry an Irish woman if she will have him, though he may do so at his own peril.  As a Catholic, I recognize that there is no basis in natural law (or history) to deny a black man the right to marry a white woman and that those who until recently would have denied this marriage equality were creating a new and artificial definition of marriage where it required spouses to have the same skin color.  Nonetheless, this unequality was an artificial novelty creating a new definition of marriage with no basis in natual or common law.  As such, it was a violation of marriage equality.

Just as a I support marriage equality, I support the right of all children to have a father and a mother.  I support a marriage equality that attaches mothers and fathers for the purposes of raising children, providing each child with a father and mother.  Regardless of the child’s social and economic status, his religion, his race, or any other factor, each child has an equal right to be raised by a father and mother.  This provides children with greater stability than those denied a father and mother, as well as models for the development of their own sexuality (1).  Children all have the equal right to be raised by a father and a mother for their own sakes, not to become tools for the fulfillment of adult desires.

Just as I support marriage equality, I support the right of those with homosexual inclinations to be supported in their struggle with those inclinations.  I support their right to be loved and not merely tolerated, “which parodies love as flippacy parodies merriment” (C.S. Lewis).  No one who loves anyone ever merely tolerates them.  A wife who loves her husband would never merely tolerate his alcoholism, not even were he born that way.  Mere tolerance is always easier than real love.  It is always easier to give alcohol to an alcoholic than to support him in giving it up.  It is always easier to tell a  person he is fine with the way he is, than that he needs to change.  This may be tolerance, but it is not love. 

Finally, because I support marriage equality, I do not support changing the definition of marriage to include sexual relationships by members of the same sex.  There is no basis for it in natural law, common law, or history.  It is a modern, artificial creation, created by the state and needing  a state to defend it, just like laws that changed the definition of marriage so that it only included members of the same race.  But changing the definition of a thing, never changes its nature.  Because I support marriage equality I support the right of persons with homosexual inclinations to be supported in their struggle with those inclinations so that they too may be able to enjoy true marriage in fact, not merely by redefinition.  To do otherwise would be like claiming to help a blind man “see” by changing the definition of “sight.”

For more on the benefits of a father and mother on a child’s upbringing see the above study by Regnerus and another article responding to debate of it.


  1. Matthias - since I agree with you in general, I hope you don't mind my critiques of some of the ways you've expressed your argument:
    - I dislike the comparison between alcoholism and homosexuality. Alcoholism is the disordered appetite for an OBJECT. Homosexuality is the disordered attraction for a PERSON. To compare the two seems to reduce people to objects. I think that in this conversation, it's important to keep in mind the fact that the relationship between two gay people who want to get married is an actual relationship based in emotional and sexual connections. It is also based in sinful actions/desires, but I don't think that totally erases the love/affection that does exist.

    - I agree that part of love means calling someone to live more fully in God's plan, but I think it's a type of love best expressed in very close, solid relationships. (Perhaps there is a special charism for those people called to love entire groups of people with this level of intensity, and to work for group conversion...I'm not sure.) Imagine someone trying to talk you out of marrying Elizabeth. It might have worked, if it came from a person who knew you extremely well, and whom you trusted completely, but I'm sure that you would have rejected that message coming from 99% of the people you know. (My dad went against his parents' council in marrying a Catholic.)

    - The Catholic church will continue to proclaim and defend God's definition of marriage, no matter what the Supreme Court decides. To be honest, at this point in the debate I'm sort of wondering why marriage is a civil institution anyway. I can see the benefits to society of giving special benefits to the parents of children, but I'm not sure why the government should be recognizing certain relationships between two adults, especially now that even "traditional" marriages don't require openness to children, permanence of vows, combining property rights/finances, etc.

    - Again, overall I agree with you and I appreciate your thoughtful contribution. :)

  2. Jessica, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Here's my sense,

    1. I think that any analogy breaks down when you get too close to it; a perfect 1:1 representation wouldn't be an analogy, it would be the direct comparison of a thing to itself. So to see if an analogy is good, I think it doesn't have to be perfect, just close enough to make the point.
    So what is the point of the alcoholism analogy? Well, to correct the idea that love is simply a matter of mere tolerance and leaving a person the way they are. Leaving an alcoholic the way he is would not be love. I guess, I am not sure I see that this comparison would reduce a person with same sex attraction to being a mere object, though I'm perfectly open to suggestions for another analogy.

    2. I agree completely. I don't expect that this sort of post will contribute much to causing a person with homosexual feelings not to live those feelings out. That would, as you say, best be done on a personal basis coming from people that person knows. But, a post like this or discussing this issue, may still have some value in shaping the culture that such decisions and conversations take place in. No conversation takes place in a vacuum, and there may be some value in trying to shape the culture into understanding certain issues expressed here, ie., love of persons with homosexual desires need not mean accepting those desires, etc.

    3. Should marriage be a civil institution? I don't know. I don't insist it should be and certainly, I never got married for the tax benefit (seriously, my taxes just got more complicated!). I think the reason I lean toward wanting the govt. to recognize marriage is not for my benefit, but for the benefit of society. I think society has suffered as marriage has declined over the second half of the 20th century. Second, I think marriage is an important safeguard against the tyranny of the state. Chesterton said, "The truth is that only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticize the state. They alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city; the gods of the hearth." Anyway, I don't insist on this, but it is a point that does concern me.

    My two cents; thanks for your thoughts :)