Honest debate requires a willingness to come to a conclusion other than one's own. Honest debate means changing our initial opinion when we see that it doesn't correspond with the truth (affirmations that in turn correspond to reality).
Do we have such willingness regarding the definition of marriage — in particular the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (H. J. Res. 56), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman?
I think I do, and many of you do, so we'll continue to talk. You can count this as Part two of a series.
As we continue to frame the debate, let's first look at a few critical responses to my comments in part one. They are smart, instructive and deserve a thoughtful response:
First, I would like to say what a fan I am of yours. I must say, however, that for the first time I find today's blog to be empty and void of real substance. I think that the courts and the government should stay out of the entire marriage business. In my mind, marriage involves family, friends, and faith, not the government or the court. — Albert (Saint Louis, MO)
Please, Sir, explain to me why one spouse must be a man and one a woman in order to have the usual rights of inheritance and next-of-kin apply? Explain to me why one spouse must be a man and one a woman to have hospital visitation rights or medical decisions for a loved, life-long partner go unquestioned? Explain why one spouse must be a man and one a woman to benefit from any of a plethora of financial benefits married couples are eligible for, from death benefits to car insurance discounts. In all of these cases, and others, the gender of the joined is irrelevant; it's the relationship between them that matters. The physical configuration plays no role. — Aaron
As long as gays aren't legally allowed to marry, the conferring of criminality and prejudice continues: ie, "they make bad parents," "they degrade the morale of the army," "they are more likely to be paedophiles," or "they aren't decent people." I respect that it is not your intention to engage in discrimination or bias, but I ask that you recognize that when the law is used as you propose (Federal Marriage Amendment), that is the exact outcome that occurs. — Tim
As a politically independent agnostic, I enjoy being exposed to a myriad of political and religious viewpoints. That is why I try to find some time to read your columns...There exists no rational reason to believe that a miniscule number of gay marriages would-or even could-in any way whatsoever imperil traditional marriage in this country. — Luciana (Santa Fe, NM)
Before responding, I must say the vast majority of you wrote in to affirm your support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Most were thoughtful explanations, while others were simple expressions of a gut reaction. Both have their place. For the sake of argument, I would like to focus on a few rational principles. To keep it succinct, I'll try to summarize my current line of thought, and leave a more detailed explanation of each component for future entries, taking into consideration your responses.
1) The union of one man and one woman is not primarily a religious issue. It is a social phenomenon present in every known culture and it transcends all religions. The human desire to enter a committed relationship with another person of the opposite sex is, among other things, nature's motivation for humanity's self-promulgation.
2) The state has no responsibility to give public stamps of approval to love relationships, but to foster societal good through the creation of law. In this context, it has always recognized its responsibility to regulate the institution of marriage as an essential way to do this, particularly given its procreative nature.
3) Homosexual couples, or any other couple or grouping of people, already have the right to enter to enter into many legal and financial contracts that recognize the unique relationship they have, or wish to have, with one another. While there may be room in many states to expand this kind of legal recourse, there is no need to change the definition of the institution of marriage to conform to the desires of other relationships.
4) The minimal number of homosexual couples who have chosen to take advantage of expanded marriage laws is the best proof that its promoters have greater interest in pushing the social acceptance of homosexuality, as such, than in the legal rights that new marriage laws would provide.
5) There is no reason any given homosexual marriage will effect negatively a heterosexual couple's commitment to one another. Nevertheless, redefining marriage to make room for homosexuality, polygamy, or polyamery changes, ever so slowly, the value society places on the unique institution of marriage, including its two natural ends of procreation and complementary union of the spouses. Okay, I know this one is hard to swallow and we'll need more time to examine data.
6) All laws are discriminatory. They discriminate between what is good and bad for society in relation to the question at hand. Laws that define marriage as only between one man and one woman do not discriminate against homosexuals as people, but as their ability to comply with the inherent nature and objectives of the institution being regulated. To compare the acceptance of two men marrying each other with the acceptance of interracial marriage, as some have done, is disingenuous and offensive.
To end today's blog I thought you would like to see this response from Dave. It is representative, in part, of some of the principles I have outlined above:
I enjoy reading your column. I am an atheist. I do not use the Bible to establish or enforce my morality, my ethical behaviour, or to derive my virtues. Opponents of defining marriage as only between a man and a woman often argue that ours is a religious stance. I would like to make it very clear that there is nothing religious at all about it. In case it has slipped some people's minds, there are TWO genders: male and female. When they copulate, they can produce offspring, which perpetuates the human race. Marriage is our society's legal representation of this...and it represents a legal and financial reward for people who wish to reproduce. Men and women who are married and do not intend to reproduce are simply using marriage to reap the benefits of the law. — Dave, Arizona
If there is one thing I would like to make clear it is this; the issue is complicated. I don't have all the answers, but it is worth a reflective and sincere search for what is best for our country and the world.
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this posting, part two.
God bless, Father Jonathan
Write to Father Jonathan at email@example.com.