The Supreme Judicial Court had been expected to rule this week in the case of Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health dealing with the constitutionality of denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Massachusetts. According to its non-binding, internal guidelines, the court aims to issue a ruling 130 days after hearing oral arguments in a case. In Goodridge, that deadline passed on July 14.
Court observers declined to interpret that delay other than to infer that the Court recognizes the gravity the matter and wishes to take its time with the decision — one that could re-define legal marriage in the Commonwealth and send a shock wave of change across the nation.
Proponents have succeeded in molding public opinion to see the issue as one of civil rights, comparing the current dispute with landmark civil rights victories, such as voting rights for women and minorities, anti-discrimination laws, and the right of persons of different races to marry.
The argument is fallacious. There is no inherent “right” to marriage. Even if same-sex marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts, that would still be the case.
There are many loving and faithful relationships in our society. Still, a person cannot marry his or her sibling no matter how loving and faithful their relationship might be.
Once we tamper with the definition of marriage, why should polygamy (either homosexual or heterosexual) be restricted? Why couldn’t a widower marry his beloved child who has cared for him for years in a loving and caring relationship? Why shouldn’t three long-term roommates be allowed to legalize their partnership as marriage?
Changing the definition of marriage paves the way to demolishing the institution of marriage by draining its significance because, in the end, any relationship could make the same argument of civil rights discrimination that is being put forth in support of same-sex marriage.
The argument against same-sex marriage is frequently dismissed as simply being the product of “homophobia.” Even The Boston Globe succumbed to that temptation when, in a recent editorial, it said that “For all the legal acrobatics offered by opponents, it is hard to see how anything other than an animus toward gays and lesbians prevents them from obtaining the ‘same benefits and protections enjoyed by heterosexual couples.”
At least on the part of the Catholic Church, that argument is simply untrue.
The Church fully recognizes the dignity of every individual, regardless of sexual orientation. It calls for those with a homosexual orientation to be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. The Church teaches, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
In a letter sent to legislators June 2, the bishops of Massachusetts addressed this very issue.
"Our position on marriage and our position in favor of the marriage amendment have nothing to do with hatred for or disregard of any human being. Nor does our affirmation of marriage dictate the unjust denial of public services or material benefits to unmarried persons. Our unwillingness to endorse other forms of sexual relationships as marriage does not preclude us from recognizing the dignity of individuals and the value of chaste friendships outside of marriage. Justice demands that we uphold the equal value of all individuals at the same time we uphold the distinct and irreplaceable value of marriage between a man and a woman," the bishops wrote.
The battle to redefine marriage is just one campaign in the broader war to redefine culture and society by erasing the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition that have shaped them through the centuries.
These efforts are slowly giving birth to a new post-Christian culture in which the individual’s desires and passions become the sole guiding factors in distinguishing between good and evil, between what is morally acceptable or unacceptable.
This new culture promises to liberate those “trapped” by old fashioned, morally coercive traditions. However, instead of providing the proclaimed freedom to individuals, the new secular culture will ensnare them. Human nature is wounded by original sin. Like it or not, separated from a moral framework, human tendency leads us to follow, not the truth, but our base passions.
Whatever the Supreme Judicial Court rules, it is our responsibility as Catholics to participate in shaping society in accordance with those Judeo-Christian values we hold so dear, by supporting the proposed constitutional amendment, H. 3190 that reaffirms marriage as the union between one man and one woman.