Friday, November 3, 2006

Marriage and the state

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers, very clearly lays out the case for exclusive legal recognition of traditional, heterosexual marriage, and what is at stake if that changes:
"[M]arriage is not the creation of any state. It is a natural institution - with its own characteristics and features - that is prior to any particular political or legal system. While it is true, from a Catholic perspective, that Jesus elevated this natural institution to the level of the supernatural in establishing the sacrament of matrimony, this does not make marriage the creation of any religious community—including the Catholic Church. This is why believers (from many diverse communities) and non-believers alike can understand and affirm the nature of the marital good and its centrality in a well ordered society. It is why religious groups, despite their theological disagreements, recognize the validity of the conjugal marriages of people of other faiths.

Even if marriage was a type of institution that could be redefined, it would not be up to a court to decide whether to redefine it. It is up to the people, working through the constitutionally established institutions of democratic deliberation, to settle such matters. For the people now to acquiesce in a usurpation of their rightful authority by a court would, in the words of President Lincoln, be for them to 'resign their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.' For the sake of constitutional democracy as well as for the sake of marriage itself, this ruling must not be permitted to stand.

As many supporters of the idea of same sex "marriage" (or its equivalent, using other words such as "civil union" or "domestic partnership") admit, the logic of their position points to the abolition of marriage as a socially normative institution. Anyone who teaches - or preaches - that marriage is an exclusive union of one man and one woman will be labeled a bigot. Anyone who teaches - or preaches - that sexual relations outside of marriage are sinful will be accused of intolerance. Anyone who teaches - or preaches - that sexual relations between a man and a man or a woman and a woman are morally wrong will be charged with prejudice. Anyone who teaches - or preaches - that children need a mom and a dad, and that two moms or two dads are not the same will be marginalized as an enemy of equality.

And everyone knows what will soon follow: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious communities will come under intense political pressure and legal attack. By standing by their principled beliefs regarding marriage and sexual morality, they will be rendered vulnerable to laws prohibiting what advocates of sexual liberation and same-sex "marriage" will insist is "discrimination." We have already seen this wherever same-sex relations have been given legal standing—in Canada, in Sweden, and right here in the United States in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where four judges imposed same-sex marriage in an opinion now cited with approval by the New Jersey court. In Canada and Sweden pastors were prosecuted for preaching from the Bible about homosexuality. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities was forced to abandon its 100 year old program of helping to place children with adoptive parents. And this is just the beginning. As one legal scholar who advocates same-sex "marriage" bluntly put it, religious liberty and sexual freedom will clash, and religious liberty will usually have to lose." (the complete statement)

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