Marriage & Same-Sex Attraction (6)
The Rights of Any Couple to Marry
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33. WHAT ARE BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS?
Basic human rights flow from the nature and dignity of the human person. To know what counts as a “right”, we must know what it means to flourish as a human person, as a man or a woman. According to the Second Vatican Council, basic human rights include “everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter” as well as education, a fair wage, and so on (GS 26). Rights are inseparable from duties and responsibilities. Since genuine rights promote the good of the whole human person, and all people, they should never be in competition with each other.
34. IS MARRIAGE A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT?
The Church does speak of a right to marriage: “No human law can abolish the natural and primitive right of marriage, or in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage…’Increase and multiply’” (RN 9). But having the right to marry does not mean having the right to enter into a relationship that is not marriage, and then to force others by civil law to treat it as marriage. All persons have the right to marry, but not the right to redefine marriage. Relationships between two persons of the same sex are not, and can never be, marriages, because two people of the same sex fail to meet a basic defining element for a married couple (sexual difference); they are not denied the right to marry any more than different-sex couples that fail to meet the other basic defining elements of marriage (e.g., age, not a close relative). Thus, the right to marry does not include the right to a so-called same-sex marriage.
35. WHAT’S THE HARM OF SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE”?
Marriage has great public significance. And laws always promote a vision of “the good life.” Because of this, redefining civil marriage to include two persons of the same sex would have far-reaching consequences in society. Law is a teacher, and such a law would teach many bad lessons, backed by the moral authority, financial resources, and coercive power of the state, such as the following:
- that marriage is only about the romantic fulfilment of adults and has nothing to do with legally attaching parents to the children they procreate, so that each child may have his or her right to a mother and father safeguarded, and his or her development and well-being served to the greatest extent possible;
- that mothers and fathers are wholly interchangeable and, in turn, that gender is inconsequential, both to the development of children and more broadly;
- that same-sex sexual conduct is not merely morally permissible, but a positive good equal in moral value to marital sex, and so worthy of the same protection and support of society by law;
- that people who adhere to the perennial and universal definition of marriage are bigots, whose beliefs can only be explained by hatred for persons with a same-sex inclination, and whom, in turn, the state has a duty to punish and marginalize for persisting in those beliefs.
36. HOW WOULD GRANTING SAME-SEX COUPLES THE LEGAL CAPACITY TO MARRY AFFECT MARRIAGE?
Marriage is both a personal and a social commitment. What is legally and socially recognized is not only the personal commitment but also a social commitment to contribute to the future of society by having and raising children. While not all married couples have children, the relationship between a man and a woman has the inherent potential to create children.
Allowing same-sex partners to marry would change the definition of marriage so that it would no longer be marriage. Procreation is not the only purpose of marriage but it is essential to the institution. Moreover, the complementarity and richness of sexual difference is essential to the effective parenting of children.
Laws must be examined not only for their impact on individuals but also for their impact on the social fabric. It is important for the stability of the family, and ultimately society, to strengthen the institution of marriage. Mr Justice Pitfield in a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in October 2001 expressed the social dimension of marriage in this way: “The state has a demonstrably genuine justification in affording recognition, preference, and precedence to the nature and character of the core social and legal arrangement by which society endures.”
37. ISN’T REFUSING SAME-SEX COUPLES THE RIGHT TO MARRY SIMILAR TO THE DISCRIMINATORY LAWS WHICH, IN SOME COUNTRIES, USED TO PREVENT MARRIAGE BETWEEN DIFFERENT RACES?
There is no valid analogy between the goal of redefining marriage to include persons of the same sex, and the historical movement to allow interracial couples to marry.
The sexual relations between a man and a woman are simply not the same as the sexual relations between two men or between two women, regardless of their ethnicity. The intimate acts of husband and wife are able to unite them fully and to enable them to welcome children. Sexual difference is an essential characteristic of marriage; ethnic sameness or difference is not.
Marriage is rooted in nature: two people of the same sex are no more being denied the right to marry than a man is denied the right to become pregnant, give birth to and nurse a baby. Authentic human rights flow from the nature and the dignity of the human person, a nature that includes sexual difference.
38. ISN’T IT UNJUST DISCRIMINATION NOT TO ALLOW TWO MEN OR TWO WOMEN TO MARRY?
Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. There’s nothing else like it. Only a man and a woman are capable of sexual union that may yield children. The government has a very strong interest in protecting the right of those children to a mother and a father, and in reducing the likelihood that those children will become wards of the state. The civil law of marriage serves both these interests by legally bonding adult couples to any children they may create, and to each other. The sexual interaction of two persons of the same-sex never yields children, so the government’s interest in bonding same-sex couples is unnecessary, just as it is unnecessary for government to regulate adult friendships and other relationships. Government is thus eminently reasonable, and in no way unjust, in distinguishing between two persons of the same sex and a different-sex couple in conferring the rights and duties of legal marriage.
39. DON’T AUSTRALIAN LAWS STILL DISCRIMINATE AGAINST PEOPLE IN SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS?
No. Changes to Commonwealth laws such as the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws — General Law Reform) Act 2008 and the Same- Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws — Superannuation) Act 2008 give formal recognition to same-sex relationships in Commonwealth legislation, and will give people in same-sex relationships the same access to government entitlements and superannuation benefits as people in heterosexual relationships.
40. ISN’T SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE” ABOUT EQUALITY AND FAIRNESS?
All persons deserve fair and equal treatment, in recognition of their great dignity. But protecting and promoting marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not denying equality or being unfair. Every person has the right to marry, but those who seek to enter same-sex unions seek something other than to marry; instead, they seek to have the civil law force others to treat their non-marital relationships as if they were marriage. But the relationships are not the same, either functionally or morally. Defending marriage is not unfair, it’s just respecting reality — the reality of marriage as the total, fruitful union of man and woman. Real fairness, real equality, depends on truth.
41. DON’T THE OPINION POLLS SHOW OVERWHELMING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR SAME-SEX ’MARRIAGE’?
How one phrases opinion poll questions can skew the response. A telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1204 Australian adults on the topic of same-sex marriage was conducted in the month of September 2011. The poll was commissioned by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty and conducted by The Sexton Marketing Group, a specialist market research company.
Questions framed around ’rights’ to marry typically showed support around 60%. However, more focussed questions, especially those that feature the rights of children, showed a different picture. In these polls, around two-thirds of people indicated their desire to maintain the definition of marriage.
List of Abbreviations
CA – Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991)
CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (2000)
CDF 1986 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons (1986)
CDF 1992 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons (1992)
CV – Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009)
CSDC – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)
DH – Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae (1965)
FC – Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1982)
GS – Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965)
LF – Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families (1994)
LL – USCCB, Pastoral Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009)
PP – Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967)
RN – Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891)
TOB – Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006). Other English versions are available online at EWTN’s website and at the Vatican website.
The official (Magisterial) teaching of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality and Marriage is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) , and in three documents of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Matrimony
Download from link: CCC – The Sacrament of Matrimony
Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sixth Commandment (Especially Paragraphs 2357-2359)
Download from link: CCC – The Sixth Commandment
Declaration on Certain Questions of Sexual Ethics: (CDF, 1975)
Download from link: Declaration on Sexual Ethics
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person (CDF, 1986):
Download from link: Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons
Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (CDF, 2003)
Download from link: Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions
In May 2015, the Catholic Bishops of Australia issued a Pastoral Letter “to all Australians” on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate, entitled “Don’t mess with Marriage”. This summarises why the Catholic Church opposes moves to broaden the legal definition of marriage to include ‘same-sex’ relationships.
A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate
Download from link: ‘Same-sex’ Marriage Pastoral Letter
The following submissions by the Catholic Church in Australia to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 also elaborate on Catholic Church teaching on marriage and same-sex attraction.
Submission 113: His Eminence Cardinal George Pell AC, Archbishop of Sydney
Download from link: (PDF 4791KB)
Submission 5: Opening Statement tabled by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at public hearing on Thursday 3 May 2012
Download from link: (PDF 1073KB)
Submission 234: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
>Download from link: (PDF 113KB)
Catholic Teaching on Marriage is summarised in the following “Frequently Asked Questions” Booklet.
Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, 2006.
Download from link: Marriage in the Catholic Church
Other Non Catholic Church References
Regnerus, Mark: How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research 41 (2012) 752–770.