Marriage & Same-Sex Attraction (6)

(Frequently Asked Questions Part 6 of 10)

The Rights of Any Couple to Marry

1. What are basic human rights?

2. Is marriage a basic human right?

3. What’s the harm of same-sex “marriage”?

4. Isn’t opposing same-sex marriage equivalent to opposing marriage between different races?

5. Isn’t opposing same sex marriage under the civil law discriminatory?

6. Isn’t same-sex “marriage” about equality and fairness?

7. Australians voted for same-sex marriage. Isn’t that the end of the story?






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.[1] 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.

[1] GS, 26.





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’”.[2] 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).

[2] RN, 9.





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.




4. Isn’t opposing same-sex marriage equivalent to opposing 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.

Authentic human rights flow from the nature and the dignity of the human person, a nature that includes sexual difference.



5. Isn’t opposing same sex marriage under the civil law discriminatory?


Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. 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.





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, 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.



7. Australians voted for same-sex marriage. Isn’t that the end of the story?


The Catholic Church will always proclaim the truth about marriage and family life, and the rights of children, regardless of whether it is the majority opinion or not.  Catholics are called to preach the truth in season or out of season.[3]

Additionally, even though the law has been changed, the consequences of the change in law will still have an impact on all Australians.  The Church must stand up and be heard in respect of these consequences, particularly when they are harmful to children, family life and the free exercise of religion.

[3] 2 Tim 4:2.




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.



Key References

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.


You may also like...