During Pope Francis’ Encounter with Families in the Philippines this week, the Holy Father commented on particular threats to the good of the family, saying, “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life…” These words came right on the heels of the announcement that the Supreme Court has decided that it will hear a case this spring to decide the constitutionality of same-sex “marriage”.
The case originally began in Michigan when April DeBoer and her partner Jayne Rowse contested the state’s laws concerning legal guardianship of foster children in the event that one of the couple died. Plaintiffs from three other states are now included in the case to be presented before the Supreme Court this spring. From the Washington Post:
“The plaintiffs — from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as Michigan — are women and men and come from diverse backgrounds. While the specific legal issues vary slightly by state, the couples are united in their belief that laws preventing them from living as that male-female couples can live must be changed.”
The question of who becomes the guardian of foster children in the event that their primary guardian dies is an important legal question. But if this were really the concern, advocates of same-sex “marriage” would work to challenge existing inheritance and guardianship laws. Presumably, and according to DeBoer and Rowse, this is what they were trying to do when a judge recommended that they resubmit the case as a “marriage-equality” case. The same is true for Joseph Vitale and Robert Talmas, the Ohio plaintiffs in the case. Again from the Post:
“After New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, the couple wed and began the process of adopting a child. They traveled to Ohio and were present when their son, Cooper, was born in 2013.
“Returning to New York, where the adoption was finalized, Vitale and Talmas had an attorney seek a birth certificate in Ohio that listed them both as parents. The state refused, saying only one father could be listed because Ohio law required a marriage to be between a man and a woman.
“‘We were a married couple .?.?. and adopted him together, and all we wanted was both of our names on his birth certificate,’’ Vitale said. “It was devastating.’’’
The question of when and where the names of adoptive parents should appear on legal documents is, to be sure, an important legal question. Presumably, they’re left off of birth certificates because a person’s biological parentage is significantly relevant to that individual’s identity and self-knowledge, and birth certificates don’t exist for the purpose of serving emotional validation. But connecting this question to the very definition of marriage is an over-reach and is wholly unnecessary. If the issue were really about birth certificates, the pair might have focused their efforts there.
The language of the debate surrounding same-sex “marriage” is particularly loaded. Media outlets and public discourse on the question frequently use terms like “marriage equality” and “same-sex ‘marriage’ ban” as givens when discussing the issue. The Post piece even refers in the first sentence to the case as a “civil-rights challenge”, which of course it’s not. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court justices will no doubt hear the argument presented in the usual terms.
Emotional and knee-jerk reactions seem to rule some conversations and there is hardly another topic where the respective vocabularies of the participants makes it more clear that neither party is even talking about the same thing. Opponents of legal recognition for same-sex “marriage” will talk about marriage “redefinition” (Pope Francis seems to think this language is more accurate) while proponents frequently talk about “marriage equality”. “Marriage equality” is highly euphemistic. It’s intended to bypass reason and strike at our American egalitarianism.
t’s not even accurate. Who is being treated unequally and in what manner are they being treated unequally? It can’t be same-sex attracted persons. Persons with same-sex attraction can marry. They are free to marry someone of the opposite sex, just like persons with heterosexual attraction. It is false to say that there is a specific group of individuals to whom the law applies differently or “unequally”. In fact, those with heterosexual sexual attraction may also not marry someone of the same sex. The law applies equally to everyone. There is no sexual orientation requirement for marriage. What disqualifies two persons of the same-sex from “marrying” one another has nothing to do with their homosexuality, but their sexual discomplementarity. How can a law be discriminatory if it applies “equally” to everyone? It is astounding that the “marriage equality” rhetoric has gotten so much mileage out of that particular bumper sticker.
The state has no real interest in the sexual activity or in the personal relationships of its citizens except insofar as they produce and educate new members of the state. Marriage as a state-rrecognizedand protected institution has less to do with the spouses and more to do with the good of the children that may potentially result from the relationship. Proponents of same-sex “marriage” often observe here that not every heterosexual marriage (we can really just say “marriage”) results in children. Some cannot, because of age or disability. What about these? But this is a non-sequitor. Just because some marriages do not result in procreation does not negate the fact that man-woman marriage is the kind of union that does result in children. Put another way, heterosexual marriage (again, just “marriage”) is procreative in kind, even if there exist specific instances where its potential is not actualized. But no sexual union between persons of the same sex has this ability even potentially and thus the state has no interest in their relationship and it is quite simply not the business of the state to go around affirming intimate relationships.
We can pray and hope that reason will prevail this spring and that the Court does not succumb to groan-worthy bumper-sticker arguments.