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DC Council Bill on Same-Sex”Marriage”

October 6, 2009

As you may be aware DC Council Member David Catania has introduced Legislation requiring the District to recognize so-called “Same-Sex Marriages.” Here is a statement from the Archdiocese of Washington. My own comments follow in RED below:

Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on DC Council Bill to Redefine Marriage in the Nation’s Capital:

Marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Marriage between a man and a woman transcends cultures, religions and all time. Marriage is about more than two people who love and are committed to each other.

 It also is about creating and nurturing the next generation. As natural law and biology dictate, this requires both a man and a woman. Men and women complement each other physically, psychologically and emotionally and each has distinctive gifts for a child’s upbringing. They are not interchangeable.

 Nature intends for children to have a mother and a father. Research tells us a healthy marriage with a father and mother provides the most stable and nurturing environment for a child. This is the reason that civil governments have given marriage special recognition throughout time.

 The bill introduced today by some members of the District of Columbia City Council to redefine marriage is at odds with marriage’s fundamental purpose. You cannot redefine biology.

 The “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” is not about religious freedom. In fact, there are legitimate concerns that this legislation will result in a loss of religious liberty of the people of the District of Columbia. If passed, the bill could require Catholics to make choices between a “law” and the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church.

 This is the second time in six months that the DC City Council has sought to redefine marriage. In the spring, the Council pushed through a bill recognizing same sex marriages from other jurisdictions, without an opportunity for residents to give input.

 Today’s action by the DC City Council would put the District of Columbia in the minority nationwide. Forty states have constitutional or legislative protection of marriage, while only five states have redefined marriage. We urge our elected officials to respect the purpose of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for their mutual benefit and for the rights of children.

 A request for a ballot initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman was filed by a coalition of groups in September. The Archdiocese of Washington submitted a letter supporting thatrequest before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Learn more about marriage and the Catholic Church at www.MarriageMattersDC.org.

You will note that the Archdiocese in setting forth its objections has done so on the basis of Natural Law. Scripture is not quoted in the document. This is done in speaking to a secular world to make it clear that our objections are not on religious grounds only. They are also based on psychological, sociological and biological grounds. It is clear that nature itself intends that nurturing and raising a child is to be done under the influence of both a father and mother. Men and women are not interchangeable and both provide aspects of development that the other cannot simply supply. Men (fathers) have important things to teach their children. So do women (mothers). It is true that even in the world of nature, sometimes due to death, both parents cannot be present to raise the child but this is an exceptional situation and law should not be based on exceptional situations.

I am also pleased to see that the statement indicates the conception and raising of children to be “marriage’s fundamental purpose.” Many do not think of marriage in these terms today. They speak of it merely as existing for the happiness of the couple and the expression of their love. These purposes are not unimportant but marriage has its fundamental design from nature and God for the sake of children. Marriages should be heterosexual and stable (no divorce) for the better sake of children. Children are best served by a stable marriage where they are conceived and then nurtured by both a father and mother, receiving from their parents the complimentary witness of masculinity and femininity. This is what marriage is essentially and fundamentally about: the good of children. This is why the Church must oppose redefining marriage in this way. It also explains why the Church has opposed no-fault (easy and quick) divorce laws.

While it is true that the Archdiocese has spoken today on the grounds of Natural Law,  as seems necessary since not all share or agree to religious premises, many of you who read this blog do accept religious grounds as a basis for discussion. For that reason I might encourage you to read a previous post at this blog which discusses the biblical basis for opposing same-sex “marriage.” You can read it here: Same Sex Marraige is Contrary to Biblical Teaching I also preached a sermon on this topic that you can listen to or download to iPod here: Sermon on Same Sex “Marriage

Please note that the Church’s position is both principled and respectful. There are bigots in our world today who may reject Gay Marriage from less than noble motives. But the Church is the servant of God’s Word and the Natural Law. We cannot be otherwise and we cannot thus remain silent on this matter. But we speak with respect and from a principled poosition that reverences what God has taught us an told us to proclaim.

Comments (14)

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  1. anon says:

    My daughter has a classmate who has two mothers. The child refers to one as Mama X and the other as Mama Y. My daughter is young, and when she asked why her friend had two moms, I gave a rather lame answer about how some families have various components- i.e., some families have a mom and dad, some have a mom,dad and step dad, etc. As she does get older, she’ll need more info. I am at a bit of a loss as to how to explain the situation without “condemning” her friends family. Any suggestions?

    • Not sure how old your daughter is. But if she is old enough it seems a frank discussion of the issue of homosexuality is in order. In such a discussion we would do well to explain the matter first from a factual point of view, i.e. here is what homosexuality is, it has become a more openly discussed and openly lived orientation and seems to be gaining wider acceptance in some segements of our population. Then we ought to explain why the Church cannot condone homosexual behavior (you can check the catechism for more on this, Also I hope to publish more on the biblical teaching regarding homosexual behavior). I should be pointed out that we do not hate or ridicule people who struggle with this orientation but we must also speak the truth in love. Although some want to condone gay marriage, the Church cannot for the reasons stated here and in the other blog I link to. So in the end we can say something is wrong plainly, that does not mean that we :condemn, but we do oppose those who say this is all just fine. It is not and we hope they come to see things poperly, based on scripture and natural law.

      If the child is very young perhaps it suffices to say that not everyone has a family like ours, (mommie and daddie together) and this is very sad and we hope God will bless every child with a mommy and daddy. Sometimes families lose a father or mother through death too and this is also sad. It’s always good and nest to have both a mommy and daddy.

      • Michael says:

        Children aren’t confused by things like this. It’s only as confusing as you choose to make it. I would absolutely NOT tell your child that “not everyone has a family like ours . . . and this is very sad.” You would be setting your child up to be judgmental of other people’s families. Also, do you want your daughter telling her friend at school that that friend’s family set up is sad? Good Msgr., if you don’t want gay people adopting children, why don’t you charge yourself with adopting all the world’s children. Until then, I suggest you refrain from giving nonsensical advice. It’s obscene and offensive. What would be sad is if that child were parentless because some young girl gave it up for adoption and it was stuck in the foster system forever.

        • Peace be with you. Just for the record, you are a different Michael from the Michael who commets here frequently, at least according to your e-mail address. Just so our readers know. But any way I would avoid extreme labels such as “nonsensical” and “obscene” my comments are not that. I accept that you find them offensive and have no problem with you using a word like that. I stand by the advice I gave. It is less than ideal for a child to be raised by a same-sex couple. They lack the complementary witness and formation that a heterosexual couple can provide. As for adooption there are waiting lists for this. It is true some older children are less often adopted but infants have a waiting list so I don’t need to line up. I would not be able to provide the best home for a child since I don’t have a wife and hence no mother to offer the child. So I would provide a less than ideal home as well.

  2. Ken says:

    Follow-up needed by the archbishop: “Any Catholic member of the city council who votes for this legislation will be excommunicated.”

    If the archdiocese is serious about stopping a law at this point, it’s going to take more than “urging” lawmakers to make a good “choice.” That has not worked in the forty years it’s been tried.

    • I am somewhat a fan of excommunicaton as both Jesus and Paul set it forth. I do not think it is used enough today, esp. in the matter of abortion. However I wonder in this case if it wouldn’t make “martyrs” of the Council Members. I think when a bishop consideres the option he has to think through the implications and possible unintended consequences. It is a judgment call and bishops must make the call carefully. Further it would look downright strange and lopsided for an excommunication to be issued in this matter when none have been forthcoming on the matter of abortion, an issue arguably even moer serious than this one. Hence, see my first point.

      • mindy says:

        Can you imagine the feeding frenzy there would be if a popular council member/representative were excommunicated for something as PC as same-sex marriage? I don’t know about martyrdom, but there would be a ton of talk about separation of Church and state. And yet, wouldn’t those same people spout things about the principles of our Constitution. And, where did those principles come from? Oh that’s right- Judeo-Christian teachings!

        No one is outlawing homosexual relationships, but the state can’t just redefine words and change facts of nature. A child cannot have two mothers, but only one. Perhaps they can have additional maternal figures, but biologically, there is only one mother and one father In the same way, a “marriage” is between a man and woman. It’s like trying to say that orange will no longer be understood as a combination of yellow and red, but will now come to be known as a combination of blue and yellow. The problem? When you combine the latter, you come up with green.

  3. GMS says:

    So.. Precisely what “Natural Law” is it that requires marriage be a union between Man and Woman? Yes, normal mammalian biological processes require a heterosexual mating, but there are many counter examples as well. It’s hardly a “law”.

    Isn’t it more accurate to call marriage a social phenomenon? Do all human cultures formalize marriage as a monogamous paring of one man and one woman? I think not.

    The whole concept of natural law looks rather vague to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law.

    And, how is it, precisely, that you know what “nature intends”? Are we talking about mother nature here? Did you ask her? Does she exist and have an intellect capable of “intent”? Or, are you making a veiled reference to some sort of mystical “god”? It seems to me that “nature” lacks the capability of having an “intent”.

    I understand your intent, but the reasoning looks pretty loose to me.

    • Jeff says:

      Natural Law theory dates back at least as far as Aristotle. Cicero was another famous pagan proponent. This idea merged with Christianity early on. Basically, there are certain laws governing human action based upon human nature itself; viz, one ought to act in a certain way because it is the end for which we are created. In this way, homosexual acts are contrary to natural law because it contrary to the purpose of human sexuality, which is procreation.

      Tully tells us in Res Publica: True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions…. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.

  4. Yes, exactly. Natural Law’s most basic premise is that the created world, including our bodies manifest a purpose and design from which we can learn. Hence, when we look to our bodies it is obvious that man were made for each other. I am speaking here first of the simple physiology. Since this is a “family” blog I will avoid overly explicit biological descriptions but suffice it here to say that the genitalia “fit.”

    Further nature teaches that procreation requires heterosexual interaction and hence provides that parents should be one from each of the two sexes. This is what nature has set forth.

    That a marriage should be a stable or lasting union is set forth by nature due to the long period of maturation required for the human person. There are cultural variables as the the length of the period required but it is almost never less that 10-15 years. In socially complex societies such as ours the period for maturity seems to be longer. That is not from nature per se but does emerge from social factor. But the priniple of stable or lasting union in se comes from what the nature of things requires (at least 10-15 years) before physical and mental maturity.

    How do we know what nature intends? Well it seems to be quite plainly on display. It is not brian surgery to observe that heterosexual complimentary is required for fertility and hance parenthood. Neither is it hidden from view that nature sets forth that parents from both sexes are the normal and best setting. Finnally that marriage should have stability is not hidden from view. These facts are in plain sight. Our bodies have something to teach us, so does the world of nature.

    This is what we mean by natural law. It seems not loose but quite lucid to me.

    • jj says:

      Before I comment, I do not believe in same sex marriages. I have listened to this debate for years, from both sides of the fence, and a lot of times it is not a question of “marriage” but human rights for homosexuals and terminology. I have heard the term “civil unions” used or something similar. I think everyone gets hung up on the word “marriage”. We as a society can’t stop people from living together weather they are homosexuals living in sin or heterosexuals living in sin. I think it all comes down to human rights, such as, health benefits, employment, taxes, property, etc. that heteroxexual “marriages” benefit from and homosexuals do not. The same can be said for “common law” marriages. Another example of this is senior citizens who choose “not” to get married for tax penalties.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but maybe we need to look at this from another angel (more constitutional than religious). Let’s not redefine “marriage” but let’s just look at some basic rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

      • anon says:

        I think it comes down to how one values marriage and whether or not one believes the state of the family is of significant value to the common good. I believe marriage and family are of great value to our nation’s good. Protecting and promoting marriage & family, and the stability of society, of which, again, marriage is an extremely important element, will have long lasting benefits for all.

        Marriage is devalued when civil unions (and/or common law marriage) become legally recognized and raised to the level where they receive the same status and rights belonging to marriage. Civil law doesn’t encompass the full scope of moral law, but civil law can’t go against it either. What we now classify as human rights go way beyond inalienable rights, which should be protected equally for all- absolutely!

        We see clear proof all around us of the negative results the “no big thing” ideology many have adopted regarding matters of sexuality. Their thinking is the direct result of how sexually lax and incorrectly tolerant society has become. To many (maybe a majority, I don’t know), same sex unions are okay, premarital sex is the norm, birth control is responsible, etc. We have allowed our young people to be exposed to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that deprived them of necessary defenses that would dictate right from wrong. We need to be clear- yes, even in our laws, about what is good and evil. Legalizing any union outside of marriage that gives those unions rights belonging to marriage goes from tolerating evil to promoting it. That is clearly wrong. The institution of marriage suffers and society is weaker for it.

  5. Eileen says:

    In an online chat at the the Washington Post on Oct. 8, reporter Tim Craig noted that the DC domestic partner law already is really progressive already anyway. It looks like changing the definition of marriage won’t do anything other than let a small group have the same title as husbands and wives (now to be known only as spouses) while infringing on religious liberty and the rights of churches to remain true to their religious beliefs. The religious liberty “exemption” in the bill really isn’t one. It says if a church provides or rents services or facilities to the general public, it is not exempt from recognizing same sex marriages, from what I see. Despite what Councilmember Catania’s staff told Tim Craig yesterday, I’m pretty sure most churches in DC (Catholic or not) provide some kind of outreach to the homeless or those in need, or rent halls or let neighborhood groups meet there – regardless of the faith beliefs of the people they help. They offer outreach because of their OWN faith, not the faith of the poor. Churches (and groups like Catholic Charities, which does adoptions or the Knights of Columbus) either would have to stop being a part of the community or abandon their faith beliefs. That is very troubling.

  6. MSE says:

    The question is, why does the state regulate marriage? Is it to recognize the love between two people and to give them certain rights which their love demands? This would be a strange business for the state to get into, “rewarding” people for falling in love. Rather, it seems to me the state regulates marriage because it provides a benefit to society and should thus be encouraged. How does a marriage benefit the state? Firstly and primarily by procreating children and providing a safe and stable environment for them to be raised in. Secondly, a marriage between the two enables each to become more productive members of society by virtue of the mutual complementarity of men and women, (i.e., a woman is more likely to encourage her husband to go to the doctor more regularly than he might of his own accord, a man can continue to work while his wife recovers from childbirth and cares for a new infant). In both of these cases, it is clear that only a marriage between a man and a woman is beneficial to society, as a homosexual couple can provide neither of these benefits to the state. For that reason, this true “marriage” should alone be given special rights and privileges by the state.