Is the marriage protection amendment discrimination?

| Jason Adkins | December 14, 2011

The following column — the third in a series about the marriage amendment — is provided by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which advocates on behalf of the state’s bishops for public policies and programs that support the life and dignity of every human person.

Faith In The Public ArenaThe reality of men and women falling in love and getting married (and in most cases, having children) is one of the basic operating assumptions people have about the world when they get up in the morning; it’s part of the natural order of things, like the sun rising in the East.

A diverse array of sources — including Scripture, theology, the artifacts of culture, social science, human experience and the complementarity of our bodies, among other things — all confirm that man and woman are truly made for each other.

But those who seek to redefine marriage want you to believe that what you know to be true in your heart (but cannot always articulate) is really just irrational prejudice that you’ve imbibed from your family, your church or a culture conditioned to bully people who are different.

The argument goes: Sex differences, “gender identities” and the attendant cultural and legal institutions that follow from them — such as traditional, man-woman marriage — are merely social constructs that reinforce a “heterosexist” society.

Therefore, the privileged status given to man-woman marriage has to be eliminated, so that society can establish a regime of “marriage equality” which eliminates discrimination against the GLBT community and ensures everyone’s “right” to marry is protected.

Minnesotans are nice, tolerant, big-hearted people who want everyone to be happy, so the civil-rights language used to emphasize “discrimination” and “prejudice” can sometimes be effective in quieting people instinctively opposed to redefining marriage.

But the arguments of the “marriage equality” advocates simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

It is not “discrimination” to treat different things differently 

Marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union. Marriage is a child-centric institution. It protects the common interest of children in being connected to their parents.

Therefore, when a man and woman form a union and take on all of the responsibilities that entails, society gives couples certain rights and benefits to aid them. Society privileges this union above other “loving, committed relationships” because it best promotes the well-being of children and the common good — the sum total of conditions that promote human flourishing.

By contrast, same-sex relationships cannot by their very nature produce children, and deny the importance to children of being raised by a mom and a dad.

Further, government has no interest in regulating romance through a system of love licenses, no matter how loving and committed same-sex couples may be.

Thus, natural marriage and same-sex unions are not the same and should not be treated as such by the law. Making a legal distinction between them and privileging natural marriage is completely justified.

The “right” to marry is not absolute and everyone has the same limitations

Still, doesn’t a marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage from attacks by judges and politicians discriminate against a group of people by denying them the “right” to marry?  No.

There is no absolute right to marry whomever we “love.”  And there are many limitations placed on the right to marry:  no immediate family members, no minors, no same-sex marriages, no polygamy and no polyamory.

In fact, all people are placed under the exact same restrictions, and people struggling with same-sex attraction have the same rights as others with regard to marriage.

Furthermore, people are not legally harmed when they are not given something that, by its very definition, is impossible. It is impossible to recognize a same-sex couple as married because their union cannot be consummated by a sexual act capable of generating new life.

The impossibility of “same-sex” marriage has meant that it does not exist in Minnesota, and never has. And there is no right to something that does not even exist.

Again, the reality of marriage — in contrast to the fiction of same-sex marriage — is that it unites a man and a woman to each other with any children born from their union, it being irrelevant whether or not the couple actually has children.  The law should, of course, reflect this reality and uphold the ideal.

Law should not, however, be used merely to validate people’s romantic interests or re-engineer society in opposition to right reason and the common good.  Therefore, same-sex couples cannot be “married” in reality or in law.

Society must respect the authentic rights of all persons

To be clear, people should not be denied, simply on the basis of sexual orientation, access to basic human needs and the protection of rights that all should have by virtue of being a person created in the image and likeness of God and thus possessing inherent dignity and worth.

But that does not mean society must remake its bedrock social institutions, particularly those essential to the common good.

Members of the “GLBT community” have the ability to live as they please; no one is questioning that. But redefining marriage for all of society is a right no one should have, and it is not discrimination to say so.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference .To learn more about the church’s defense of marriage, visit mncc.org/issues/marriage and marrriagematters.mncc.org (blog).

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Category: This Catholic Life

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