Water-cooler talk at the office often covers topics such as Sunday’s Vikings game, recently-released movies or today’s lunch menu. Between now and November 2012, however, the marriage amendment that will be on the ballot in Minnesota will undoubtedly become a greater topic of discussion.
It is important for Catholics to prepare for these impromptu break-room exchanges. Marriage is an extremely emotional topic, so any hopes for peaceful discourse are going to depend upon thoughtful preparation. While many people already have made up their minds, others are uncertain and can be swayed by a clear and reasoned explanation.
The state should continue to restrict the benefits of civil marriage to couples who are oriented toward procreation.
This is the most succinct way I can think to summarize the “yes” vote position. This answer makes these points:
First, the ballot measure concerns a civil question — “Which couples should get special tax and legal benefits?” — not a religious question —“Does God bless all loving relationships?”
Second, it affirms the distinguishing characteristic of male/female unions — that they can, and often do, produce children. The state doesn’t grant marriage licenses to men and women because they love each other, but because they are oriented toward procreation.
Of course, there are many married couples who don’t have children, choose not to have children, or can’t have children. But that’s none of the state’s business. Regardless of whether a man and a woman have a child, man/woman couples are oriented toward procreation the same way humans are oriented toward bipedal mobility, even though many humans don’t walk on two feet — infants, some elderly, amputees and paralysis victims.
Third, it makes clear the civil interest in marriage is the children far more than the people marrying. That’s why Minnesota prohibits siblings and first cousins from marrying — not because the state is concerned about the two adults, but because it cares about the children such relationships might produce. Marriage laws only have meaning among couples who are oriented toward procreation.
One reason we are debating the meaning of marriage is that many people, understandably, struggle to see the relationship between marriage and children.
A number of cultural developments since the mid-1960s have separated procreation from marriage — contraceptive use, cultural acceptance of non-marital sex, out-of-wedlock childbirth, abortion and sterilization. Although human behavior in
America has changed in the last 50 years, human nature has not, and civil marriage addresses that nature.
When someone at work brings up the marriage amendment, make the case for traditional marriage. Resist the temptation to keep quiet. The November 2012 vote is an important moment; this is our time to witness as Catholics.
Tom Bengtson writes about faith and the workplace. Reach him at http://www.TomBengtson.com.