Impact of redefining marriage to be felt for years to come

| May 21, 2013 | 0 Comments
From left, Barbara Sherf and her daughter Lauren of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul and St. Joseph in West St. Paul participate in a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul on May 14, the day Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry. The vigil was organized by Jenni Maas of Nativity, and Father Thomas McDonough read Scriptures and offered reflections. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

From left, Barbara Sherf and her daughter Lauren of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul and St. Joseph in West St. Paul participate in a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul on May 14, the day Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry. The vigil was organized by Jenni Maas of Nativity, and Father Thomas McDonough read Scriptures and offered reflections. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The impact on both religious liberty and family law will be felt for years to come in the aftermath of the Legislature’s passage of a law redefining marriage in the state of Minnesota, according to the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Although some accommodations for clergy and religious organizations were included in the new law legalizing same-sex marriage, they fall short in protecting the religious liberty of many Minnesotans in the pews who believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman, said Jason Adkins.

The courts will be forced to adjudicate the inevitable conflicts that arise over religious liberty concerns, while family law also will undergo fundamental changes, he said.

“Our family law and marriage was rooted in the idea of what’s in the best interest of children,” Adkins said. “What we’re going to be seeing in family law is a transformational shift away from working for the best interest of children toward maximizing the happiness of adults. Everything will become about accommodating the desires of adults instead of working for the best interest of children.”

“I think that’s an absolute travesty, and we’re going to be picking up the pieces of that for many years to come,” he said.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the legislation redefining marriage into law May 14 less than a week after it passed in both the House and Senate. Minnesota is the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage. The law takes effect Aug. 1.

Archbishop reflects

In a reflection sent to clergy and parish marriage coordinators following the law’s passage, Archbishop John Nienstedt reiterated the Church’s support for traditional marriage.

“After all of the debate and tumult that have culminated in this legislative decision, one thing is very clear: pervasive misunderstanding of the meaning and purpose of marriage — the foundational building block of human society — remains,” he wrote.

“Let us vow to continue to work to strengthen marriage — with a renewed commitment to walk the talk — and defend it against all forms of its weakening, for the good of all society,” he said. “We can do nothing less than continue to propose and do our best to live out what we believe.” (The full text of the archbishop’s message can be found in his column on page 2B of this issue.)

Ongoing concerns

Earlier this month, Rhode Island and Delaware became the 10th and 11th states, respectively, to legalize same-sex marriage.

In November, Minnesota voters rejected a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only a union between a man and woman, but polls show Minnesotans remain divided over legalizing such unions. The new law changes the definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “a civil contract between two persons.”

While it stipulates that churches and members of the clergy will not be forced to solemnize same-sex wedding ceremonies, such protections are already inherent in the First Amendment, Adkins said.

Missing from the state law, however, are accommodations for individuals, non-religious non-profits, small business owners, religious organizations that receive public funds, and religious associations not directly connected with a church organization or diocese.

For example, a religious camp that rents its facilities for weddings or a Catholic caterer would “receive no protection from the language of this bill,” Adkins said.

The MCC, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is working with legislators on measures to write such protections into state law, he said. And, it is working with a number of other groups and organizations to craft general advice and guidance for organizations, companies and people of faith who will be dealing with conflicts that emerge as a result of the new law.

Adkins said the state’s new genderless conception of marriage also will have legal implications that courts will need to address.

“We’re already seeing that in Iowa, where as a follow up to its imposition of same-sex marriage, they’ve now ruled that two persons of the same sex have a right to be listed as the parents on the birth certificate of the children of which one partner gave birth,” he said.

“That’s just one example,” he said. “I think we’ll see multiple partners being listed on birth certificates. We’ll see interesting custody battles, and we’re going to see other developments related to reproductive technology and surrogacy agreements as this all gets worked out.”

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