Don’t strip marriage of its core characteristic

Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.
Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

On Aug. 4, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8 — California’s consti- tutional amendment af- firming that marriage is between a man and a woman.

He ruled that there is no rational basis for the belief that marriage involves people of different genders, despite
the fact that this has been the understanding of virtually every culture in the world wherever, and whenever, marriage has existed in all of human history.

Judge Walker’s decision also pro-mulgated this equally subversive finding: “The evidence does not support a finding that California has an interest in preferring opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents.” After all, “The genetic relationship between a parent and a child is not related to a child’s adjustment outcomes.” Translation: It is irrational to believe that a child should be raised by his parents.

Contrary to Judge Walker’s deeply prejudicial ruling, however, there is a rational basis for believing what people everywhere have always believed. And despite the pretensions of gay marriage activists (inside and outside the federal judiciary) who imagine that their agen- da is the moral successor to the civil rights movement, opposition to gay marriage is not motivated by bigotry. Catholics are motivated by their belief that marriage between a man and a woman is the arrangement chosen by God for the expression of conjugal love and for the creation and rearing of children. But the broad coalition defending traditional marriage shows that this issue is not simply a question of religious doctrine.

The basis for opposition to same-sex marriage as a matter of public policy is, fundamentally, the proposition that every child deserves a mom and a dad. While this is not always possible, it should be society’s aspiration. Marriage traditionalists reject the notion that men and women are interchangeable, and thus dispensable. Does anyone really believe that mothers have nothing unique and essential to contribute to a child’s rearing?

If gender difference ceases to be a component of marriage, then marriage can literally mean anything, because

it has been stripped of its core characteristic. The door is opened to every possibility, in particular polygamy. The unthinkable suddenly becomes inevitable.

Having lost in all 31 states where same-sex marriage has been put to
a popular vote, its supporters have sought to move the issue to the courts. There, unelected, unremovable judges will be all too happy to remove from ordinary Americans the burden of self- rule and will hand down a decision as to how we are all to live.

Mindful Catholics, alarmed at the prospect of an eventual Supreme Court ruling that could bring their principles into conflict with their obligations as citizens, have seen this movie before, in 1973. Let us hope that past is not prologue.

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