Are you a bigot? Most of us would answer no. Same-sex marriage proponents argue there is no morally relevant difference between their relationships and marriage between a husband and wife; to believe otherwise you are a bigot. That is their opinion. But, if same-sex marriages, sometimes called civil unions, are allowed, proclaiming that you believe marriage is only between a husband and wife is like answering “yes” to that question in the eyes of the law. That is what Maggie Gallagher, President of the National Organization for Marriage, explained to a crowded room of state legislators and staff in Harrisburg recently.Gallagher cited examples of how religious liberty is already being affected where same-sex marriage is allowed. In Boston, Catholic Charities stopped its adoption services. It is a felony to operate an adoption agency without a license; to obtain a license in Massachusetts the agency must agree to place children with same-sex couples. The Archdiocese of Boston opted to end adoptions rather than compromise religious beliefs.
“The question was ‘is Catholic Charities a good enough citizen…is the 150 year track record of serving the most poor and vulnerable children a higher and more valuable purpose than the interests of a handful of people?'” said Gallagher. “The answer was ‘no.'”
In New Jersey, the tax exempt status of a Methodist retreat center was revoked because it refused to allow a civil union ceremony of a lesbian couple on its seaside pavilion. This occurred only months after the state legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriages they call civil unions.
“This isn’t hypothetical,” said Gallagher. “These things are happening now.”
The Pennsylvania Legislature is now considering SB 1250 which would begin the process for the voters to consider a constitutional amendment defining marriage. The amendment must pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions before it is placed on the ballot.
Twenty-seven states have already amended their constitutions in order to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Pennsylvania has a statute that already states that marriage is between one man and one woman, but in Iowa, a judge ruled that state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Courts in other states ordered the recognition of same-sex marriage, also called civil unions. Courts in Pennsylvania could do the same without a constitutional amendment.
“A married husband and wife provide fundamental benefits to society- mainly, the protection of family and in particular, children,” said Robert J. O’Hara, Jr., Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC). Research demonstrates that one mother and one father joined in a stable marriage is the best possible situation for raising children. “Certainly, not every family fits this model, but redefining marriage and creating state-sanctioned motherless and fatherless families discounts everything we know to be true about marriage.”
As a part of Pennsylvania For Marriage, a non-partisan, statewide coalition, the PCC is urging people to contact state legislators to encourage support of SB 1250. Visits, calls and letters to legislators are very effective. Or, e-mails can easily be sent through PCC’s website, pacatholic.org.
PCC Column EXTRA February 2008 by A. B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.