The Pennsylvania Legislature will vote on a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the coming weeks.
Opponents claim it denies same sex and unmarried heterosexual couples legal benefits for pensions, health insurance, hospital visits, etc. But, the website of one advocacy group outlines steps for obtaining legal documents that grant these benefits to unmarried partners.
They also claim protection from abuse will be denied to unmarried partners. But the Protection from Abuse Act in Pennsylvania provides protection for “current or former sexual or intimate partners.”
These benefits and protections are available and legal in Pennsylvania. The marriage debate is not about individual benefits, but about the status of marriage as a public institution.
Without this amendment, a fundamental change in the definition of marriage could be forced upon the citizens of Pennsylvania which will deprive this timeless institution of its unique and special status – a status which is embraced by the majority as the societal norm. The marital relationship between one man and one woman has proven to be the most effective mechanism for encouraging men and women to make the commitment which creates the best atmosphere for children. Numerous studies find this to be true and measurable.
Certainly not all families meet this ideal, but from a public policy perspective we must stand for what is best for the common good. Our society already suffers from growing rates of divorce, single parent households and unplanned pregnancies. Granting status to something that is “substantially equivalent” to marriage is really just revoking the status of traditional marriage. We cannot afford to have marriage redefined. In these troubled times, we must work to rebuild the family, not give up on it entirely. We will not improve our communities by diluting marriage even further.
PCC Column April 2006 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.