Although nearly 70% of Pennsylvanians support an amendment to Pennsylvania’s Constitution defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman, many are asking tough questions about the issue.Amending the state constitution to protect marriage is not unique to Pennsylvania. Twenty-seven states have already passed marriage protection amendments and a possible amendment to the United States Constitution was considered. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has provided answers to some of the more difficult questions from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. Here are a few to consider:
What difference would it make to married couples if same sex partners are allowed to marry?
We need to answer this question not simply as individuals, but as members of society, called to work for the common good. If same sex marriage were legalized, the result would be a significant change in our society. We would be saying that the primary purpose of marriage is to validate and protect a sexually intimate relationship. All else would be secondary. While we cannot say exactly what the impact of this change would be, experience suggests that it would be negative. Marriage would no longer symbolize society’s commitment to the future: our children. Rather, marriage would symbolize a commitment to the present needs and desires of adults.
Isn’t the Church discriminating against homosexual persons by opposing same sex unions?
To uphold God’s intent for marriage, in which sexual relations have their proper and exclusive place, is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons. Christians must give witness to the whole truth and, therefore, oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.
It is not unjust to deny legal status to same-sex unions because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. In fact, justice requires society to do so.
The legal recognition of marriage, including benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society. It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage. It should be noted that some benefits currently sought by persons in homosexual unions can already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.
What is the Church’s position on legislation to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships?
On two different occasions, in 2003 and 2006, the USCCB Administrative Committee stated: “We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage – by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means.”
In 2003 a statement from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated: “Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person. Laws in favor of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex” (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, n.6).
These and other questions can be found at http://www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/samesexfaqs.shtml.
A bi-partisan group of 17 cosponsors recently introduced SB 1250 – the Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment – to start the process of putting the question about marriage on the ballot. Marriage makes a difference; it is worth protecting. Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact their state senators and ask them to support the bill. More information about contacting legislators and the marriage amendment is available from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) at pacatholic.org.
PCC Column March 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.