The United States has become the 21st country to legalise same sex marriage. To this, I say a good old fashioned yankee doodle YEEEEEHAAAAAAAA!
How did they do this? Well the courts ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same sex couples violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the 14th amendment of the US Constitution. Just to be clear, the Due Process Clause prohibits state and local government officials from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization. The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its juristiction. The 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868 as a reaction to treatment of former slaves following the American Civil War.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, my children’s Catholic primary school have sent home pamphlets directing us not to “mess with marriage”.
I love my children’s school, I really do. I know it is the job of the school to uphold the beliefs of the Catholic Church. For the most part I believe the religious dimension of their education is very positive. Kindness, respect, tolerance, gratitude – they are all upheld and encouraged at school and for me they are of utmost importance.
But when I read this pamphlet about same sex marriage, I know in my heart that without a doubt, this particular belief is unkind and disrespectful and intolerant. And wrong. And I believe it would be equally wrong of me not to say something in response.
I do not direct this response to our school, I direct it to the Catholic Bishops of Australia, who are the ones who signed the letter accompanying the pamphlet. In light of that, I should say,
Dear Australian Catholic Bishops,
I have had trouble getting my head around your impressively presented publication. Maybe I’m slightly dim witted, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think very much of what you say aligns with your particular pledge to treat “people with same sex attraction…with respect, sensitivity and love” and your declaration that “The Catholic Church opposes all forms or discrimination”. Some of it just makes no rational sense.
On page 3, for instance, you say that – “Christians believe that all people including those with same-sex attraction are called by God to live chastely…Even those who take a different view to us about the place and meaning of sexual activity can appreciate the particular significance and importance of this institution. We now face a struggle for the very soul of marriage”
If I read between the lines here, I think you might be saying that marriage is an arrangement that gives dignity and meaning to bonking. I think you’re right, but not for the reasons you give. I don’t think it’s the bit in the church and the exchanging of rings that affords a relationship true dignity. Isn’t it the love bit? That love that makes you want to marry someone and be with them forever is the same force that makes you have sex with someone in a committed, honest, gentle, affectionate and generous way. That some force that turns fucking into making love? And if you’re offended by my use of of the world, “fuck”, I’m offended by your misuse of the word ‘respect’ and your overuse of ‘flesh’.
And why are you talking about chastity and sex right up front? Are you implying that same sex attraction equates to promiscuity? Are gay couples not capable of stable, monogamous, lasting love? Why not? Because they can’t produce children together? Let me tell you Most Reverend Bishops (because I know you don’t know) children are not marriage stabilisers. If you don’t have a good relationship before you bring a screaming baby into the world, you sure as hell won’t after. And if you don’t like me saying ‘hell’ in that context, I don’t like the context you give to ‘injustice’.
On page 4 you suggest that to change marriage laws in favour of same sex couples would be to “ignore the particular values that real marriage serves” and “to change retrospectively the basis upon which all existing married couples got married” . Well firstly, I have been a guest at a same sex wedding. The ceremony was purely that – ceremonial – but the joy and love it heralded was far more real than some heterosexual weddings I’ve been to that seemed disturbingly underscored by pretence and materialism. And secondly, I am one of the existing married couples (you are not) and in no way would I feel the basis of my marriage negatively shifted by a vote in favour of same sex marriage. To the contrary, if marriage laws changes to include people who would thereby enter into matrimony with absolute joy and certainly, there could only be a positive shift; perhaps even a change in current divorce statistics. I love marriage, I would be thrilled to see such a delight available to one and all. And I think if you actually asked, most heterosexual couples would heartily agree.
You go on to point out that heterosexual marriage is a “comprehensive union” that is “grounded in total commitment: bodily and spiritual, sexual and reproductive, permanent and exclusive…they share the sameness of humanity but enjoy the difference of their masculinity and femininity…same sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship…” I am interested in your opinions on how the absence of one gender in a relationship changes the spiritual, bodily, exclusive and permanent dimensions of a relationship. Do you mean that if there is no penis to fit nicely into the vagina, or vice versa, a bodily connection is not possible? I’m not being cheeky, it really seems as though this is what you mean. And anyway, even if there is no penis or vagina, the reproductive part is a very real option for same sex couples these days, havn’t you been watching the telly?
On page 8 you talk about marriage being a natural institution. I don’t believe this. Matrimony is indeed an ancient ceremony which predates recorded history, but most mammals, including humans, are naturally polygamous. Only 3 to 5% of mammals are monogamous. Monogamy has evidently defied the rules of evolution for social and economic reasons, and for the sake of the children. The matrimonial binding of two men or two women is not therefore, an insult to any natural state. Love, on the other hand, is an entirely natural phenomenon.
You say you are worried about children not having both a mother and a father. You reference numerous socialogical researchers to support your concerns, but hooray! – you don’t have to worry anymore because researchers at the University of Melbourne (lead by Dr Simon Crouch) last year found that “children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6 per cent higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion”. Isn’t that good news! I also found that the latest research – done in 2015 – upon which your concerns are partly based was undertaken by Donald Paul Sullins, who is a Sociology professor but also a Catholic Priest and so carries the same beliefs (and possible bias) as you. It was also found that when he concluded that the children of same sex couples have more emotional problems than the children of heterosexual couples, he didn’t identify whether the same sex couples were actually married or even that they considered themselves a family. In short, the study was flawed.
Also I’m just wondering about heterosexual couples who choose not to have children? Do they get the big stink eye from you too? Is their marriage more in that shallow old “emotional tie” basket and not ye olde “comprehensive one-flesh union” basket because they use contraception and bear no fruit of loins?
You round up your argument with the notion that “all marriages (should the definition of marriage be changed to include ‘same sex marriage’) would come to be defined by intensity of emotion rather than a union founded on sexual complementarity and potential fertility”. Well on that note, I conclude that if the intense emotion you refer to means love, then what better way to define a marriage? Love, after all, is what matters most.
“Love”, says 1 Corinthians 13:4. 7-8, “Is patient, is kind. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
PS I welcome any corrections, answers or elaborations.