Gay Marriage

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

November 20, 2003


            On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned 223 years of state legal precedent by declaring that the constitution of the Commonwealth required gay marriage. A result that they admitted would no doubt have stunned the framers of that state’s constitution.   

            Two days later the Washington Post declared that people who oppose gay marriage are bigots. Anyone who speaks out against it is cynically “milking” the issue for their own divisive political ends pronounced the Post. A good way to neutralize your opposition is to attack their motives and character. It is a lot easier than answering their arguments.

            We all want to be tolerant people. But opposing gay marriage does not, ipso facto, make one a bigot. There are good and substantial reasons to oppose gay marriage. These arguments are based in “reason”, not faith. Therefore we are not “imposing our religious views” on society.

First, marriage is a social institution that serves social ends, not a personal institution that serves personal ends. The Massachusetts opinion makes it a personal institution for personal ends.

The law is the collective judgment of society. Society has a right to define social institutions, i.e., what is and is not a marriage. For instance, society says you may not marry close relatives. You may not marry under a certain age. And in our society at least, you may not marry more than one person at a time. These are social judgments about a social institution.

Gay activists analogize gay marriage to the miscegenation cases of the 1950s. But these are not comparable. Skin color has nothing to do with marriage. But gender does have something to do with marriage. It is gender, not sexual orientation, that is at issue in marriage, despite what the Massachusetts court said.

This brings us to the second reason to oppose this ruling.

Second, marriage is primarily about children, not adults. The Massachusetts court ruling views marriage as institution for the sake of adults only.

Throughout human history marriage has been seen a stable environment for the procreation and nurturing of children. This requires a man and a woman in the natural course of things.  

It is true that there are infertile heterosexual marriages. But that does not undercut the reasonableness of the law limiting marriage to male and female. Law always has to establish broad presumptions. The law presumes that men and women are capable of procreating. It presumes quite rightly that in nature people of the same sex are not.

Third, separating marriage from children will undermine marriage as an institution. This is so because heterosexual people will see no reason to get married to have a child.

Look at the experience of Scandinavia, where civil unions have existed for a decade or more. Marriage as an institution in dying there.  In Sweden more than half of the children are now born out of wedlock. Marriage is seen as useful only to adults.

Fourth, legalizing gay marriage is unnecessary to protect the civil rights of gay people. All the goals the gay lobby says it wants for gay couples can be achieved right now by legal means already at their disposal. Joint ownership of property can be done by Deeds. Transfer of property at death can be done by Wills. The custody of children, visitation rights in hospitals, health and pension benefits, health care decisions, etc., can all be achieved by existing laws and administrative procedures. There is no real need for same sex marriage unless it is to get society’s blessing.

That is what the gay lobby really wants, not civil rights but a social blessing. That is precisely what many people of good will cannot, in good conscience, give them.