Catholics Do What?,  Homosexuality,  Marriage,  Sex,  Theology of the Body

How to discuss gay “marriage” {part 1}

A couple weeks ago, right on the heels of the Obergefell decision, a friend and blogger-extraordinairre contacted me with an intriguing invitation: did I want to participate in an online debate of sorts about gay “marriage?” (I’m going to drop the quotes at this point because it’s irritating to keep writing them, but suffice it to say that my position is not that I’m anti homosexual unions, but that by the very definition of the thing, gay “marriage” is physically and ontologically impossible. It literally can’t exist. Hence the quotes.)

Jenna’s idea was refreshingly simple: a back and forth exchange, conducted in charity and civility, with each party stating her position and explaining her reasons behind it. So she rallied a dear childhood friend from San Francisco and yours truly, introduced us to one another by remarking upon our mutual love for California, the Dave Matthews Band, and craft beers, and off we went.

It was fun, but more than that, it was encouraging that at no point did things devolve into name-calling. It was basically the opposite of every Facebook discussion that has ever taken place about anything. And so, in the spirit of hope for the future of public discourse, I’m going to be posting it here all week, inviting you to look over our shoulders as we debated. I hope it’s both instructive and maybe even a little bit inspirational? Not because we’re all that brilliant in our logic, but because here are two people about as fundamentally opposed as is humanly possible on this particular issue, and we didn’t drop any f-bombs or resort to yelling “bigot” in all caps.

So settle in and enjoy. And thanks to Jenna for hosting (and who has the entire exchange posted already, should you find yourselves too impatient to read it in installments. I bet I know how you like to watch your Downton Abbey episodes, too, amiright?)

Part 1:

I was sitting at work in DC when I heard the news of the ruling. It was coming off the heels of another SCOTUS decision upholding the ACA, and it felt to me like a SCOTUS magic week. The news started to ripple through my office, and we all cheered, breathed sighs of relief, and a few people were walking around waving equality flags that HRC was handing out across the street.

I dove into my iPhone to be sure I knew exactly what this ruling meant and when/how the decision would be implemented. The fact that it was immediate law and that couples could get married right away sounded almost too good to be true. I live in California where marriages have been legal and then annulled with the back-and-forth laws that have been state-driven.

Throughout the day, I started to hear stories like Jack and George, and I shed my cynicism and believed this could really be a turning point.

Quite simply, when I think about what this ruling will mean for the future of our country, I think it means that we are one step closer to equality and that the future is a little brighter. It means stories like Jack and George can finally be a thing of the past and that from this point forward, individuals can marry who they love and enjoy the legal and societal privileges that come with that.

I believe that the next generation will be astounded that this was ever a debate, much the same way that our generation can’t fathom that interracial marriage was illegal less than 50 years ago.

I do still have a very real concern for the future of LGBTQ rights in this country. Same sex marriage is a huge win, but it’s not the end of the fight. There is still incredible discrimination in employment and housing, for example, and the trans community remains one of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in the US. So, I know there’s a real possibility of the movement losing some momentum after this, which concerns me.

I must say though, this ruling has given me so much hope that hearts and minds really are changing and that acceptance in a concrete, legal form has finally been given to a large community.


My heart sank that Friday morning, when news of SCOTUS’ decision filtered down through my newsfeed. I was scrolling through the news and periodically raising my eyes above the screen to see my kids diving off the couches in the family room. My first thought was “what is this world they are going to inherit?”

My next thought was one that I’m convinced of more and more with each day that has passed since the ruling was handed down: “this is the Roe v. Wade of their generation.”

What I mean by that is twofold, one, that the High Court issued a mandate against the will of the people, as she did back in 1973, further eroding State’s rights and, along with them, the integrity of the American experiment a little more in the process, and two, my children will not grow up in a world without gay “marriage.”

Just as I have never known a world without abortion.

I’m not naive enough to think that our present culture places much value on marriage in any form in 2015. No fault divorce and contraception are rampant, and are lauded as fundamental human rights, so on the one hand, why not allow gay “marriage,” along with polygamy and incest and any other sexual arrangement that happens to come into vogue? We’re certainly not living, culturally speaking, an experience of marriage as a covenant of life-long fidelity and fruitfulness.

But I want more for my kids. I want them to see (please God, let them see) in their parent’s marriage the fruitfulness and the sanctifying grace of Christ present in the exchange of love between spouses. I want them to recognize the profound gift of new life in the face of each new sibling that comes along, and the awesome responsibility that we, their parents, have in co-creating and raising them.

And I want that for everyone else’s children, too.

I want them to experience this impossibly wide, self-denying and cross-carrying and soul-stretching love, whether they are called to the married life or to a celibate vocation. Because that is where real happiness lies. That’s where fulfillment of the deepest variety resides. And nothing the world can offer them in terms of popular sentiment or trending behavior can compete with that.

And so my job as a mother got a little harder on June 27th. Because now I must explain to these children of mine that not all laws are good, and that wherever our human laws stray from the natural law which is written on each of our hearts, there is tremendous suffering.

I see a unique opportunity here to impress upon them the incredible dignity of every human person – no matter their race, religion, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, and all the rest. Because there is surely a wrong way to teach the truth about love and human sexuality, and I’ve seen too much of that these past couple months.

But it’s scary to think that in teaching them the truth about their sexuality and how they were made – for communion with one unique and unrepeatable member of the opposite sex, if they are called to marriage – I am exercising what is now considered “hate speech.” I’ve been called a bigot 100 different ways online these past 3 weeks, and worse than that. Not because I’ve spoken ill of any gay person or suggested homosexuals deserve inferior treatment in the eyes of the law, but because I maintain that marriage is a unique arrangement fundamentally ordered toward the creation of new human life and,because of those new lives, is worthy of protection and distinction in the eyes of the law.

I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anyone.

And I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage,” no matter what 5 unelected public officials and the far more important court of public opinion says about the matter.

People should be allowed to love – and to contract legally binding arrangements with – whomever they please. In my own state, that was already the case.

But I also don’t actually believe this was ever about securing a legal right for a certain class of people, but was rather about abolishing one of the last vestiges of Judeo-Christian morality from American civil law. And it’s going to be a slippery descent downhill, as mentioned above. Because polygamy, incest, and the like are all coming. And on what grounds can we deny anyone a legally-binding and civilly-recognized sexual relationship with any other person – or creature – of their preference? No matter how self-harmful. No matter how disordered. No matter how utterly incapable of producing new life or of investing in the future of a stable and just society.

We can’t. And that’s the world we’re passing on to our children. Not a world of greater equality and opportunity, but of darkened reasoning and of bizarre sexual deviance that everyone will be required, by law, to applaud for with a straight face, affirming that each choice is equally good and loving and valid, because the tyranny of the individual will now rule over the greater common good.
(Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.)


  • Ari

    “And I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage,” no matter what 6 unelected public officials and the far more important court of public opinion says about the matter.” – Wasn’t it *5* unelected public officials, not 6?

  • liz

    I support gay marriage 100% and I do not feel as though you are using hate speech but I do have a genuine question I’m hoping you can answer for me regarding your beliefs. You state that, “marriage is a unique arrangement fundamentally ordered toward the creation of new human life.” What about the heterosexual couples who cannot reproduce? Is theirs not a true marriage in the eyes of God? You also state that we are on a downward trend and soon folks may want to marry their pets or children! I hope you can see that this is very insulting to the homosexual community. You can NOT get consent from a child or an animal and such a union would be considered rape. In the future, when you make arguments against civil rights I would leave this one out if you don’t want to be called a bigot. I’m proud to teach my children (born of a heterosexual marriage) that love is love is love is love is love. After all, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). How amazing that future generations won’t be able to believe certain citizens were marginalized and discriminated against in this great country. I’m beyond thrilled that there is no more “Gay Marriage” and instead only Marriage. Love wins- how about teaching your children that!
    Oh, and as Ari mentioned before me- it was a 5-4 ruling by the supreme court!

    • Jenny Uebbing

      thanks for the typo catch, both of you gals.

      I’m not going to touch the cherry-picked scripture quotes because I don’t think there’s much room for true discussion there, is there?

      As for heterosexual couples being unable to conceive, as you’ll see if you keep reading this week, we do discuss that issue, and I point out that when a couple is unable to conceive it is always a poverty, a lack of a good that they were made for. Homosexual unions are sterile by their very nature, intrinsically incapable of producing new life. So there’s no comparison.

      I will be teaching my children, of course, that all of us are deserving of – and designed for – love. But real love, not the saccharine, socially popular iteration. Real love is fruitful and demanding and often requires sacrifice. And married love is a specific l;.kind of love, intimately and irrevocably tied to brining forth new life. The specific love we call “marriage” is fundamentally dependent upon 2 spouses of the opposite sex, each giving a total and fruitful gift of self within their sexual union and, when everything is in proper working order, bringing forth new life.

      Are there heterosexual couples who are married and unable to conceive and whose love becomes fruitful through adoption or fostering? Absolutely. But to reject the design of two parents of the opposite sex bringing forth and nurturing new life is to veer far off course from what marriage fundamentally *is,* in it’s very essence.

    • Cami

      I’m always perplexed by people who select *bits* of scripture about love but ignore scripture that explicitly, without needing to think hard about it, says that homosexual sexual activity is immoral. You either set your moral compass by the WHOLE bible or NONE of it. One cannot truly understand agape love if they can’t see why God sometimes tells us “no”. We love Him back when we avoid sin, bend to His will, trusting He knows what’s best for us. Jenny is good at explaining the reason for what we believe but regardless if a person can fully understand it or not, we are all called to be obedient and in that, chaste.

    • Ari

      Our bishop spoke to this point recently (as does Catholic teaching) – it comes down to natural law and the “end” of something. Is human nature meaningless? Is there anything intrinsic to our design that denotes meaning? What are our bodies “ordered” to? For instance, we have no problem understanding the function of our eyes, ears, etc. But, when it comes to our reproductive organs, we tend to focus on pleasure alone, not on the overall meaning behind their design. In reflecting deeply upon our human nature, as revealed in male and female, there is much truth to be learned. What is the meaning in our sexual difference? What is the result of the union of man and woman? And, taking the question of “ends” to marital law – is the law meant to allow adults to act as they please, or is it mean to protect the most vulnerable (children)? Without condemning anyone or even bringing God or religion into it, it seems clear that our bodies in their design are telling us something. And that human history has also told us that marriage is meant first as a means to create/protect/sustain families, which can only result from the “end” of our human design. Male and female are ordered toward reproduction when they come together. There may be deficiencies or illness, but the order is there. Two members of the same sex are not capable of reproduction, the “end” of that relationship is never ordered toward reproduction. It doesn’t make them “less than” citizens. We just recognize that marriage was meant for the good of children, which come from a male/female relationship.

  • liz

    Hi Cami and Jenny! Despite the fact that you are perplexed by my using *bits* of scripture on love to defend gay marriage, I was using it as an illustration that the Bible says MANY things that are in direct contradiction of one another throughout. If I remember from my Catholic upbringing and 12 years of Catholic schooling correctly, the Bible condemns Homosexuality in Leviticus. It also states in Exodus that one should be put to death for working on the Sabbath! Hope you’ve never lifted a finger on a Sunday! Do you consider yourself unclean when you cook pork? Leviticus does! I chose to “cherry pick” versus from the Bible because I focus on the LOVE and salvation of Jesus Christ. I left the church formally not because of its teachings but because of its members. I read this blog and others like it to have my mind changed and more often than not I just feel condescended to and judged. I wish the love of Christ were spoken of more frequently instead of all the rules we who cannot “fully understand” are constantly breaking.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I’m awfully sorry if you felt judged or condescended to, that certainly wasn’t the intention of my response to your question or this entire exchange between Cara and I. I hope you can read on and feel welcome and able to ask questions.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree scripture can be really confusing and often seems to contradict itself. It helps me to remember that all of the Bible–every little piece–points to Christ in some way. So I am only meant understand it in reference to Jesus; I can never understand the Old Testament without reference to the Gospels and the life of Christ.

      Whenever I’m in doubt as to how some weird Leviticus protocol ought to apply to my life? That’s why Jesus gave me– us!! — the church of His apostles to clarify.

    • Kathryn

      Hi Liz,

      I recently asked myself the same questions about Old Testament Laws and what they mean for us in 2015. I did some research and I thought
      it might be helpful for you to know that as Catholic Christians we are not bound by Jewish law (ie the laws in Leviticus) unless they are matters of natural law. Christians are bound not by Old Testament law, but rather by the laws of Christ. The laws of Leviticus detailing the rituals of Jewish worship were intended for the Jews, not for the Christians. So, we don’t have our Sabbath on Saturday or avoid cooking pork, to list some examples. But we ARE bound by the truths of natural law outlined in Leviticus, like the fact that homosexual acts are immoral because natural law indicates that sex was designed by God to be a one-flesh union between a man and a woman in the sacrament of marriage.

      Check out this post from Catholic answers – they explain it much better than I could!

      Blessings to you, sister!

  • [email protected]

    Thank you for the love over here. Love wins. he.

    Anyway, I am so looking forward to reading this discussions in your corner of the Internet too. I learn so much from reading your responses to people.

    And, of course, THANK YOU for being so generous with your brain when (we all know it’s true) there is a baby sucking every least cell from it right now. xo

  • Cami

    I still don’t understand. How does one attempt a relationship with Jesus but ignore the bible? I don’t think that the scripture topics you listed are meant to be taken quite so literally without its full context. I have found the big picture to be that it offers explanations or demonstrations of God’s power and mercy, moral and immoral choices, and encouragement. But it’s also like a history book at times and doesn’t make sense if we don’t understand the culture of that time. I do believe the bible is all relevant and true, that much scripture requires critical thinking and study, and that there will be parts we can’t fully understand because God is a genius and we are limited by our cultural influences and generational limits. Jesus often demonstrated humility. There is something to be said about admitting in prayer when we don’t understand and asking for guidance in truth. As far as just wanting to hear about the love of Jesus, I think that’s the issue. Some people have translated His love to be utter acceptance and enabling us in our poor choices. But I understand His love to be a combination of never giving up on me when I make mistakes over and over, but also always, always asking me to do as He has asked. Otherwise, I’ve just abandoned Him on the cross. And as I mentioned before, I try to avoid sin as a way of loving Him back. For me, I had a powerful reconversion to the Catholic faith. About 10 years ago I would have said many of the statements you have. But Theology of the Body changed my heart and made me see it all with fresh eyes. I suddenly had a deep desire to know and understand all I could and be obedient in my choices and service to others. This is my gift to Him. If you are really seeking truth, Liz, check out any talks you can get your hands on about Theology of the Body. I found the most powerful stuff to come from Christopher West. But there are even more resources available nowadays. Having some of the same views you currently have, this information really cleared things up for me and I cannot explain the joy I felt after this experience. I know what it’s like to be seeking and wanting to figure out what felt right. I will say a prayer for you and I wish you well on your journey. One last thing… Please forgive any Catholics that let you down in the past. We are a large church and inevitably we will have some misformed followers that may give a poor impression. Rather than give up on the Catholic faith, find a strong parish. Read the Catechism. Read encyclicals. Listen to some Matt Maher. Find a church with an XLT praise and worship with adoration. If you can fully surrender your frustrations with the past and open your heart to hear what Jesus wants to share with you, it will happen. God bless you, my sister-in-Christ!

  • John C Cargill

    Not really concerned about the trannies, They are less than .01 % of the population. There are more Zoroastrians.

    • Wendy

      I am sure you were not trying to be rude or hurtful, but “tranny” is a slang term, considered offensive and defamatory by members of the transgendered community. In the future you should try to do as God requires of us, and love others as you love God.


  • Alejandro

    Just wanted to say how wonderfully insightful your commentary is! I am fully in support of the church’s teachings on this matter and have many gay friends who admit to the failure of the supreme court to see past the public opinion and into the law transcribed into each of our hearts.
    Explaining this teaching to college students like myself however, will prove to be very difficult, as many confuse liberty with repression of desires…Lots of work to be done!
    Anyways, i’m looking forward to read the rest of your upcoming blog posts 🙂

  • Sr. Athens

    This is another article that needs careful reading– eyes open from beginning to the end– revealing the complexity of today’s world just like the book on Philosophy, “How to know what you do not know?” Human sexuality is God’s idea which is revealed by natural law, and so, going back to the sense of God will make us outrightly say: no to gay marriage!

  • Chip

    its wonderful that 2 consenting adults can get married. gay /straight. Mixed race. Straight folks who can’t or just don’t want children… can all get married.

    It’s also awesome that every point of opposition to marriage equality – has been so easily proven to be a cloak for ones own bias towards people who are gay.

    Also, I have many Catholic friends who are totally supportive of marriage equality. And believe the Supreme Court totally made the right call.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      In the spirit of open discussion, welcome to the conversation, Chip. I would ask that you not make the extremely inappropriate and offensive “gay marriage = mixed race marriages” comment, because that is deeply offensive to African Americans and other mixed race couples, and it is language that the gay rights movement has successful co-opted into the national conversation without consideration for the grossly inappropriate and disrespectful implications which fail to acknowledge the hideous reality of slavery and racism (still, unfortunately, alive and well).

      To imply that mass-approval for someone’s questionable lifestyle choice somehow on par with what African Americans and other people of color have suffered – and continue to suffer – in our culture is reckless, juvenile, and deeply wrong.

      • Laura

        This reply has got to be one of the weirder things I have read on your blog- effectively an admonishment for a failure to abide unspoken rules of ‘political correctness’, when you are operating from a different world of politics than the initial commenter.

        Chip didn’t make a tally of crimes against black people vs. crimes against homosexuals in his comment. There are dissimilarities between the groups, but I don’t think that’s a reason to make the comparison taboo. It most certainly doesn’t mean that the historical precedent set by each groups’ struggle for marriage equality is unrelated.

        I wonder if you know that homosexuality has not been listed in the DSM for quite some time. I have noticed you and other orthodox bloggers have been careful to say that ‘same sex attraction’ is not a “sin”. In the best world, homosexuality should not carry a stigma and neither should membership to a racial minority. I’m surprised Chip’s comment elicited such a clear desire to stamp out the comparison by you. It makes me wonder if there is a part of you that doubts whether you are on the right side of history with your position.

        I think perhaps my comment is a bit more personally pointed than Jenna would recommend. Sorry!

        • Ari

          Part of the problem with the race/gay comparison is that race and other criteria that are protected against discrimination are discernable to the naked eye. Being gay is not. It’s not necessarily a “choice,” but it’s inconclusive that people are “born gay.” There has never been a gay gene found. And, the reason it was removed from the DSM as a disorder has nothing to do with scientific evidence, and it was essentially a political move. The Catholic Church does not teach that same sex attraction in and of itself is a sin, but that certain sexual actions are sinful. On the other hand, I do feel for my gay friends and any unjust discrimination is wrong. Comparing that struggle to slavery and widespread racism may or may not be a fair comparison, in my opinion, but it’s not my blog.

        • Jenny Uebbing

          Laura, homosexuality is not a sin. Homosexual behavior is. There’s an enormous difference between experiencing a disordered sexual desire and acting on it. The Church has been crystal clear on this for millennia, it’s our culture that has such difficulty differentiating between sinful inclinations, which we all have, and sinful actions, which we are all called to resist.

          I have several friends in mixed race marriages and it is indeed both inappropriate and simply illogical to make the comparison between slavery/racism and gay “rights.” It’s not a matter of political correctness, it’s a matter of common decency and logic.

  • chrisr

    First of all, I want to commend Cara for being brave and caring enough to walk into the opposing encampment bringing an olive branch of words that she believes are true and good. I hope she will be happy to know that my heart and mind is affected by this ruling. As homosexual affection is no longer hiding in the shadows but in plain view for my me and my family to see, I am challenged to love as is God’s command. I don’t want people to hide in the shadows. I want us all to know and love truth. Truth is not relegated to how one feels. It is much more powerful than that and will continue to break the shackles that any one person tries to place upon it. These dialectics are so good because truth will prevail. And I hope we are all a little surprised by what we learn.

    Jenny, I couldn’t help but read the entire exchange. I continue to be so impressed with your ability to reason. You and your family are in my prayers. And now that Cara has graciously introduced herself to this online community, she is as well.

  • Lexi

    I’m surprised at how New Testament teachings have been completely ignored by so many Christians and Catholics alike on this issue… so thank you for your courage in speaking the truth. You also do a nice job of speaking the truth in love. It wouldn’t be “love” if it didn’t speak what is true. Where there is love, there is always sacrifice 🙂

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