Whew, I was thinking of breaking this up into 4 installments but the comments – many of which have been thoughtful and kind and many of which have been … not – are a little bit too much for my very pregnant brain to deal with right now, so I’m going to go ahead and publish one, final installment of my and Cara’s debate today, with the caveat that it’s a little longer than parts 1 and 2.
(And, um, be nice to her, okay? Even if you disagree with her. Actually, especially if you disagree with her. I won’t chastise anyone for the stupid stuff they’re saying to me because I’m a big girl blogger and deal with it every single day. But she doesn’t. So play nice. You don’t score any victories – or convert any hearts – by being cruel.)
So funny – USF is my alma mater! Go Dons!
I think we’re getting somewhere because I didn’t even need a deep breath for this one.
I want to be crystal clear here that my support of gay marriage and equal rights for all forms of sexual orientation and gender expression have exactly zero to do with appealing to some popular opinion or “common option.” There is nothing new, trendy, or popular about this. Same-sex love has been around since the beginning of time and all that is news here is that our country is finally coming around to showing this type of love and commitment the respect and legal rights that this community should have been entitled to for all of history.
My point was that there are many people who identify as Catholic who dissent from the fundamental bible-based Catholic teachings on gay marriage (and so, so many other traditional teachings of the Catholic church). A large group of people who believe in God and feel a connection to the Catholic church fully support LGBTQ rights and full acceptance and love of all people (backed by actually supporting all people to love who they love).
Because we have such different core values, it does make sense to me to clearly delineate conservative and liberal Catholics. They are, in practice, such vastly different approaches to life, and to be honest I would be horrified to be bucketed into the traditional Catholic mold. Unfortunately, I think the conservative approach to Catholicism has been much, much louder on a variety of social issues, so the liberal portion of the church has gotten lost in the shuffle. I do think Pope Francis is doing a lot to improve this, and I’m happy to hear we can agree that he’s the best. 🙂
As far as what marriage is and why it is so important, I think you’re right we can leave God out of this, and I want to do just that. While religions all around this globe treat marriage as a sacred and monumental event, that piece is far more complex than what was decided on a Friday in June. The fact is that while religion can put many (valid and important and beautiful) layers on top of marriage, marriage is a legal contract in which each marriage is as unique and diverse as the individuals within the commitment. Some marriages are religious, some are secular, some are between young or older individuals, some span across states or countries, some include children, and some are between same-sex individuals.
You guessed that I think the point of marriage is for “romantic fulfillment and life-long companionship” and I find that phrasing incredibly empty and not even close to capturing what marriage is. When two people decide that they want to marry, that is an intimate decision that carries with it so many different intentions and goals.
Because of that, I don’t believe there is one “reason” for marriage. I think it depends entirely on the individuals within the relationship. This diversity does extend to whether or not they decide to have children.
Deciding to be a spouse and deciding to be a parent are such different decisions and roles in life, and it is for no one but the couple involved to make decisions about this. Do you know any married couples who have decided to not have children? Do you know any who are unable to conceive? Who have fostered or adopted children? Any who have blended families but have not “created life” together? Do you honestly think these marriages are not valid or living up to some “ideal”?
Your point about children being raised by their biological parents being somehow better off than children of same-sex couples just holds absolutely no water with me. I’m very familiar with the argument that some children raised by same-sex parents are somehow dissatisfied with their upbringing, and I had actually read Katy’s letter before. Some children of ALL forms of childrearing are dissatisfied with parts of their upbringing. There are just as many stories coming from children who are happy with their families, like Zach Wahls. So, this kind of “proof” isn’t proof at all. The stories of all families are complex with varying degrees of success and levels of overall happiness, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents.
Small world 🙂
Okay, after thinking it over, here’s what I’m understanding to be your 3 main “pros” in favor of gay marriage, and here’s where they’re flawed:
1. Same sex attraction/homosexual behavior have been around forever, so therefore it should be legally recognized as marriage. This necessitates a change from the fundamental definition of marriage (which I’ll define as a legally binding, life-long, exclusive public commitment to a spouse of the opposite sex and any children which may result from that union) to a broader range of various sexual behaviors. I’m reading that you don’t believe children have anything to do with marriage unless the individual couples wills for them to, and then pursues them in whatever fashion they see fit. Is this accurate so far?
The main issue with this point is the final piece, because this view of marriage radically alters the nature of the institution, which is ordered toward the creation and development of a family, which is the fundamental building block for our larger communities, and turns it into something else entirely: a sexual partnership which is not outwardly-focused, by it’s very nature, but which is focused inward, on the mutual satisfaction and “happiness” (quotes because it’s a completely subjective state unique to each couple) of the spouses.
This is not to say marriage should not equal happiness, but that marriage in the traditional definition often results in happiness but is not contingent upon it. Happiness is a happy aftereffect, if you will, but it’s not proper end. So we contract marriages because we love the other person and want to build a life and a family with them, but the vision is directed outward, away from the individual couples, and that other-centered love physically begets new life. Children are a natural good of marriage – and an essential part of the purpose for marriage – precisely because they draw the spouses away from one another and toward a common good, and ultimately, the future.
You rightly mentioned adoptions and couples who struggle with infertility. I set those aside for the purpose of our argument because they’re tangential, but since you brought them up I’ll answer that when a couple cannot conceive this is a poverty in their relationship. Yes, they may be able to adopt and take great joy in building a family through alternative means (moral means, but that’s another topic entirely), but you’ll never hear an infertile couple say that their infertility hasn’t been a great sadness or a source of suffering. Is their marriage any less valid? Of course not. That’s like saying a cancer patient’s life has less value than a healthy person’s because her body has succumbed to a disease. It means something has gone awry physically.
For a homosexual couple, the sterility of their love is fundamental. That’s part of the reason I said in our first exchange that I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage;” marriage, by definition, is open to life and directed to the propagation of future generations.
A homosexual relationship can never bring forth new life on its own, and so it cannot be rightly called “marriage” in the real sense of the word. Legal partnership? Sure. Civil union? Ok. But while the government has seen fit to radically alter the definition of marriage to include couples who are fundamentally incapable of fulfilling the essential duties (I’m using that word philosophically) of the office, there is nothing that can be done, legally or semantically, to actually alter the reality that only opposite sex spouses can contract a marital union.
2. When homosexual couples determine that they would like to acquire a child, either through adoption, IVF, surrogacy, etc., this results in a profound commoditization of the child. It reduces the child to a product, if you will, to be added on to their relationship as a kind of familial upgrade.
Do homosexual couples sincerely love the children they bring into their homes and raise as their own? I’m sure they do. But especially in the case of assisted reproductive technologies, there is almost total disregard for the dignity and the autonomy of the child. Their humanity is utterly secondary to wants and desires of the parent(s). Surrogacy is perhaps the saddest example of this commoditization, as it outsources the most fundamental human experience – gestation in your mother’s womb – to an unrelated third party. Does the child have no say in this? And can there really be no consequences to such an impoverished arrangement?
3. I didn’t present Katy’s story as any kind of definitive proof of the inability of a gay couple to raise a happy child, just as food for thought that maybe the children involved in these unions are not being afforded their full rights. We disagree on the nature of marriage as being ordered towards procreation, but there is still an innate drive, even among homosexual couples, to build a family. So the question becomes, what of the rights of the child? Does a child not, as we have legally recovnzzed up until this point, have the right to a mother and a father|? Is it not wrong to preemptively deny them a parent of the opposite sex, simply because two men or two women decide to build a life together?
My final thought is this: if marriage has nothing to do with procreation and building families, then why is the government involved in the first place? Traditionally the government has extended legal protections and benefits to married couples recognizing the unique benefits of marriage to society as a whole, (stable, intact families, healthier citizens, lower crime rates, greater economic stability, etc.) But these all tie into marriages begetting families.
Marriage has been recognized in a unique way because marriage – the sexual relationship between a man and a woman – is uniquely capable of bringing forth the next generation of civilization. Can it be done outside the context of marriage? Well yes, of course. But it’s always at the cost of the children involved, never to their benefit.
Also, if marriage means completely different things to different couples, as you said, if each couple contracts marriage on their own terms and for their own reasons and just wants to call it something that starts with an m….how can there be any kind of legal precedent at all for differentiating what makes the cut and what doesn’t? Can’t I marry my sister? Can’t I marry a second spouse of either gender while my husband is still alive? How is there any grounds, legally, to deny me that?
I’ve really enjoyed the peaceful nature and tone of this exchange (seriously, soooooo refreshing for someone who works on the internet) but I’m not sure we can go much further since it kind of feels like we’re talking past each other on a certain level. We’re using the same language, but we don’t mean the same thing, at all, when we say “marriage.” So I guess maybe I’m up for one more round of closing arguments, if you will, and then we call it a day?
I agree on two points: I really have enjoyed the tone of this, and I think we’re getting to the point of talking past each other in many ways.
There are a number of things I’d like to push back on with what you’ve written here (i.e. those are not my three main points pro gay marriage). I think the fact is that we have wildly different approaches to marriage and family — beyond gay marriage or this particular ruling. I don’t feel the need for closing arguments, per se, as I (thankfully) saw this much more as a conversation than a debate. I would like to offer a couple reflections though.
I will admit that I was a bit nervous going into this. After your first email I had tears in my eyes and ended up going for a couple mile walk with my dog on the beach to de-swell the lump in my throat and unknot my stomach a bit. These types of conversations can be really painful and difficult, but I’m so happy that by this last email I feel better about it all. So — I’m glad we went the email route with this so there was some reflection time built in and an opportunity to compose our thoughts.
Another thing I noticed is that maybe the trick to this is that it didn’t really feel like a debate. We both have clearly thought a lot about this issue and have extremely deep seated beliefs about what is right here. Given that, I think we both quickly knew that we weren’t going to sway the other or “win.” What we could do was explain our stance calmly and (as hard as it may have been for both of us) openly listen to the other side. I think there’s a lot of value in that, and I’m grateful to Jenna for framing this up front that this was to be civil and productive, not a battle or a gotcha debate.
Honestly, I still don’t empathize with your stance at all and I think a lot of what you believe is incredibly harmful to our society, but at the same time I can respect you as an individual and hope that somewhere down the line you have a change of heart as so many people have. And I bet you feel the same about me! At least we’re not apathetic members of society, right? 😉 I do feel sure that we both want what we think is best for our world, and those opinions have been informed and shaped in very different ways.
Best of luck with the tail end of your pregnancy, and sincere thanks for having this conversation.
I have to admit I’m a little relieved, haha. Not because it wasn’t encouraging to engage this way overall, but yeah, because it is a little personally devastating to hear someone so passionately opposed to the deepest knowledge of my heart and my faith.
I was telling my husband last night that it our conversation was making me sad, not for you necessarily, but for our culture at large, just because relativism is so overpowering and pervasive, and it makes fruitful dialogue so difficult.
But He is bigger, and I’ve seen firsthand the fruits of continuing to question and seek and wrestle.
I had a massive reversion to Catholicism in college when St. John Paul II died, and I credit him with saving my life. I’ll be asking him to pray in a special way for both of us,
Enjoy your weekend and God bless your willingness to engage in this.