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What Redefining Marriage Really Means

By Bill May

Focusing on why same-sex couples should not be permitted to marry distracts people from the real consequences of redefining marriage. It also leads to unnecessary conflict that has no relationship to the real meaning and purpose of marriage and what is really at stake — teaching our children that there is no reason to marry before having children.

The problem is not whether same-sex couples are permitted to marry; it is the fact that redefining marriage in the law deletes “a man and a woman” and replaces it with two people. That eliminates from the law the only civil institution that unites children with their moms and dads, along with all authority to promote it.

The real agenda behind redefining marriage is to create a new de facto right for individuals to form any kind of family by any means that suits their desires. At the same time, it make it discriminatory to promote what every parent wishes for their children — marriage before having children. As I have said before, who wants their children to grow up to be a single parent? Who wants their grandchildren to be deprived of married mothers and fathers?

The agenda has not been a secret, but has been obscured by a preoccupation with the idea of permitting same-sex couples to marry.

As early as 1999, Yale Law School Professor William Eskridge wrote, redefining marriage “involves the reconfiguration of the family, de-emphasizing blood, gender, and kinship ties.”[1]

Case Western Reserve Law Professor George W. Dent, Jr. published a paper in 2011 in which he concluded:

A campaign now seeks to go far beyond these exceptions and abolish the legal and social preferences for the natural family in favor of “families we choose,” meaning any group of people that chooses for the moment to be deemed a family. This effort is supported by diverse groups. Many gays and lesbians seek equal legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” and traditional marriage. Some feminists consider marriage irreparably sexist. Many libertarians see marriage as archaic and stultifying or simply believe that intimate relationships are not proper subjects of government regulation. All insist that biological parenthood be pronounced no better than any other arrangement for the raising of children.[2]

The true agenda was also revealed in a legal brief filed by the US Department of Justice under the Obama Administration. Ironically the brief was filed in a case during which the Administration was still defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but they wanted to make sure the judge knew that they were not supporting the reality of marriage that unites children with their mothers and fathers:

“The government does not contend that there are legitimate government interests in ‘creating a legal structure that promotes the raising of children by both of their biological parents’ or that the government’s interest in ‘responsible procreation’ justifies Congress’s decision to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman (Doc. 42 at 8-9).”

While many same-sex couples are sincere about only wanting to have their relationships recognized as equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman, sophisticated leaders in the movement are candid about the true consequences of redefining marriage when they believe their conversations are private. Such was the case with author Masha Gessen, a gay rights advocate, when she said, “Fighting for ‘gay marriage’ generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage.

If further examples are needed, look no further than the international advocacy campaign targeting third world countries launched by Amnesty International. Called “My Body, My Rights,” it has a stated goal of creating the right to “decide what type of family to create.”

This trend is also apparent in new legislation and other efforts to provide more access to donor conception and surrogacy by same-sex couples. The reality of conceiving children in this way can best be seen from the perspective of the child, who is intentionally deprived of the fundamental human right of knowing and being able to love and be loved by his or her mother or father or both. This is obviously a grave injustice to the child that is not related to the life-style of the people seeking to acquire a child in this way. However, ironically single women and women in same-sex relationships are increasingly conceiving more fatherless children, a condition that research demonstrates puts them at higher risk of negative consequences.

It should be obvious that redefining marriage and eliminating the only civil institution the unites kids with their moms and dads makes it discriminatory to promote the unique value of men and women marrying before having children. It makes it discriminatory to promote precisely what sociologists are recommending to reverse the consequences of fatherlessness and the increase of children living in poverty are a result of the breakdown of marriage. Advocating the unique value of men and women marrying before having children conflicts with the very legal principle that those advocating marriage redefinition hope to establish: equality of relationships, equality of parenting, and equality of families.

The effort to redefine marriage and disconnect it from children and the family is already being integrated in school curricula in many areas. It is even making its way into some Catholics schools in the valuing diverity curricula. Under the guise of “who’s in a family” or “that’s a family” children are being taught that what kind of family they create when they grow up is merely a life-style choice. Remember when children are being taught about all the alternative family types, only one of many alternatives has a married mother and father. It is easy to forget that the one thing common to each of the other families is a child who has been deprived of a married mother and father.

That is why the objective of the Marriage Reality Movement is to re-propose the reality of marriage so that our children can understand it and seek its goodness and beauty in their own lives.

In reality, marriage is when a man and a woman freely chose to make themselves irreplaceable to each other. It is that choice that prepares them to receive a child, a new creation who is their equal. In reality, that child is irreplaceable to both of them and both of them are irreplaceable to the child. The child is an eternal witness to the one flesh union, carrying the flesh of his mother and father for all of eternity. The choice of the man and woman to marry started the circle of irreplaceability that we call the family.

This is reality. This is why generations come together to celebrate a marriage. It more than the celebration of the love between two people, it is the start of a new family and a continuation of an extended and intergenerational family. Those relationships are part of our identity; part of who we are.

William B. May is president of Catholics for the Common Good.

[1] William K. Eskridge, Jr., Gaylaw: Changing Apartheid in the Closet (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1999)
[2] Professor George W. Dent, Jr., “Families We Choose? Visions of a World Without Blood Ties”. Case Research Paper Series in Legal Studies, August 2011