In many cultures and religions, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Traditional marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. It is the fundamental pattern for male-female relationships.
The traditional marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children; namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and father present only in marriage. The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good. To do otherwise and make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened. The weakening of this basic institution by various intrusions has already exacted too high a social cost.
Marriage between one man and one woman signifies the nature of marriage as the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship. Society needs such an institution. Culture is what marks us as human; it is what distinguishes us and allows us to distinguish ourselves from other animals and, in the future, from intelligent machines. In the past, we used religion as an important forum and force in the foundation of culture — we did so by finding shared values through religion. That is not possible in a secular society; one result is that it makes it more difficult to find consensus on values.
Extending marriage to include same-sex couples (or de-legislating marriage) would seriously harm all of these societal level functions of the institution of marriage.
People advocating same-sex marriage argue that we should accept that the primary purpose of marriage is to give social and public recognition to an intimate relationship between two people, and, therefore, to exclude same-sex couples is discrimination. Would it also be discrimination if ‘marriage’ is sought for groups, a person and his pet, or any aberrant relationship? Is it discrimination against three or four or more persons demanding a commune marriage and told they are not recognized as traditional marriage? (Recently 3 persons wanted to be joined together in matrimony in the UK). Will civil unions be enough for these persons or will they, too, demand legal ‘traditional’ marriages. Traditional marriages should remain as one man and one woman. By nature, that is precisely what ‘traditional’ marriage is. Other unions can and are legally recognized as civil unions.
In the Biblical sense, Genesis shows, marriage and sexuality were created by God and given to mankind as gifts for our benefit. Scripture records God’s statement that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” Jesus reiterates these teachings from Genesis, saying, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh’” (Mark 10:6-8).
The natural structure of human sexuality makes man and woman complementary partners for the transmission of human life. Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complimentary willed by God for marriage. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the necessary context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of human life and to build up the bond between husband and wife.
In marriage, husband and wife give themselves totally to each other in their masculinity and femininity. They are equal as human beings but different as man and woman, fulfilling each other through this natural difference. This unique complementary makes possible the conjugal bond that is the core of marriage.
A same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage as it is not based on the natural complementary of male and female. It does not cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union. Persons in same-sex unions cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is not equal their relationship to a traditional marriage.
Some opponents of same sex marriage feel that if they are not allowed the same marriage status, then marriage should be abolished altogether or the term marriage should hold no significant bearing toward any rights whatsoever. To attain the word ‘marriage’ in their union, then they are saying that they are willing to forfeit our basic unit of society and the breakdown of family units as we know them.
As stated above, the weakening of this basic institution by various family breakdown issues has already exacted too high a social cost and society is feeling the fallout now. To further change the institution will further breakdown the societal structure.
“….let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
References: CCC, nos. 1639-1640). see CCC, no. 1643 ; http://www.americancatholic.org/newsletters/cu/ac0304.asp
© Marie Coppola 2009