Friday, May 16, 2008

The California Supreme Court Decision...

...striking down the State's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Here's a round-up of decent commentary from the Catholic blogosphere:

I think we should all start out with this great parody, in the wake of the 2004 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision: Massachusetts declares God had wrong idea in making marriage a heterosexual institution.

At Inside Catholic, Elizabeth Scalia suggests that distinction between the religious sacrament and the civil status be emphasized even more, to better protect the church from anti-discrimination lawsuits, and help protect the free exercise of religion. It's certainly a fight that is coming, though I think the culture in this country is better suited to withstand that assault than, say, our neighbor to the north, or the more secularized countries across the pond. [I tend to agree with the third commenter, that the battle has been lost on this front, but this is really a symptom of an overall decline in marriage.]

Also at Inside Catholic, Todd Aglialoro recommends a book that examines the same-sex marriage movement: Dale O'Leary's "One Man, One Woman. "
In it she shows, with evidence from the horses' mouths, that although at the grassroots level there is a small contingent of same-sex couples who do desire "marriage" in a sense more or less comparable to or derivative of traditional heterosexual marriage, at the activist level the barely-veiled intention is the destruction of marriage.
Hmm. That eloquent fellow down-under, John Heard, also suggests this is the case.

Clayton at Doxaweb gives a decent summary of the reason why the state recognizes marriage in the first place.

At Mirror of Justice, Robert Araujo traces the faulty reasoning of the CA Supreme Court back to Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health (Massachusetts) and further back to the philosophical underpinnings of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of the US Supreme Court in 1992, particularly this bit:
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
Get Religion looks at the stories that are covering the potential threat to religious liberty. In particular, this quote from this Weekly Standard piece (Banned in Boston, by Maggie Gallagher) stood out for me:
Generally speaking the scholars most opposed to gay marriage were somewhat less likely than others to foresee large conflicts ahead--perhaps because they tended to find it "inconceivable," as Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine law school put it, that "a successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage." That's a key consideration. For if orientation is like race, then people who oppose gay marriage will be treated under law like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. Sure, we don't arrest people for being racists, but the law does intervene in powerful ways to punish and discourage racial discrimination, not only by government but also by private entities. Doug Laycock, a religious liberty expert at the University of Texas law school, similarly told me we are a "long way" from equating orientation with race in the law.
I am no legal scholar, but I suspect that rhetorically, that battle has been lost: the analogy with race has been established in influential sectors of society, and particularly among the younger generation. And, if I've understood correctly, the CA court made the explicit connection with the dissolution of anti-miscegenation laws in this case.

John Heard makes a related point in the post quoted above:
[H]ow surveys* that show a generational divide in attitudes towards 'gay marriage', might not really demonstrate anything important about desire for 'gay marriage' among the silent majority of same sex attracted men (they measure attitudes to 'gay' people, not desire for 'gay marriage.
And this is, for me, a key point: the opposition to same-sex marriage simply cannot be seen (and ought not to be) an opposition to the dignity of homosexual persons. (So you have Andrew Sullivan suggesting that that the only reason for the opposition boils down to bigotry.). I was not present in South Carolina during the debate over the 2006 constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman: however, from what I gathered, the proponents of the amendment drummed up the kind of rhetoric that ultimately backfires, by dehumanizing same-sex attracted people (I don't have time to dig up quotes ...). [The Amendment did pass, and quite comfortably, which only continued the stereotype of the backward, bigoted, South, and backward and bigoted precisely because it is religious.] For the younger generation especially, who are increasingly comfortable with homosexuality, who know friends who are openly gay, this kind of rhetoric won't work. And in the culture wars, a nuanced approached simply doesn't help with the sound bites.

And we may be closer to the time (already here in other places, such as Canada, or the UK), where opposition to same-sex marriage will be defined (culturally, and perhaps legally), as bigotry.

However, marriage is too important and fragile an institution, and I am generally not a defeatist. It certainly seems like constitutional amendments are the only legal way to continue to protect marriage. And perhaps other legal aids, such as Louisiana's covenant marriage law.

The fact that so few couples enter into such marriages is perhaps a sign of the health (or lack thereof) of the institution. In that regard, as Catholics, we must continue to do our utmost, not just to exhort, but also to live lives of holiness, and continue to be witnesses of the high ideals we proclaim.


Heather said...

Marriage for Catholics (or any religious group) is different than state marriages - where you can just drive up to a window and have a ceremony done.

We know that those aren't truly marriages, so in reality, it isn't a defeat. Just a different definition of what CA calls marriage.

It in no way degrades what we as Catholics consider the sacred bond of marriage - because our bond is with God.

Thank goodness for separation of church and state.

Gashwin said...

Well, actually this is about social policy, which concerns everyone, including Catholics and others of good will: what is marriage, who should enter into this state, why does the State support it, and so on.

Catholic marriage and secular marriage aren't two completely separate beasts. Two people who aren't Christian who are married are still participating, from the Catholic point of view, in a divinely ordained institution. And everyone, regardless of religious belief, ought to be concerned about the way society functions especially when it comes to things that impinge the common good, such as the family, the very basic unit of society.

This most certainly isn't about Christians "imposing" their own definition of marriage, but about us a society recognizing what marriage has been about for all human cultures, and why the state grants it any privileges to begin with.

Too often we retreat as Christians into the private sphere, as if Christianity were simply a club with our own private rules and regulations. That's nonsense that we've bought into.

Yes, it's good that the Church has freedom to operate (as do those who profess other religions, or none). I am not quite so sanguine this will remain in this case.