Why marriage matters

Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on two cases about marriage. But regardless … Continued


Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on two cases about marriage. But regardless of what the court decides, marriage cannot be redefined. Its meaning cannot be changed. And the real meaning of marriage matters to everyone, especially children.

Father’s Day was this past Sunday. As the father of six, I can’t imagine raising my children without their mother, my wife for life. We’ve been blessed with many children, and this gift has taught us much. One thing we’ve learned is that a mom and a dad aren’t interchangeable, and that kids deserve to be raised by them in the stability and security that only marriage can provide. Deliberately depriving a child of a married mother or father is a great injustice.

Changing the definition of marriage in the law is unjust, plain and simple. To anticipate all the consequences is very difficult, because the effects of laws and social norms are measured out over a long period of time.

For example, marriage redefinition in the law necessarily alters the definitions of all family relationships. Terms like husband, wife, mother, and father become up for grabs, and in effect meaningless. When terms become meaningless, it becomes more difficult to teach the realities they are meant to convey and to encourage young people to take such realities seriously. When the law and the culture it shapes say that mom and dad are interchangeable, it becomes harder to teach your kids otherwise.

Justice Samuel Alito’s question during the oral arguments for Prop 8 is worth pondering. “Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?”

Marriage is grounded in our human nature as male and female. We know from experience that meddling with nature has a cost. Nature always bats last. Broken hearts, divorce, absentee fathers, abuse, crime and poverty are all stark reminders of what happens when cultures don’t respect the natural good of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life.

Besides ensuring a child’s relationship to his or her mom and dad, marriage is the most fundamental and foundational relationship in society. When marriage is respected as the only institution that can unite a man and woman with each other and to any child who comes from their union, we all benefit. This includes those who cannot or never marry. A strong and healthy marriage culture helps society flourish.

These are complicated times, and the cases before the Supreme Court are likewise complicated. What’s not complicated is that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Tim Roder is the Associate Director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. For more Catholic views on marriage visit: www.marriageuniqueforareason.org.

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  • FrenchChef

    What do you suppose will happen, when the neighborhood where Mr. Roder and his family live has a block party, what will he say to the children of the same gender couple down the street, that he makes a living telling lies about them and their parents? More likely he and his family will conspicuously choose to avoid the block party, much to the relief of their normal, non-homophobic neighbors.

  • Michael Lewin

    This piece reeks of the calculated rhetoric developed by Franck Schubert and the National Organization for Marriage. Mr. Roder and his ilk only stopped screaming “Perverts! Pedophiles!” and switched to this more nuanced “think of the children” approach when public opinion demonstrated doomsday scenarios and falsified studies were no longer effective. It’s not going to work. As people come to know same-sex couples as caring and respected family members, neighbors, and colleagues, they increasingly understands it’s wrong to deny committed same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded opposite-sex couples through civil marriage.

  • bodhi80

    Saying that marriage can not be redefined is making the implication that A) it’s a natural phenomena instead of a human invention and B) that your Catholic religion is the one that has the correct definition.

    I’m afraid to say you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

  • KRAKEN

    It’s clearly a human cultural institution based on biology, i.e. based on a natural phenomenon.

  • FrenchChef

    If it was based on “biology,” please demonstrate just where, in which jurisdictions, that “biology” is REQUIRED for legal marriage, Kragen/squidoo.

  • FrenchChef

    Confused, Kragen/squidoo? Demonstrate just where “preocreation” is required for legal marriage, please, you’re the one who claimed that.

  • KRAKEN

    French:

    What do you mean by required?

    Why need it be required?

    A cultural response to a biological imperative only requires that the biological imperative continue for the majority of the population for the cultural institution to continue to answer that imperative.

    There is no indication that the biological imperative in the majority of the population has changed in the last several millions of years.

    Why are you constructing straw man arguments?

  • FrenchChef

    You’re the one who claimed “it’s based on biology.” So now you’re trying to worm out of your previous claim, since, as we know, infertile couples have the same right that fertile couples have to legal marriage.

    Your attempts to justify your acts of sedition against the US Constitution just get more strained by the hour.

  • jay2drummer

    If marriage was based on biology, then why don’t other species marry? Why do men still find other women attractive even once they are married? Marriage is not based on biology, it’s a social institution meant to CONTROL biology.

  • leibowde84

    You can argue that marriage is based on a natural phenomenon, but it is not dependant on it in any way. It is impossible to reasonably claim that marriage is based on procreation when millions of couples get married that have no ability to have or care for children. Would you argue that those marriages, having nothing to do with procreation, are somhow meaningless? Why would we define marriage as being between a man and a woman for the reason of proctecting and encouraging natural procreation when, in many cases, it has nothign to do with having or raising children?!

  • leibowde84

    You can argue that marriage is based on a natural phenomenon, but it is not dependant on it in any way. It is impossible to reasonably claim that marriage is based on procreation when millions of couples get married that have no ability to have or care for children. Would you argue that those marriages, having nothing to do with procreation, are somhow meaningless? Why would we define marriage as being between a man and a woman for the reason of proctecting and encouraging natural procreation when, in many cases, it has nothign to do with having or raising children?!

  • FrenchChef

    There’s also the issue of the millions of American children of same gender American parents, even those who are legally married, being denied the same rights that benefit the children of mixed-sex parents. The federal GAO lists 1,138 such rights.

  • KRAKEN

    leibow84:

    The answer to your question is that the state sets the lowest bar possible to achieve its social goal and not to intrude on couples’ privacy in an impractical way.

    It says that encouraging male female coupling within marriage represents society’s goal of encouraging mother father families and heterosexual intercourse within a legally structured framework.

    Some of these couples may not procreate or can not, but the privacy interests of the couples and the goals of the government are both protected by setting the lowest practical bar.

    The romantic inclinations of same sex couples are no interest to the government im most of the states.

    That being said, some states have now decided that in their jurisdictions the romantic inclinations of same sex couples are of interest to the state.

    Those states have now changed the meaning of marriage and their laws.

    That is called federalism.

  • leibowde84

    Obviously there are differences between same sex marriages and heterosexual marriages. But that in no way presents reasoning for denying marriage to homosexuals. Jewish marriages are different than Hindu marriages. Muslim marriages are different than Christian marriages. Marriages between young (fertile) individuals of the opposite sex are very different than marriages between the elderly. Yet, we treat all of these as the same under the law. And for good reason. The law is not designed to prohibit what certain individuals see as immoral. When there is reasonable differences in the thinking behind the morality of something, the government should stay out of it.

    Likewise, same-sex marriage is different than heterosexual marriage. But, as I’ve shown, those same differences don’t prevent other heterosexual couples from getting married. The lack of procreative ability doesn’t stop the elderly. In fact, even the active refusal to allow even the possibility of procreation hasn’t been deemed an acceptable reason to deny a couple marriage.

    So, if children aren’t a prerequisite for marriage, and differences in marriages exist in countless situations, what is the reasoning behind denying homosexuals their wishes to be married under the law [not under God, obviously, because the term “marriage” is a legal term; the term “holy matrimony,” a completely separate term (for the most part unrelated) refers to marriage in the religious sense]? Beyond speculation as to what moral behavior is and what God is “offended” by (both of which should never play a part in governmental decision-making), I can’t think of a single reason to deny homosexuals the right to marry who they choose.

  • leibowde84

    Good point.

  • FrenchChef

    Anti-gays never want to answer just WHY they are working to HURT these children, but one of the only two anti-gay “expert witnesses” in the original federal trial that revoked the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote admitted in court that denying same gender parents hurts their children. He was under oath, after all, but he has since stated in public that he now supports marriage equality for this reason.

    Let’s hope other anti-gays will stop trying to hurt these children soon.

  • FrenchChef

    That’s no “answer,” that’s an deflection. None of your excuses justify your attempts to subvert the United States Constitution, kragen/squidoo.

  • FrenchChef

    And how about YOU, Kragen/squidoo, please explain to readers WHY you want to HURT our children by denying us marriage equality? What did the millions of American children of same gender parents ever do to hurt YOU?

  • FrenchChef

    Let’s put this question for the anti-gay poster with the two screen names, Kragen and squidoo, right on top:

    Why do you want to HURT the millions of American children of same gender American parents? Why do you want their parents to pay MORE in taxes while being DENIED the 1,138 “special rights” the federal government lavishes on mixed-sex couples? Why do you think these children should have LESS nourishing food, FEWER school books, than their peers? What did these children ever do to YOU?

  • KRAKEN

    Interesting how you ignore the parts of the arguments you don’t like that answer your criticism and then you just repeat your criticism.

    How can anybody argue with you intelligently if you ignore the answers you are given and just keep repeating the arguments that have been rebutted.

    That is a form of denial.

    e.g.:

    KRAKEN
    11:22 AM EST
    leibow84:

    The answer to your question is that the state sets the lowest bar possible to achieve its social goal and not to intrude on couples’ privacy in an impractical way.

    It says that encouraging male female coupling within marriage represents society’s goal of encouraging mother father families and heterosexual intercourse within a legally structured framework.

    Some of these couples may not procreate or can not, but the privacy interests of the couples and the goals of the government are both protected by setting the lowest practical bar.

    The romantic inclinations of same sex couples are no interest to the government im most of the states.

    That being said, some states have now decided that in their jurisdictions the romantic inclinations of same sex couples are of interest to the state.

    Those states have now changed the meaning of marriage and their laws.

    That is called federalism.

  • KRAKEN

    Where is the evidence that children whose parents do not have the label marriage attached to their relationship do worse than those that do?

  • FrenchChef

    The GAO provides that evidence:

    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-353R

    …as I have posted many times.

    So, please tell readers WHY you want to HURT these millions of American children, Kragen/squidoo.

  • FrenchChef

    “Interesting how you ignore the parts of the arguments you don’t like”

    You did that above, where you tried to suggest there’s no evidence that your opposition to marriage equality is HURTING the millions of American children of same gender American parents who are denied the 1,138 federal rights of legal marriage.

  • tianxiang69

    “Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. ” Yes, and for the vast majority of that time, in the vast majority of societies, marriage has been between one man and many women. Traditional marriage? Traditional marriage in some places even had one women and several men (polyandry.) What is traditional to this culturally myopic person is not for others. It was also the case for thousands of years that women were oppressed and marginalized by men. Should we maintain those “gender roles” simply because they existed like that for a long time? If Mr. Roder believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman, good for him. I totally support his right to express his opinion, which is all that it is: an opinion. Gratefully, I still live in a country where others are also entitled to their opinion and it looks like the opinion of most is that the medieval attitudes of people like Roder and institutions like the Catholic church can be ignored in the spirit of common sense, justice, and equality of all before the law.

  • FrenchChef

    By trying to obscure the fact that the American children of same gender parents are being hurt by your attack on the United States Constitution’s guarantee of “Equal Protection,” shall we assume your answer is that yes, you take pleasure in hurting innocent children, Kragen/Squidoo?

  • KRAKEN

    FC:

    Interesting, that you have no evidence to present.

    You just hide behind the children.

  • FrenchChef

    It’s very easy to debunk the wild claim anti-gays make about “traditional marriage” by using the Bible. Here’s a very useful video to illustrate that, from Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian®, complete with Bible verses posted on the screen.

  • FrenchChef

    I presented the evidence, you simply chose to pretend you can’t accept it, Kragen/squidoo. We even know why you’re “unable” to accept the facts of the matter. Psychologists report that the most commonly observed symptom of the mental disorder homophobia is cognitive dissonance, an inability of those so afflicted to accept documentation that contradicts their deep-seated phobia and hatred of LGBT Americans.

    Thanks for providing additional evidence so readers will see Kragen/squidoo is lying, jay. I know we can’t convince Kragen/squidoo of the facts, but we need to provide the facts every time some anti-gay posts anti-gay lies here.

  • FrenchChef

    “You just hide behind the children.”

    More shameless projection, that’s what Anita Bryant tried. She was fired from her last job in about 1978 for telling that lie.

  • RobTisinai

    “Terms like husband, wife, mother, and father become up for grabs, and in effect meaningless.” What nonsense!
    Husband = male spouse
    Wife = female spouse
    Father = male parent
    Mother = female parent.
    None of that changes with same-sex marriage. Why do opponents feels free to say make claims that are so ridiculous and obviously false? It makes them look like they have nothing true to say.

  • FrenchChef

    Anti-gays don’t have anything true to say. Every one of their lies has long since been debunked.

  • KRAKEN

    Question:

    Can a husband have a husband, or a wife a wife without somehow doing some painful things to language?

  • KRAKEN

    jaydrummer:

    As far as same sex couples go, your third reference is relevant. Presumably, most of the kids raised by same sex parents come from unmarried same sex couples:

    “Although the research on these families has lim
    itations, the findings are consistent: children
    raised by same-sex parents are no more likely
    to exhibit poor outcomes than children raised by
    divorced heterosexual parents.
    41
    Since many children raised by
    gay or lesbian parents have
    undergone the divorce of their parents, resear
    chers have considered the most appropriate
    comparison group to be children of
    heterosexual divorced parents.
    42
    Children of gay or lesbian
    parents do not look different from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families
    regarding school performance,
    behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or
    difficulties finding employment.
    4

  • jay2drummer

    Absolutely. “By the power invested in me by the STATE of (insert state here) I now pronounce you Husband and Husband” and “By the power invested in my by the state of (insert state here) I now pronounce you Wife and Wife”. Nothing painful about either of those.

  • FrenchChef

    Language doesn’t feel pain, but the American CHILDREN of same gender American Parents have LESS nourishing food and FEWER school books because of anti-gays trying to HURT them by denying the parents the same protections of legal marriage all children of mixed-sex parents enjoy.

  • FrenchChef

    “”By the power invested in me by the STATE of (insert state here) I now pronounce you Husband and Husband””

    Or, in my husband’s and my case in California in 2008, “spouses for life.”

  • FrenchChef

    Is this perhaps the most pathetic excuse yet an anti-gay has offered for his efforts to subvert the Constitution? “The language will experience pain!” Gasp, just gasp. Every time I think anti-gays can’t go any lower, an anti-gay goes lower.

  • FrenchChef

    ” Presumably, most of the kids raised by same sex parents come from unmarried same sex couples: ”

    That’s the problem, your PRESUMPTION is FALSE and, more important, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS AND NO EXCUSE FOR HURTING THESE CHILDREN.

  • KRAKEN

    jay2drummer:

    You pronouncements are painful both to logic and language.

    However, Humpty Dumpty foresaw much of this in Through the Looking Glass:

    Humpty appears in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1872), where he discusses semantics and pragmatics with Alice.[20]

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”[21]

  • KRAKEN

    What will you say when the Supreme Court of the United States refuses to say that changing the definition of marriage is guaranteed by the US constitution?

    Will you then admit that it is YOU French Chef who has attempted to subvert the meaning of the constitution?

  • jay2drummer

    Where is there any pain in logic or language? They flow off the tongue just as easily as “husband and wife” and the logic is still sound, since “husband” is still referring to a man who is married while “wife” continues to refer to a female who is. Nothing about the words change, and there is nothing illogical about it (well, no more so than when it was “husband and wife”) just because you find it gross. It still works grammatically, no words lose their definitions, and your Carroll reference is irrelevant as such.

  • FrenchChef

    Even if the known anti-gays on the Supreme Court prevail, it will still result in a crushing defeat for your anti-gay agenda in that it will be viewed by the MAJORITY of AMERICANS who support marriage equality as being as biased and UNCONSTITUTIONAL a decision as appointing Bush president or “Citizens United.” Such a decision will hasten the work of State Legislatures to right such a wrong, and would cause a rout of the “Gay Obsessed Party” next year as Americans react in horror at the abuse of the Constitution by the GOP partisan justices.

  • FrenchChef

    What you just can’t accept, Kragen/squidoo, is that your every evasion, your every lie, your every anti-gay fantasy, cannot resuscitate your anti-gay agenda.

  • FrenchChef

    You surely dropped your nonsense “the language will feel PAIN” nonsense quickly!

  • FrenchChef

    Wait, that fool is still pushing that concept? Putting the “feelings” of a concept over the actual disadvantage to which he has put real, live American children? What desperation!

  • KRAKEN

    FC:

    Thus, your side can never be wrong!

    Thus, only the change the definition of marriage side understands the Constitution.

    Thus, any justice who votes against you position is a bigot!

    Thus, marriage has no meaning or purpose beyond the one you assign to it.

    Thus, we should all go to some kind of re-education camp including the justices of the supreme court.

    Gee, you really believe in freedom and justice, don’t you?

  • FrenchChef

    Sorry, but “my side” is the United States Constitution. It’s YOUR shameful, unAmerican “side” that wants to assign one only purpose of legal marriage and ATTACK anyone who won’t help you subvert the Constitution in this matter.

  • Warwick07

    What I find interesting is that the writer says nothing about the hatred, demonization and the real harm caused by denying the LGBT community of equal protection under the law. And what is with the total focus on kids? Lots of folks get married and can’t have or don’t want kids. So, are their marriages not valid?

    I’m always a bit dumbfounded by people who claim to be of faith use that faith to harm others; faith is supposed to provide you a sense of peace and joy, it shouldn’t be used as a weapon against others just because there is something about them you just don’t like or understand.

  • FrenchChef

    Wait, read on, and see anti-gays will even deny this real harm they are causing the millions of American children of same gender couples, even in the face of hard evidence!

  • FrenchChef

    See, warwick07, anti-gays even try to suggest those Americans who support marriage equality are “attacking” them!

  • leibowde84

    You sound silly, Kraken. No one is saying that the constitution guarantees a definition change to the legal term marriage. I don’t know where you are getting that from. The argument is that the equal protection claus prevents the government from denying rights to homosexuals simply because of their sexual preference. Marriage is a legal term, and those terms change all the time. Just look at how the words “all men” were defined before the racial equality movement. Our government before the Civil War did not define those words as refering to all men, but, instead, only white men. Legal norms/terms change all the time. Our argument is that it is about that time, and there is nothing in the constitution that prevents us from doing it. All we need is a majority in this country, and we can get it done. And, we feel, the country will be better off for it. Of course, that is merely speculation, but it is backed up by reason and logic. More than I can say about the other side’s argument against.

  • leibowde84

    Yeah, Kraken, why is it painful or illogical to marry a husband to another husband? You didn’t mention that. You merely showed the danger of having the meaning of a term constantly changing. The problem is that argument isn’t relevant. This is merely one change, like the examples I mentioned above. So, it is not an issue where people won’t understand what the term means.

  • FrenchChef

    However, psychologists identified homophobia as a mental illness and published their results in the Journal of the National Institutes of Health in 1953. Homophobia is the irrational fear, disgust, or hatred of gays, lesbians, and/or bisexual people, or of homosexual feelings in oneself. It refers to the discomfort one feels with any behavior, belief, or attitude (in self or others) that does not conform to traditional sex role stereotypes. Homophobia exhibits itself in the fear of knowing, befriending, or associating with gays, lesbians, or bisexual people; fear of being perceived as gay or lesbian; and/or fear of stepping out of accepted gender role behavior. Psychologists report that the most commonly observed symptom of the mental disorder homophobia is cognitive dissonance, an inability of those so afflicted to accept documentation that contradicts their deep-seated phobia and hatred of LGBT Americans.

  • FrenchChef

    Why do you continue to try to drag all “Abrahamic religions” down to your level, Balderdasy? We know that’s a LIE. Sure, there are some really rotten people that say they are Christians and that tell shameful lies about LGBT Americans, but what about all the welcoming and affirming Christians? These denominations will marry same gender couples in 12 US States and the District of Columbia, and have married them in California:

    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Metropolitan Community Church
    Conservative Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ

    Other individual churches are disregarding their denomination’s homophobia and are marrying same gender couples.

  • gary47a

    Mr Roder, like all the religious-definition extremists is just plain wrong. He claims, ” kids deserve to be raised by them in the stability and security that only marriage can provide. ” but he would deny that stability to kids with same sex parents, whether by divorce/remarriage, adoption, or assisted reproduction.

    Mr Roder also conveniently ignores how many kids get homes because Gay or Lesbian couples step up to save the throw-away kids from irresponsible heteros.

    Mr Roder, I can only say to you: Pants on Fire!