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Joe Biden on Same-Sex Relationships

Joe Biden came out in favor of equal civil rights for gay and straight unions/marriages on "Meet the Press yesterday. HuffPo has the story.On one hand, Biden's remarks, strictly parsed, do not move beyond the current stance of the Obama administration. And it seems clear that Biden had no intention of doing so. But he did say:

I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction -- beyond that.

Back in '03, Paul J. Griffiths made the case on Catholic grounds in Commonweal. Without challenging the magisterium's stance on marriage in the Church, he showed how Catholics might support civil same-sex marriage. His wrap-up:

I conclude that Catholics may support the legalization of same-sex marriages, together with the progressive disentanglement of sacramental marriage from state-sponsored contractual marriage. It is likely that such support, together with the argument and clarification that would accompany it, would clarify Catholic teaching about marriage, help Catholics to live in accord with it, make it more attractive to non-Catholics, and so, in the end, conform the body politic more closely to Christ by making the church more seductively beautiful. This is a prudential judgment, of course, correctible and fallible like all such.

Two points: 1. Terminology: Can we call it "marriage" for straights and "unions" for same-sex couples in the civil realm and not fall afoul of the Caetchism's insistence that unjust discrimination against LGBT people is wrong? And don't reply that civil marriage is for having children: civil marriage is open to straights regardless of their intentions regarding children. Since increasingly civil unions grant all the same rights and duties as marriage, why shouldn't the same word be used? As the ornithologists say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...Biden's "I don't see much of a distinction" can be read either to say OK to the union/marriage duality we have now, or as invoking that same venerable apothegm of avian biology in favor of just calling it "marriage" in the civil realm for gays and straights alike. 2. Catholic opinion is now currently narrowly in favor of civil same-sex marriage: about 52% say yes. And overwhelmingly (69%) Catholics favor civil same-sex unions. In 2009, the USCCB called civil same-sex unions "a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society." In the same document, they warn that contraception "has the potential to damage or destroy the marriage. Also, it results in many other negative consequences, both personal and social." I'm beginning to wonder whether magisterial teaching on same-sex marriage will go the way of magisterial teaching on contraception: widely known and widely ignored by the faithful in their daily lives, in their relationships with people close to them and in their prudential choices in the voting booth. And, of course, I'm bracing for magisterial push-back to Biden.

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"And dont reply that civil marriage is for having children: civil marriage is open to straights regardless of their intentions regarding children."After all these years I still find it unbelievable that serious people think that a piece of paper from the county building "opens" marriage to us. The fact that the state may choose to endorse a marriage and turn it into a "civil" marriage has very little to do with the reality of marriage. It is like saying that the state made me alive when they gave me a birth certificate.The truth is that civil marriage is an ENDORSEMENT by the state of certain unions that are socially useful because they bring children into the world and raise them. If you want to go after childless couples and deny them such endorsement be my guest. But don't tell me that public policy should care about couples of the same sex living together, be they gay couple, or elderly sisters, or priests in a rectory or roommates or anybody. And, above all that anybody is denied marriage because the state does not "bless it."

Lisa,Yes, language is important, but there's an easy solution to the semantic problem of defining the term "marriage". The Church already distinguishes the civil nature of the union ("marriage") from the sacred one ("matrimony"). In matrimony there is the addition of grace perfecting nature. The latter is even called "the holy state of matrimony" in ordinary language. . By the way, this might sound silly, but gay unions are about as open to pregnancy as you can get.

Fasten your seat belt, Joe. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Can Biden's excommunication be far behind?The church offers matrimony. What same-sex couples are looking for are the rights, benefits, priviliges and accountabilities that come with the SECULAR institution of marriage. Let me repeat: SECULAR institution of marriage.I don't want the Catholic Church or any other religious institution to presume that their blessing or approbation of my 40-year relationship will mean a hill of beans to us or to my friends.

Jimmy Mac:the same applies to me for the state. I don't need the state to approve my marriage. Viceversa, as a citizen and a member of society I have no desire to endorse your "40-year relationship." Whom you live with is your private business and you don't need my approval, nor do I want to give it to you. What advocates of gay marriage fail to understand is that when you interpret marriage as a SECULAR blessing on any kind of sexual-romantic relationship, the whole institution makes no sense whatsoever and is, essentially DEAD. There is no reason to give people benefits just because they plan to live together long-term.

I am suing the Vice President for a new pearl necklace, because when I clutched mine so suddenly upon hearing his remarks, the beads went flying everywhere. Thank God for my fainting couch, lest the vapors leave me sprawled out on the floor.

. . . And dont reply that civil marriage is for having children: civil marriage is open to straights regardless of their intentions regarding children. . . I appeciate your being so frank Lisa, but please spare us that one, and your condescension. The fact that you obviously think anyone would base their thoughts about (against) so-called gay marriage on that flimsy notion - as you present it - says more about you than about those of us who oppose broadening the definition of marriage to include gay folks. Besides, people understand that some hetero-couples cannot have children, while other choose not to bear children. The heterosexual couples that cannot have children, of course are not doing anything wrong. The heterosexual couples that chose not to accept children, may or may not be stuck in sin. It is not as straightforward as you pretend; it will not fit neatly into quick one-liners.. . . Catholic opinion is now currently narrowly in favor of civil same-sex marriage: about 52% say yes. . . Here it is worth noting that Church doctrine is not driven by polls; the Catholic church is not a democracy. As for civil unions, since 2009 some Latin American bishops have come to see that as reasonable, and Rome has stressed that while these folks are living disordered lifestyle, they also should not be suject to undue discrimination or unjustice. While civil union laws accommodate gay folks by protecting them from undue discrimination, they do not promote the gay lifestyle or dilute/confuse traditional marriage. We should leave that one to the bishops and the Vatican to work out.

Besides, old Joe Biden - while he is a cagey politician and no slouch as far as that goes - is nonetheless a loud, blabber-mouth, hardly a representation of a thoughtful person.

Oh and I am surprised not to see one word on this blog about the Chinese guy (Chen Guangcheng) who is in trouble for his protesting forced abortions by the Chinese goevrnment.Hopefully our President Obama will have Mrs. Clinton work out a deal for this man and his family whereby they can move to the US or, if that is not tenable with our friends in Red China, at least to another neutral, but free country. Surely France or Mexico must owe us a favor or two!:-)

Carlo: no one needs the state's blessing of your relationship. However the state controls who receives tax, inheritance, survivorship and a myriad of other benefits and rights, based on their recognition of the relationship. Therefore no religious scruples masquerading as morality should have any bearing whatsoever on my relationship - or yours. Marry who you will as should I."There is no reason to give people benefits just because they plan to live together long-term." So you are about to foreswear all of the state-granted rights, priviliges, benefits, etc. that you get by virtue of state recognition of your relationship? Sure you are!

Even if one accepts Carlo's premise that *in general* hetero marriages are by definition more valuable to society than same-sex marriages, one has to marvel at -- how shall I say? -- the lack of charity and imagination on display when there is a complete failure to consider, for all intents and purposes, whether homosexual marriages might just have some value to society too, and that indeed, many same-sex couples are doing valuable things for society in adopting and fostering.Would Carlo argue that *all* homosexual couples out there are providing less value to society than the least valuable hetersexual couple? Why should unvaluable heterosexual couples get incorporated, but all homosexual couples get excluded, regardless of whether they provide value or not? And aren't homosexual people part of society, and as part of society, aren't things that are good for them by definition good for society? Does Carlo argue that homosexual marriage would be bad for homosexuals?Further, if not influenced by homosexual animus, why have the anti-SSM organizations been so willing to spend huge amounts of money to thwart any initiative that would provide legal protections to homosexuals? In the last 20+ years, the hierarchy of the RCC and organizations like the Knights of Columbus spent $$ first fighting the repeal of sodomy laws, then they spent $$ fighting municipal and state laws (with plenty of religious protections) against basic discrimination in employment and housing, then domestic partnerships, and then civil unions, and now marriage. In many cases, the leadership of the Church have defended themselves against charges of anti-homosexual animus by claiming a sudden comfort with the previously opposed step (i.e. civil unions OK but not marriage; civil rights protections OK, but not recognition of homosexual relationships). I have seen this first-hand in my state of NJ; the RCC vigorously opposed the civil rights law passed in '93; but when opposing the domestic partnership law in 2002, the rhetoric was full of respect for the homosexual person's dignity and opposition to discrimination against homosexuals.If the RCC truly believed in the inherent dignity of homosexuals and its stated agreement with the science suggesting for most homosexuals, orientation is formed very early on, it would be promoting the Courage organization each Sunday in the church bulletin in every parish, it would make sure every catechism student knew of its existence, it would organize a ministry that would specifically address homosexuals in the fabric of society and show them all the wonderful life options out there for them, and all the joys that await them in their celibate life. It would be making sure that every gay and lesbian child of the Church knew that they were wanted exactly as they were and are very much a part of the Body of Christ. There would be a demonstrated concern that the that at every stage of life, from youth to early adulthood to maturity to old age, homosexuals had places where they could belong. Finally, in each state where the Church puts its weight behind constitutional amendments to prohibit homosexual marriage, it would insist that the constitution also include full civil rights protections for homosexuals against discrimination in employment, housing, child custody, etc.

I'll repeat what I've said before. American Catholics (and the American Catholic hierarchy) are broadly accepting of all sorts of non-sacramental civil marriages within our society and laws: Protestant marriages, Orthodox marriages, Jewish and Muslim marriages, Hindu and Buddhist marriages, ecumenical and interfaith marriages, agnostic and atheist marriages.We recognize and accept a distinction between the Catholic sacrament of matrimony and the rights, privileges and obligations bestowed by the state on civil marriage (whether Catholic or not). What is the rational argument against state recognition of civil marriage between same-sex couples?

@ Luke: Answer, "none."

"What advocates of gay marriage fail to understand is that when you interpret marriage as a SECULAR blessing on any kind of sexual-romantic relationship, the whole institution makes no sense whatsoever and is, essentially DEAD. There is no reason to give people benefits just because they plan to live together long-term."This is actually wrong politically and morally.Marriage as a sexual-romantic relationship is not a universal constant, and in other times and cultures was likely a minority situation.There are a lot of reasons to give adults benefits for living in associations of two or more. Some of those benefits might even be considered morally good. The only problem I see in all of this is the sex. Conservatives can't legislate against the sex outside of heterosexual marriage--perhaps that is galling to them. But that's the only matter that flies counter to traditional Christian morality.

"What is the rational argument against state recognition of civil marriage between same-sex couples?"Luke --I have asked that question a number of times here. I was told that the Church teaches that homosexual unions threaten the institution of marriage. When I asked a certain person (you know who you are) over and over just how does a gay union affect a hetero marriage. Over and over I got no answer. I'm still waiting, actually. But I"ll ask again: how do gay spouses cause hetero spouses to become inferior spouses or parents? What is the effect that the gays have on the heteros???

Ann, I've been told that more marriages like mine would weaken the ideal of marriage to such a point that ideals like monogamy or raising a family no longer exist in any practical way. It seems like it never occurs to some people that these ideals could also be aspired to by same sex couples, and that society, instead of focusing so much on form (and a concept of male/female from natural law that is invalidated by God every time a hermaphrodite baby is born, IMO; how are they too not natural? are there natural exceptions to natural law?) and then fighting tooth and nails to defend that form as the sole valid form, we could be having a much more valuable focus on monogamy, healthy marriages and the importance of family; there is room in the mosaic for a few different shades of color.

It goes without saying that people in any society have the right to organize their society as the majority sees fit. That is why in some countries, they have customs we in America think are odd or terrible. For example most Arab societies allow men to have several wives. While personally I cannot imagine why a man would want more than one wife, the Arabs like that and so their societies allow that. Arabs also allow men to beat their wives and the have what I think are cruel punishments for minor crimes, but of course it does not matter what I think of their rules; I am not an Arab and I do not live in their lands. The Red Chinese only allow women to bear one child and take cruel measures to enforce that law. I do not approve, but again, it does not matter if I approve; I am not Chinese and do not live in China.That - the notion of people organizing their society per the preference of the majority - being clarified; when the majority of American voters think we should allow gay marriage, we will have gay marriage - and not before.Important matter such as this must be allowed to proceed via the democratic process; the voters and/or our legislators. So far, those in favor of gay marriage have not trusted the people and have instead tried to shove it down peoples throats via unelected judges and courts, but long term, the legislative process the will of the people is the better way.Doing quick end runs around the democratic process is childish of course, but is also short-sighted, non-democratic, and usually does not produce consensus or lasting results.

@Ken: "Important matter such as this must be allowed to proceed via the democratic process; the voters and/or our legislators. So far, those in favor of gay marriage have not trusted the people and have instead tried to shove it down peoples throats via unelected judges and courts, but long term, the legislative process the will of the people is the better way."Ah, the memories that argument brings back, even with precise rhetorical flourishes.It's 1957. I'm growing up in Little Rock, a boy of 7, listening to my family rant about the integration of schools and abolition of legal segregation. A lengthy Christmas-dinner rant . . . ."They're shoving it down our throats. It's the courts. The federal government. Those unelected judges.If they'd just let us work things out, we'd do the right thing. In time. Let us vote on all of this! Stop shoving it down our throats.The bible says, after all . . . . "Plus a change.The human rights of oppressed minority groups should NEVER depend on or be decided by popular vote.

Oh William, please do not equate me or other folks who do not approve of gay marriage to your backward Southern relatives. The fact was in those days, the majority of the states had frankly had enough of Southerners and other racists' nonsense, and so they the states via the elected federal government forced the South the change. Southerners probably would have changed gradually if left alone, but they were always way behind the rest of the nation in most matters, and they simply were not changing fast enough on civil rights to suit the common morality of the majority of people in the majority of the states.The fact that 50 years ago, the majority of the states were fed up with and decided to force Southerners to stop killing Blacks for no reason, and to stop doing 100 other idiodic things related to reace relations, simply means that Southerners were backward and slow in those days. It has no bearing on our modern-day discussion of gay marriage.

@Ken (5/8, 10:03 am) For the record, legislatures in several states (e.g., Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington) have passed laws legalizing same-sex marriages.So, your assertion that "so far, those in favor of gay marriage have not trusted the people and have instead tried to shove it down peoples throats via unelected judges and courts..." is factually incorrect.

True enough Luke, but in most cases, gay-marriage advocates have preferred to use the courts.

@Ken (5/8, 10:23 am) I realize we're going somewhat off topic by delving into the history of the Civil Rights movement...but I can't resist.First, many historians of and participants in the Civil Rights movement agree with SNCC strategist and organizer Bob Moses' analysis that it was by "working the demand side of the equation" that Jim Crow was dismantled. What Moses meant by that phrase was that Northerners (and Westerners) were generally content to allow the South's peculiar institution to continue. In particular, politically and economically powerful decision-makers were generally content to accept the segregationist argument that "our Negroes don't really care about...(voting, schooling, etc.)". It was only when, for example, the Kennedy administration was confronted with the spectacle of Greyhound buses being incinerated and nonviolent protesters being maimed and killed that "the rest of the nation" started to pay attention.Second, given the experience of the northern Civil Rights movement (ably covered in Thomas Sugrue's "Sweet Land Of Liberty"), it gives, I think, too much credit to the rest of the nation to say that "Southerners were backward and slow in those days". Third, as Taylor Branch concludes in "At Canaan's Edge", the mid-20th century American Civil Rights movement rippled outward across the globe, inspiring millions to rethink their social and political status, and to organize for greater freedom---including gays and lesbians here in the US and elsewhere. In fact, the strategic decision in the early 1990s by some LGBT leaders and organizers to focus on the issue of marriage, and to experiment with various ways and in various arenas (city, state, federal levels of government; public, private and voluntary sector organizations and institutions) with organizing to advance the issue of same-sex marriage is both similar to and owes much to the kinds of strategic decisions made by CORE, NAACP, NSCC and SCLC and other civil rights organizations to identify and act on specific issues (e.g., education, voting, public accommodations).Clearly there are differences between the two movements, but to say "it has no bearing on our modern-day discussion of gay marriage" is, most reasonable observers would agree (I think), an overstatement at best.

Also Luke, while you corectly list five states that have laws allowing gay marriage, most of the other 45 states currently either have laws or constitutional amendments in place that ban same-sex marriage. Impotantly, many states have legislation either pending or already in place that allows for civil unions for same-sex couples.Generally the trend seems to be that, while most people are Ok with civil union laws, most states are not on board with allowing gay-marriage.

@Ken (5/8, 10:42 am) Thanks for the reply. Certainly it's true that several early cases (e.g., MA, CA, IA) have relied on legal/constitutional arguments. It's also true that same-sex marriage advocates continue to rely on legal/constitutional arguments and venues when they think it will advance their cause.However, it strikes me that this is not much different from other social movements, including the Civil RIghts movement of the mid-20th century. Some examples:*Brown v. Board of Ed was the result of a 20-30 year campaign by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. *The Montgomery bus boycott was won with a Supreme Court decision---but started with modest demands and local nonviolent action. *The SNCC-led voting rights campaign in Mississippi led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and to the election of thousands of African-American politicians, especially in the South). That campaign involved a broad array of tactics and strategies---direct action, civil disobedience, education and literacy, lawsuits, and in many cases, asking the federal government to uphold laws being broken or ignored by state and county government officials.One more thought: Same-sex marriage was something that the vast majority of us never even seriously considered 40 years ago. (Which is, in my view, cause for a certain humility on the part of most of us who now support civil recognition of same-sex unions.)

Luke - It is important to bear in mind the effect WW2 had on that generation regarding civil rights. John Kennedy and Martin Luther King and other key persons of those days were of the WW2 generation; they had lived the Great depression and seen the horrid results of the narrow and racist viewpoints of the eugneics crowd and the Nazis that culminated in the death camps of Germany - not to mention cruel medical experiments on Black men here in the US. Regardless of the Southern's backward worldview, and the more vicious thoughts of other racists in the US in those days, WW2 had a definite effect on the mindset of the majority that ultimately helped the civil rights movement succeed.

@Ken (5/8, 10:55 am) We agree on the data, but perhaps disagree on how to interpret it. As a snapshot in time, I agree that "most states are not on board with allowing gay marriage" as we speak.As a trend (and as supported by this graph* assembled by the NYT's Nate Silver of public opinion polling on gay marriage over the past 24 years), the US appears to have reached a point at which opponents of gay marriage are now in the minority. Of course, that varies by state. However, if this long-term trend in public opinion continues (and I see no indications it will not; indeed there are hints it may be accelerating), then fairly quickly (i.e., within 10-15 years) there will be majority support (and in some cases super-majority support) for civil recognition of same-sex marriages in virtually every state in the union.*http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/gay-marriage-opponen...

@Ken (5/8, 11:04 am) I agree WW II had an impact---particularly on Negro soldiers, sailors and airmen who returned to face continued discrimination and segregation. The post-WW II decolonization of Africa and Asia also had an impact, as did the Cold War. King, born in 1929, was a bit young to be considered part of the WW II generation. Kennedy is, among other things, a good example of a Northern politician who 1) had little direct experience with Black people, and 2) had a strong self-interest (particularly given his narrow margin of victory in 1960) in maintaining the support of Southern Democratic governors and Congressional leaders. but nonetheless 3) had an interest in civil rights---both in theory and because of his interests in winning the Cold War (it didn't look good around the world to have dark-skinned Americans assaulted by men in uniforms).

What is the rational argument against state recognition of civil marriage between same-sex couples?The Church teaches that these relationships are sinful and the Church also teaches that laws should at the very least, not encourage sinful behavior. Because humans are social, these relationships DO have an effect on the entire society; the argument that they are not hurting anyone else is false in addition to being selfish.Gay 'marriage' is also decidedly not a civil rights issue. Race is a characteristic of the human population and not a behavior. I'm willing to assume that the natural variability in the human population produces people attracted to the same sex making that a characteristic as well. And the Church teaches we should treat those individuals with the exact same respect due all humans. But acting on that attraction is a behavior which is considered sinful in the same way that acting on heterosexual attractions can be sinful.

@Bruce (5/8, 11:45 am) Thanks for this comment.A minor (or not so minor) observation: Race is not a "characteristic of the human population". It's a social construct. A big part of the argument for equal rights grows out of this fact. Biologically/scientifically, there's no basis for race-based discrimination. And theologically, the truth captured in the story of Adam and Eve that we are all 1) created by God, and 2) part of the same human family also argues against racial discrimination.If "civil rights" are rights as defined under civil law, by civil society, then same-sex marriage can, it seems to me, certainly fall in that category (as can any number of "rights"). Based on your understanding of Church teaching, why does the US Catholic Church (at least de facto) endorse civil recognition of opposite-sex marriage when most civil marriages are not sacramental matrimony?

"Because humans are social, these relationships DO have an effect on the entire society; the argument that they are not hurting anyone else is false in addition to being selfish."Bruce --How do you know this? What makes you think so? Just EXACTLY WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS whose existence you assert? If there are effects -- as you insist over and over and over -- the please describe those effects. Are they some positive way of behaving? E. G., when a gay couple moves next door to a hetero one, does the hetero husband start to insult his wife? Does she serve his toast cold? Do their children talk back when reprimanded? What does the presence of the gay spouses do to the heteros? What are the effects? You say they are real. Point them out.Put another way: How would I know one of these bad effects if I found one? Please, no generalities. I'm asking for SPECIFICS. I want to know how to identify one of these effects, not just know that you say they're real.

JIm Hohman --You haven't told me how to identify them either. No wonder you don't think they're real.

bruce you said "Church also teaches that laws should at the very least, not encourage sinful behavior" but here in Italy, and also in the US I think, the Church never opposed to the civil marriage of a couples who choose not to have children.

@Ken: "Oh William, please do not equate me or other folks who do not approve of gay marriage to your backward Southern relatives."It always chagrins, doesn't it. when shoes fit?And when the fit pinches?Particularly for those of us who imagine our shoes fit better and are of higher quality than those of others.

Race is not a characteristic of the human populationLuke,Would I be more correct if I had said skin color instead of race?I'm sure I will not have the best to answer to your civil marriage question but here goes anyway. Matrimony is a Roman Catholic sacrament and hence only available to church members in good standing. But scripture teaches that men and women are made for each other from the beginning and God considers that union very good. So that means the union we call marriage is available to all heterosexual couples regardless of religious affiliation. Here's a paragraph from the catechism which encapsulates what I tried to describe: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."You can read more around herehttp://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a7.htm#1615

This describes an interesting thought experiment around heterosexual versus homosexual unions.http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/05/5263

Bruce I read you link, "The best that can be said about the contemporary face of marriagethe deliberately childless union, or union built around the desires of adults, with children a secondary and dispensable characteristicis that it is entirely parasitic on the proper idea of marriage. Impossible to imagine on its own, it takes real marriage and strips it of the thing that gives it meaning, yet continues to refer to it by the same name."This, in the case of a civil marriage, is simply not true.

@Bruce (5/8, 12:56 pm) Thanks for the reply.Actually, skin color and how to interpret it is also a social construct, not a defining characteristic (in a biological or scientific sense) between groups of humans. Thanks for the catechism reference. It seems to me that there is, and has been for some time, a distinction between sacramental matrimony and civil marriage. Civil marriage confers a number of privileges, rights and obligations recognized under civil law to those who are married. There are lots of civil marriages in which the partners have no interest in or intention of a sacramental, matrimonial relationship (as we Catholics understand it). And yet there is no organized effort by the Catholic Church against civil recognition of all those opposite-sex, non-sacramental marriages.

"And, of course, Im bracing for magisterial push-back to Biden."What I'm waiting for is the push-back from progressives against the President's patently deceitful "evolving" excuse. Does anyone really, truly believe that he doesn't support gay marriage, and that he's just hiding behind his "evolution" for purely political reasons? Or is what he's really concerned about the possible reaction among black Christians who, surveys generally show, oppose same-sex marriage more intensely than most other groups.

Ann,Lets start here: Everyone observes the behavior of others. In observing that behavior, we draw conclusions about its impact on the parties involved, how others react to the parties involved, its impact on us, etc. Behaviors which are judged acceptable tend to proliferate over time.All you have to do is think about how fashions change over time to realize this is true.Children are a good. Heterosexual sex produces that good and homosexual sex can never produce that good. In addition, the Church teaches that ANY sex outside of heterosexual sex in marriage and open to the transmission of life is sinful. So the short answer is: if homosexual sex is elevated to the status of heterosexual sex we will have more of that sinful behavior expressed and over time and less children.The other thing you may want to consider is that children are being completely ignored in this debate. The fact that some parents may do a 'poor' job raising their offspring is no reason to deny any child both a mother and a father. Even children adopted by heterosexuals develop a compelling need to find their biological parents. But in these homosexual unions, we are deliberately exposing children to an environment where only one sex will be present and we will deliberately tell them the lie 'you have two mommies' or daddies as the case may be.The behaviors you highlight are universal and can arise in between numerous groups of people including extended families, roommates, work colleagues etc. They are not restricted to the family unit in any way and occur in all social settings. We will get plenty of them regardless of the 'gay marriage' question.

@Ken: "Southerners probably would have changed gradually if left alone, but they were always way behind the rest of the nation in most matters, and they simply were not changing fast enough on civil rights to suit the common morality of the majority of people in the majority of the states."It's always easier for the sake of argumentation, isn't it, Ken, to be able to point to a particular group of people and imagine that they are the demonic other? The egregiously ignorant. The lamentably stupid.Everything we ourselves aren't, in other words.Too easy, it seems to me. One of the lessons I learned growing up in the middle of the Civil Rights struggles of the South, which has been reinforced by subsequent life experience (including much experience within Catholic circles) is that stupidity and ignorance (and moral vacuity) are pretty consistent throughout the human race and over the course of time. And since that's the case, they're likely to be inside each one of us, and they need to be combated in each one of us. And creating false and demeaning stereotypes of targeted groups of people to let ourselves off the hook is morally lazy (not to mention downright ignorant and stupid)>And I think I also learned that the struggle I have had to go through to engage the racism taught to me as a child (along with many other Southerners who care to engage our stupidity, ignorance, and moral vacuity) is a struggle that will keep repeating itself throughout my life. Since if one can be rgregiously blind in one area, one is likely to be susceptible to moral blindness in other areas.You do also see the grand irony in your argument that 1) seeks to marginalize (in the grossest sort of way) the testimony of Southern folks and 2) simultaneously appeals to the arguments used by the very same set of people you to bolster your own insupportable argument for denying rights to a minority group. Because you as a Catholic imagine you . . . well, what?ARE automatically right? Because you're a Catholic? And don't therefore have the taint of Southern ignorance, bias, and stupidity? Or Southern moral venality?Do you imagine Catholics aren't capable of being racists, Ken? Never have been racists? Aren't, in some cases, racists today?Who do you imagine are your greatest allies in the U.S. today as you fight against gay rights, Ken?

Gee Bruce - what do you make of open adoption, where the adoptive parents grant the biological parents very specific rights in return for an ironclad adoption agreement that leaves the biological parents no standing to sue for custody in the future. If there can only be one "mom", who is it? I sort of take the approach that Jesus took in asking "Who was neighbor to that man?" in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I would say the person who acts as mother to the girl every day is the mother. Do you agree? Or would you say she cannot be called "mother", it must be qualified to be "adoptive mother"?Assuming you agree with me that the adoptive mother is "mother", now consider the lesbian couple who adopted such a child and who are each giving their love and care to that child. In your mind, it is a "lie" if one says that both are mothers to the child?

@Bruce (5/8, 1:24 pm) You may have a good, logical argument to make, but it's hard to discern when you make assertions like "if homosexual sex is elevated to the status of heterosexual sex we will have...less children". First, there are more children in the world today than at any other time in human history. That fact alone doesn't prove anything about the merits of any particular sexual behavior.Second, we Catholics are part of a church that has for centuries not only tolerated but exalted sexual minorities---those vowed to celibacy. Third, we Catholics hold stable, long-term relationships in high regard---specifically vowed celibacy by brothers, sisters, priests and bishops, and matrimony by opposite-sex couples. It seems to me that there's at least something of an argument to be made that by recognizing same-sex marriages, the state is at least implicitly recognizing the importance of and supporting long-term relationships.Fourth, we Catholics also have a long history of children being raised by adults who are not their birth parents or blood relatives. In Europe, for much of the Middle Ages, it was fairly common for monasteries and convents to take in and raise infants and children. (A small example: the Italian last name "Esposito" references the custom of abandoned or "exposed" infants being left for the care of others.) Thus, our Catholic ancestors were "deliberately exposing children to an environment where only one sex will be present"---and furthermore one in which the minority sexual practice of vowed celibacy was the norm.

Luke,I would define skin color as a biological characteristic but I agree that any interpretation of meaning is entirely social. My reading is that the Church believes heterosexual marriage is available to all, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, because it was given by God to man at the beginning. Adam and Eve would be the biblical basis of that belief.

Ken @10:03 am: "It goes without saying that people in any society have the right to organize their society as the majority sees fit."Others have pointed out how incredible that assertion is in light of American history, law, and constitutional theory. I would name another society that utterly repudiates and despises the claim: the Catholic Church.

Mary,I dont think its civil marriage per se, that the statement is describing as problematic. Its the social construct around marriage today - the deliberately childless union, or union built around the desires of adults, with children a secondary and dispensable characteristic - that is problematic. Joe Bidens statement almost perfectly encapsulates the attitude the church objects to because it reflects no sense of obligation to society. Its all about who you 'love' as a feeling. Whereas love in St. Paul's description in Corinthians is about love as effort towards others, eg always patient, always kind, is not rude, etc; there is no sense of romantic feeling in this description. At least for me, patience, kindness, no rudeness etc require constant vigilance and effort or I find myself being impatient, mean, rude.

Jim,Your analogy is not apt. In the first case, you ask a semantic, practical question and you and I have the same answer. In the second, there is a third woman, the other half of the lesbian couple whom you have ignored. Also, the second situation is only very loosely defined.

Interesting Bruce you see it that way - I thought I was ignoring the birth mother, who only has limited involvement with the child, per my scenario. I guess I have no problem seeing both lesbian parents as "mothers" in this scenario.

Bruce =--You still haven't answered my question. You have switched to the specific question of how homosexual parents injure their children.My question is directed to the question: how do homosexual spouses have a bad effect on hetero spouses and thus affect the latters' marriages? This teaching of the Church, so far as I have been able to determine, has no answer because there is NO evidence to support that view. None. Zilch. Nada, etc. Yet that is the "basis" on which the Church condemns gay marriage. In fact I have said more than once on this blog that I don't know whether homosexual parents automatically injure their children by being two gays. Further, I specifically pointed to the studies that show that two mixed sex parents are better than *only one* of either sex. Since the studies weren't about gay parents we simply don't know how or even whether this factor affects the children one way or another. So I cannot say automatically that same sex parents are generally as good for kids as mixed sex parents. In other words, at this point we just don't know whether or not the children of a gay paire are as likely to fare well as kids with mixed sex parents.So what is the answer to my origian question?

Luke,Let me answer you in reverse order4) The church provides for children who need care. The difference is that it responded to situations where the need arose as opposed to deliberately creating those situations. Furthermore, the church never pretended that it was the normal family unit.3) I agree the Church holds long-term stable relationships in high regard. But that is really obfuscating the issue. And its never held that any of those other long-term relationships should involve any sexual activity. 2) I dont understand the relevance of this point. At times past, the church really didnt even like sexual activity between validly married couples. If anything, this argues even more strongly against gay sexual activity and gay marriage1) I also dont understand the relevance of this point. The argument against gay marriage has nothing to do with the world populationLet me add two qualifiers to my first statement which were assumed. First, with everything else held equal (obviously practically impossible), more homosexual couples means less heterosexual couples even if its just homosexuals who would have married the opposite sex if that was the only 'valid' sexual outlet. I believe that was the case in the recent past and those unions produced children. And assuming the child-factory of IVF and like treatments do not see increased use by homosexual couples (valid I think because of the Church's teaching on these as well)

Should be "orginal question".

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About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).