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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.

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).

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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".

Bruce,You are not tied at all to the reality of same-sex couples' lives if you think that our lives are spent in frivolous pursuit of sex or other purely selfish desires. My spouse and I are very much involved with each other's families, our church and our communities. Our relationship provides a foundation of mutual support for each other in what we do, and we each make sacrifices to sustain that foundation even as in other ways we benefit.And in your definition of marriage and its history, I think you omit a very important element, namely the bond that is forged between the two families joined in the union.The story of Ruth in the Bible speaks somewhat to that bond. Through marriage, I am now part of his family, and he part of mine, with all the obligations entailed.

Ann asks (again): "But Ill 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???"You can wail until Jesus comes but won't get a valid answer - because there is NO VALID ANSWER to that question.In those states where same-sex marriage is legal: what is the incidence of opposite-sex divorce where one part has "seen the light" and wants to marry someone of the same sex? Or where someone has said that, even though they are straight, they want to try same-sex marriage? In other words: in those states, how has "normal" marriage suffered?I know that this situation does happen - and has happened for a long, long time (but for a different reason altogether*) - but who can validly prove that the recognition of same-sex marriage has caused a downturn in "normal" marriages?* I know of more than one person who entered into "normal" marriage because of family, social or religious pressures - or did it to "cure" themselves, only to divorce at a later date because they could no longer live a lie. But there is no correlation between those circumstances and the legalization of same-sex marriages in some states or countries.

Ann,Simply observing and taking in the harmful behavior potentially injures those others, particularly if that behavior is considered socially acceptable because it encourages others to act similarly. That is the harm. Your reckoning would seem to assume that pornography has no deleterious effects on those just watching.Just because you dont know how children respond to the gay environment seems to me like reason enough to deny it. Not knowing essentially makes trying it an experiment on the children involved. If we wanted to do medical trials on any human without their consent, think of the brouhaha which would rightly result.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/sandbox/2004/03/the_gay_science.html(snip)All the evidence (this article was written in 2004)as both sides acknowledgeis seriously flawed and doesn't begin to supply anything like solid support for either the hopes of gay family harmony or the fears about scarred children and skewed parenting. And until gay couples are allowed to marry, there can't possibly be decent studies of whether the honorable estate confers the same benefits on kids whose parents are the same sex as it does on those who have a mom and a dad. In the meantime, it's quite clear that the absence of good science won'tand shouldn'tsettle a fraught debate. What will help clarify it are experiences like mine, watching my sister and her partner sharing the hard work and the happiness of raising their daughter. I can't think of a better argument for gay marriage than that.http://youngstranger.blogspot.com/2012/04/does-same-sex-marriage-decoupl...(snip)A society with lots of stable pair-bonds is a society that can more effectively respond to crises -- including the crisis of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, or the unexpected death of a parent or parents. A society with lots of stable pair-bonds is a society that has economic and social resources and flexibility to care for kids -- including kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks -- as birth parents, as adoptive/foster parents, or as part of a support network that helps single moms. ---- So it seems to me that society has a strong interest -- for the sake of caring for kids -- in promoting marriage as a value. If gay and lesbian couples want to marry, here's why society should encourage them to marry: because we want to send a message that marriage is the appropriate context for intimate love. Because we want to send a message that mutual giving, sacrifice and commitment are good things. Because we want individuals to find fulfillment and stability.AND HERES A SHOCKER:djournal.com - Mississippi leads nation in same sex child rearingTUPELO - Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of same-sex couples raising children, according to a national report issued Thursday.

"because it encourages others to act similarly. That is the harm."Bruce -- But that pre-supposes that ordinary hetero folks are equally inclined to homosexual sexual sexual behavior. But if that is so, then everyone is gay. I don't think the Vatican would agree with that. (On the other hand, maybe it would.)As to pornography, so far as I know, I don't know anybody who watches other people's sexual activity, straight or gay. The gay people I know don't have sex in public, so what is your point? Do you think you can just look at people and always know if they're gay? Or are they different in some subtle way that affects your own behavior towards your wife or brother-in-law? IF this is so, then you ought to be able to tell when gay people move into a neighborhood -- the divorce rate should go up. Does it?I agree that not knowing how having gay parents affects children is reason to be wary of changing public policy re adoption, at least till more is known. I'm old-fashioned and think that the primary interest of the state in the institution of marriage is being able to protect the interests of children. But so far, gay parents look good for the kids. However, this has absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, etc. to do with gay marriage apart from children.

Just to bring us back to Prof. Fullam's post:Terminology: From observing the progression of this issue in the US (and elsewhere) over the past 25 years, it seems to me that "same-sex civil unions" is either something of a halfway house on the road to "same-sex civil marriage", or civil unions will become a distinct legal category somewhere between common-law marriage and civil marriage for gay and straight couples.Catholic Opinion: If the USCCB called same-sex civil unions "a multi-faceted threat to the very fabric of our society" three years ago, and 69% of American Catholics favor legal recognition of same-sex civil unions today, I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it does suggest a gaping disconnect between our bishops and the rest of the Church in this country on this issue.There's a similar disconnect on other issues related to sexuality (e.g., contraception), which makes it all the more puzzling to me that the USCCB is making contraception the centerpiece of its religious liberty campaign next month.

"Just because you dont know how children respond to the gay environment seems to me like reason enough to deny it."And just because we know how destructive a straight environment can be to children (abandonment; physical, religious and psychological abuse; etc.) in a large number of cases seems to me like reason enough to deny it.

Unless something drastic happens, approval of gay marriage is inevitable from a statistical viewpoint. The reason for this is that approval is not only higher, but grows faster the younger the sample slice. If a majority of young people already approve, and the trend among young people is in favor of approval...well, do the math. Ten years? Twenty years at the latest and it will be accepted and routine. Source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/147662/first-time-majority-americans-favor-le...

And just because we know how destructive a straight environment can be to children Jimmy Mac,Oh Please.

Ann,It doesnt have to do with observing the sex. It has to do with observing the homosexual couple together which makes visible the relationship and makes the relationship seem acceptable. That is the harm. Simply doing that is the wrong. No more no less.

@Bruce (5/8, 5:12 & 5:15 pm) Assuming but by no means conceding (to borrow a phrase from a friend's favorite law school professor) that there is harm done to a child by observing a gay or lesbian couple together in a way that "makes visible the relationship" and "makes the relationship seem acceptable", would you agree that greater harm *could* be done to a child by observing a straight couple together who, for example, have a violent and destructive relationship?

Bruce --How can knowing what others are be a threat to what you are when they don't tempt you to do what they're doing? (Whether you watch or not is irrelevant._And what about your claim that the heteros would be tempted -- tempted to do what??I find it astonishing that, given the disapproval you have already voiced, that you think that just watching the gay relationships inclines us -- and that includes YOU -- to think what we actually see acceptable. It certainly does in those cases where the relationships are loving ones :-)So far you've said that gay unions attract all of us (do you REALLY mean this?), and you're saying now that what we see (not just hear about) inclines us to approve. Hmmm.And you still haven't said why any of this injures hetero marriages, except that it is possible that the children of gays might not fare well.

Bruce, you're right.For the past four years I've been going to a parish with lots of gay couples. At first it was weird to hear big bulky men talk about their "husband", but I got used to it, from interacting with them. They're just regular folks, and now it no longer seems like a big deal: the whole gay couples setting feels normal. As it becomes more mainstream and visible, more and more people, like me, become unable to see what's wrong with it. As you say: that's the harm. But if something is only evil when you consider it from a distance, and if the "intrinsic disorder" is not apparent up close, then what does that mean? Could it be that it's like the wolf hiding under the bed: once you gather the courage to look, you discover that there is nothing there to be afraid of?

because it encourages others to act similarly."Again, that's right. I had a male friend once tell me in all seriousness that one should stay away from gays and beware of homosexuality, because "it's contagious".

It would be nice to hear from a broader spectrum here, butI thought Carlo"s sense of governments role in regulating society was quite atrophied and his comment to Jimmy Mac quite snotty.I think(pace Jeff who takes his usual political stance) that the country as a whole and the POTUS's view on the issue is indeed eveolving.That is because we have strong tradition of marriage as heterosexual only(sometimes over glamorized since that history has some rather spotty issues), but the concomitant understanding of marriage as being basically relational and the role of procreation(especially openness in every act in the Catholic tradition) as declining joined to understanding that homosexuals are born as homosexuals, undercuts the traditional perspective.Apodictive stements about marriage by Bruce and Ken while repeating the traidtional Catholic view are circular to discussion in the body politic at large.And Biden is responsive to that body and his role as a catholic politician is in this is also a matter of division in the days where power issues in the Church (as in the contraceptive mandate) are so much in play. There's some pretty hefty juice trying to be used politically by Churches on this question.I think that wil just play into societal divide but further diminish the voice in the public square Churches seem to want to have -i.e. do what we say.As I said, it's the body politic -which I perceive strongly as evolving.Meanwhile, i hope we'd all concede there's no place for bigotry - say, in the bullying vcontroversy.

Claire --That reminds me of an old column of the inimitable Ann Landers. Reader: My mother told me I should beware of men with mustaches. Is this true? Ann: Yes, it's true. And also beware of men without mustaches. :-)

Bruce, you speak of harm. What about the harm caused by the old modus vivendi of 60 years ago, when there was no place at all in society for a homosexual and all were struggling in isolation or meeting in the underground, always looking over their shoulder. All those suicides, all those broken marriages attempted by people desperate to be what they could not be, the AIDS plague and homosexual underground?Are those people just to be written off for the greater good of society as a whole, because the idea that gays could be happy, could be happily married and, if they wish, happily raise children of their own, would cause such a sizable percentage of people to "change teams" that it would hurt society?That sort of speaks to a rather low opinion of heterosexual marriage, doesn't it?

@Bob Nunz (5/8, 5:49 pm) Just because Jeff Landry is "taking his usual political stance" doesn't mean he's wrong. I think it's almost universally agreed among progressives that Obama's current position on gay marriage (that his thinking is "evolving") is a position taken almost solely for political reasons: he won't gain any votes by coming out in favor of gay marriage and he could lose some. I think the polling evidence is (at best) mixed as to whether black churchgoers are less likely to support gay marriage than, say, white churchgoers. I suspect the concern Obama and his campaign have is more about the 5-10% of the electorate that are genuinely "swing voters", and about not giving them another reason to vote against him. (Assuming that 8% unemployment isn't enough of a reason.)

Do I have this right -- V.P. Biden is the first Catholic politician to say explicitly that he does not accept a teaching of the official Church that the bishops really care about? I may be a minority of one, but I've always liked him. People accuse him of regularly putting his foot in his mouth, but maybe he just likes to say what he really thinks.Wonder what Cardinal Wuerl is going to do about him, and what pressure will be put on the Cardinal if he lets Biden alone. Either way it should be interesting.

Bruce:Oh, please!Who have given birth to the abandoned, physically challenged, chemically damaged, and otherwise undesirable children, a large number of whom are adopted by lesbian and gay couples or singles?(Heavens, who gave birth to these heinous LGBT people to begin with?)Who gave birth of Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, ad nauseum?Who gave birth to most serial killers, sex abusers, pedophiles, mass murderers?Straight couples, that's who. Could this be a psychological, genetic, religious?, or physical (or some of each) deficiency on their part?Society would be better off if a panoply of psychological tests were given to straights who want to marry - and not allow them to have offspring until (say 10 years later) they can prove that they are psychosexually and sociologically mature enough to raise children appropriately. These tests should be given by non-straights to ensure that there would be no bias to allowing these people to have children.

Ann: very funny. Oh, and I forgot the end of the story: when I objected, my friend answered that, of course, I could not see how dangerous homosexuals were, because I am a woman. I could not understand the potential harm, because I am immune to the contagion.

would you agree that greater harm *could* be done to a child by observing a straight couple together who, for example, have a violent and destructive relationship?Luke,Sure, I'd be even more definitive but would you prefer we have no children?

As it becomes more mainstream and visible, more and more people, like me, become unable to see whats wrong with itClaire,Well, if you assume that homosexual sex is ok, then there is no problem. But if its morally wrong, then you have just described and participated in the problem. Unlike children which are the unique result of heterosexual sex, nothing unique is produced from homosexual sex. The relationships could also include polygamy, incest, or potentially even

Who gave birth of Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, ad nauseumJimmy Mac,It will always and forever be a man and a woman regardless of what happens in the gay world. Vacuous argument.

And you still havent said why any of this injures hetero marriages, except that it is possible that the children of gays might not fare well.Ann,Those children grow up. They are learning how to behave as adults. You might find this article interesting because it describes the problems associated with people who only view pornography. The process is similar to what Claire describes.http://www.startribune.com/opinion/92552694.html?source=error

Okay - a little levity. After reading all of the above comments, I have grown concerned about my own growing up and education. From the age of 14 onwards, lived and schooled primarily in a same sex environment (not same sex marriage or civil union) but same sex parental stand ins (well, married to the church).Does this mean that most seminarians have been negatively impacted because they lived in a same sex environment? Inquiring minds want to know?

Bruce, the fact that you only posted four times in a row undercuts your argument pretty severely. If you really had a case, you'd have made it five.

Ken, I'm sorry that I appear to have reduced you to silence. That was certainly not my intent.I'd like, if I may, to have your guidance on a matter that seems very pertinent to what we've been discussing here.All news outlets are now reporting that seemingly reliable polling indicates that amendment 1 passed in North Carolina today with heavy margins in its favor.In other words, YOUR side passed in North Carolina today.But YOUR side was, unfortunately, represented by those "backward" Southerners you profess to despise.How am I--and how are Catholics in general--to interpret these data? How are we to feel about the fact that OUR side is being represented by backwards and morally obtuse people whom we despise? Whom we despise since we possess the truth? And we're reasonable and intelligent and morally perceptive people--being Catholics . . . . Is it that we happen to be fighting the good fight for the right reasons, and they--the morally obtuse, ignorant, backwards, and stupid--happen to be fighting a fight that turns out to be good (since, after all, it's OUR fight, and we're unquestionably good, intelligent, and moral) for all the wrong reasons?Can you please enlighten me? I'll appreciate your doing so.

Bruce --The article you recommend is about pornography, not about gay and hetero couples and the relationship between them, if any.To say that people sometimes imitate what they have seen is not news. We know that. But you have gotten a bit more specific in your argument. You are now saying that simply being aware of homosexual unions can have bad effects on hetero spouses because it induces the heteros to do/imitate something bad the gays do.OK. So what is it that the hetero spouses do/imitatae that's immoral that they didn't do/imitate before they knew the gays? Be specific. Describe the results so we can identify and define them when we find them.

So what is it that the hetero spouses do/imitatae thats immoral that they didnt do/imitate before they knew the gaysAnn,Well one obvious example I have personally observed is get divorced and then take up with a gay partner. Happened before as well, but as the gay lifestyle becomes more socially acceptable it happens more. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, if you believe gay sex is morally ok, then there is no issue with any of this, but if it is immoral then continuing to ask for specifics does not change the analysis. The crux of the issue is the immorality of gay sex, everything flows logically from that.

I don't think gay marriage WILL affect heterosexual marriage per se, but there certainly may be an effect on the children of gay couples, and on society at large, for good and bad.On the up side, the fact that homosexuals may be encouraged to marry should mean that a good percentage will become involved in stable relationships, certainly far more stable than in the past, a situation that should mean less promiscuity and fewer STDs, and for that matter fewer cases of AIDS, a bonum for society at large. For those related to gays, from parents to children (including children of former hetero relationships), the situation should mean less shame and shunning from others, less bullying, fewer suicides and hate crimes all around, yet another bonum for society at large. Balance that against the fact that child-parent relationships within gay families may result in many adult children feeling out of place in the world, anxiously seeking birth mothers and/or sperm donor fathers as the children of adoption do today. Add to these, many more people psychically and socially wounded, as there are those wounded today, by the fact that their parents changed partners at least once, if not several times, during the years they were growing up. If religious people are honest, they should admit that the most negative outcome would be the normalization of what they believe God considers a gave sin, i.e., homosexual sex. Of course, as Catholics we believe we live with that situation on many fronts today, including serial marriages, premarital sexual relationships, artificial contraception and reproduction, and even how death is hastened in hospitals and hospices alike. Moreoever, if we take the Church's social doctrine seriously, many, if not most, of us live in nations that normalize a great many economic and social injustices, even including executions, torture and unjust wars. In this case, is discouraging the sin -- homosexual sex itself -- even served by outlawing the marriage of gay couples? Since the sin and the state of marriage have been separate from the beginning, I can't see how adding marriage will in any way encourage more sex. If anything -- not to be ironic, but there you are -- the possibility of civil marriage should, in fact, discourage promiscuity, thereby cutting down on the frequency of homosexual sin. Considering that fact, as well as the bigger picture of a world that needs righting in so many other ways, do Christians really do the kingdom of God justice in fighting marriage for homosexuals at this point in time? To answer the question, I think you need to take all these factors into account.

Bruce ==Still waiting. Sigh.

"Of course, as Catholics we believe we live with that situation on many fronts today, including serial marriages, premarital sexual relationships, artificial contraception and reproduction, and even how death is hastened in hospitals and hospices alike. "That latter may be an overstatement; I was thinking of the US bishops' teaching regarding the withdrawal of food and hydration in Catholic hospitals, which some said at the time it was issued would put Catholic hospsitals out of whack with rules followed in most hospitals today.

Beverly --While it's reasonable to assume that children adopted by gays will seek out their birth parents, so do many children adopted by straight parents. I really don't see that alone as relevant. Further, no doubt some children will be aborted because there are no straight parents who chose to adopt them. In other words, the children have a better chance of living if there are more adoptive parents.It's obvious that there are scriptural reasons to condemn gay marriage. But when one looks at the loss of children in childbirth and the loss to disease even into the 19th century and early 20th century, it is understandable why a society would require marriage of everyone to be ensure the survival of the group. But that is a response to contingencies quite different from the situation in our own time. So one might argue that the prohibition of homosexuality in the Bible was not meant as a universal moral law.

Ann --While it's true that some of these problems, including children yearning to know their biological parents, already apply in other situations, I still think they're relevant, since they'll come with the territory, as it were, and we already know they cause a certain amount of psycho/social pain, which can only be expected to increase and multiply. I didn't even go into the moral issues involved in artificial reproductive techniques, which will do the same. When it comes to other, specifically religiously-based, objections to homosexual sex, I suppose it depends on which religious person you talk to. Fundamentalists are going to point to Biblical injunctions, and that's that. Catholics, though, would probably point to tradition, Biblical and otherwise, before quoting the Old Testament. Then, of course, there are the traditional arguments from natural law. I certainly agree that one *could* argue that the Biblical prohibition of homosexuality was contingent on the social needs of the times and not applicable universally, but others can as easily argue otherwise. Who's right? That's where natural law, tradition, the consensus of the faithful and everything else Catholics use to try to discern universal truth from something less comes in.

@Bruce (5/8, 7:11 pm) Thanks for your reply. I'm glad we're able to find agreement that there are (many?) cases in which having gay or lesbian parents would be the better option for children.I'm not sure how your question ("would you prefer we have no children?") follows from the conversation we've been having---particularly at a time in human history when we've been blessed with more children than any previous generation.But to answer it, no. I would not prefer we have no children. A final thought: Just as I suggested earlier that there's reason to approach this topic with a certain degree of humility on the part of those of us who never even considered it 40 years ago (let alone thought it was a good idea), I want to suggest that, given the Church's history of dealing with sexuality, and the history of the Church's (evolving/changing) teaching on sexuality, there's reason to approach this topic with a certain degree of humility on the part of those who agree with the way many of our bishops are applying that teaching today.

Ken, good morning.To echo Ann Olivier in her last statement to Bruce: still waiting.The results of yesterday's voting in North Carolina are now public.As I said in my last email to you, you and your side won.Except there's the matter of Southern backwardness, which, per your initial statement to me in this thread, has nothing to do with you and other Catholics.So I continue to ask how you intend to explain and handle the disconnect between your non-bigoted, informed, morally sound position on the human rights of LGBT people, and the bigoted, uninformed, morally unsound position of those backwards people you despise.Any thoughts about this?It can't be an easy position to be in, I would imagine--being on the right side and for all the right reasons, with people who happen to land on that same side with you. But for all the wrong reasons.Please help me to understand how you and Catholics who stand with you deal with this moral quandary. I'm one of those backwards Southerners with a very soft head, so it takes a lot of explaining to get me to understand points that might be more patent to people who grew up--as you did, being a Catholic from outside the South--in a more intelligent, humane, and morally perceptive culture.Thanks for your response!

Ann,Mark 8:21

Bruce, I sure don't. I'm no big city lawyer, but I don't think you've made much sense at all in your argument.

My point is that not everything is driven by those inside a particular movement. Nothing happens in a vacuum and as often as not, outside events like WW2 (or 9-11 for that matter) have a definite impact one way or another.

WL Ken, Im sorry that I appear to have reduced you to silence. . . . K - Appearances can be deceiving; I had a full days worth of meetings yesterday and could not take time for the blog all day about several software packages we are purchasing ugh - believe me I would rather have been able to track the CW blog!Thanks for the news on NC I also did not get a chance to hear the outcome of that yesterday.WL . . . But YOUR side was, unfortunately, represented by those backward Southerners you profess to despise.K First of all William, I never profess to despise anyone - especially not Southerners. Secondly, while they were quite backward in the 60s regarding racial matters, Southerners have not been backward since they caught up with the rest of the world back in the 80s and 90s. I know it was difficult for them, but to their credit, Southerners persevered and came out the better for their effort. Nothing and nobody is perfect, but things do improve; people can change.

but I dont think youve made much sense at all in your argument.Abe,You havent even made an argument. Just critiqued mine.

Thank you for your reply to me, Ken. And for your clarification. I had perhaps misread your statement, "Oh William, please do not equate me or other folks who do not approve of gay marriage to your backward Southern relatives," as intending to denigrate me and my entire family.And I was, I'll admit, a bit taken aback by it, since I hadn't realized you and I even knew each other--let alone each others' families.I am, I'll admit, still a bit baffled by your conclusion that you hadn't set out to despise anyone--since I can't think of anything more denigrating than to characterize a human being and his entire family and culture as "backward." Or more unwelcoming and uncatholic, for that matter.I'm happy to hear that you admire the way in which we formerly backwards Southerners have now "caught up."And, gosh, that we're even better for the effort now! (Though I myself have my doubts about the extent to which we've now "caught up" . . . . )Except, I take it, my particular set of Southern relatives happen to remain backward? Since you appear to know us personally, because how else could you confidently characterize me and mine as backwards?Still somewhat confused about your point. But grateful for your reply and the clarification it offers.And sharing your hope that people are capable of learning from the inhumanity dished out by some human beings--often, in the name of Christ--to other human beings to behave in less inhumane ways over the course of history. I often have my doubts about that, as I look at my church and the world around me these days.

Fair enough, Bruce. I just don't think that what you've been saying works logically. For starters, you've kept arguing that same-sex marriages hurt people (e.g. impressionable kids and heterosexual couples) because "simply observing and taking in the harmful behavior" hurts the observers. I think that your argument is a pretty nice example of begging the question, because you're assuming that gay marriage is harmful without actually demonstrating that it is. You're basically saying that it's harmful to be exposed to gay marriage because gay marriage is harmful--but you're leaving out the first step of explaining how it's harmful. I think you've accidentally acknowledged the problem with this in a response you made to Claire: "Well, if you assume that homosexual sex is ok, then there is no problem. But if its morally wrong, then you have just described and participated in the problem." You are seeing a problem because you've assumed that homosexual sex (which is a broader topic than same-sex marriage, anyhow) is not ok. So if it morally ok, you're describing and participating in a problem. You have repeated that this all depends on the morality of homosexual relationships, but you're not operating on anything but that that question has already been decided.I also think you're pulling a sort of switcheroo when you say that observing gay marriage can hurt heterosexual marriages because it will be a catalyst for imitation. You said, "Well one obvious example I have personally observed is [hetero spouses] get divorced and then take up with a gay partner. Happened before as well, but as the gay lifestyle becomes more socially acceptable it happens more." You seem to have this notion that seeing gays will cause straight people to become gay. If a hetero couple breaks up so as that one or both can pursue a homosexual relationship, then it seems dubious to call them hetero in the first place.

My argument is about to be strengthened by posting a second time.You also mentioned the problem of "testing" whether same-sex marriages hurt anyone. It seems to me that if gay marriages are so harmful then you should be able to point to contexts in which it is present and show how it hurts people. Same-sex marriage is legal in places--take examples from these places to show how these marriages hurt heterosexual couples. (Canada, for example: are straight couples experiencing difficulties because gay marriage is legal in Canada?) Specifically, show how being raised by same-sex couples has hurt children in any ways that seem disproportionate to the damages kids raised by straights experience. You can use America as a source for your arguments, because gays have been raising kids there, regardless of the legality of same-sex marriages.

If a hetero couple breaks up so as that one or both can pursue a homosexual relationship, then it seems dubious to call them hetero in the first place.Abe,I think this statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of human behavior. I do not believe, nor has anyone proven, sexuality is a black or white issue, rather, there are a spectrum of behaviors.Also, everyone is influenced by the behavior of others. So at least for some subset of the population, change from one to the other and back is possible. There are plenty of examples of that behavior.I'll post a second time to strengthen my argument :)

Nor do I think that human sexuality is perfectly rigid. If sexual fluidity is what you're calling upon in order to justify the possibility that people in straight marriages are being turned gay, then perhaps examples that you might give need to be taken on a case-by-case basis in order to learn more about the experiences of those who actually do leave heterosexual unions for same-sex ones. I suspect that you will not find many (if any) instances where someone who was heterosexual suddenly ceased to be so because they witnessed the social acceptability of gay relationships. Rather, what you're going to find is that people were living lies, in denial, or in confusion. The biological aspect of same-sex attraction is not to be discarded simply because sexuality can have fluidity: for some reason, this idea that sexuality can make such a big swerve is disproportionately applied to gays, and not straights. In other words, people talk about straight people becoming gay due to cultural exposure, but not vice versa. (The exception to this are dubious instances of "gay cures," and I think that we can agree that a therapeutic context--dubious or otherwise-- is not the same as simple daily life and its various exposures). How often do openly gay people come out of the closet and cop to being straight? Queen Latifah (finally) came out yesterday. When Elton John comes out and admits to being straight, I'll give your argument more credence. There is a double standard at play.Saying that "everyone is influenced by the behavior of others" is much too broad a claim to be meaningful. You need to demonstrate, in this context, that particular behaviors are influenced by those of others. I would argue that these cases you mention where people in straight relationships "go gay" are not instances where someone is influenced to change their sexuality, but rather where they are influenced to change in how they acknowledge their sexuality.

You are seeing a problem because youve assumed that homosexual sex ... is not ok.Abe,I do not believe anyone posting here has made an argument that homosexual sex is moral. The best I've heard elsewhere is that its genetic, therefore it is God given and must be moral. Of course, that argument is fallacious on its face. We all have tendencies to behave in certain immoral ways. Neither the physical nor social sciences have been able to resolve issues of nature versus nuture. So, even genetics do not assure morality.We do, however, have Catholic moral teaching which has consistently and definitively taught that homosexual relationships are immoral and sinful. In addition, we have thousands of years of human history which have held the same. So it just seems the height of arrogance to me, that with essentially no new information, our society has decided not just to tolerate gay sex but to celebrate it.As for the negative impact on traditional marriage, anything that dilutes its uniqueness necessarily detracts from it. The reason stems from the nature of marriage itself: its purpose is to allow male and female to commit to each other and come together and produce children for the next generation. Divorce has detracted but breaking the lifelong commitment, living together has detracted by providing another socially acceptable outlet for sex and children, and gay sex alone has detracted by again providing another socially acceptable outlet for sex. Actions have consequences beyond the consenting parties. And sinful actions have negative impacts on all.

Talking about the morality of sex is not going to go anywhere. I will argue for the morality of sex between consenting adults in non-exploitative contexts. Others can argue for the morality of sex that is "open to life," or however it is that that gets phrased. If your position is based on revealed truth, then you're only going to get as far as anyone else is willing to accept what you say is revealed truth. You're not going to get very far with me.I do not give a tinker's damn about Catholic moral teaching. I am by no means saying that you should not voice Catholic moral teaching, but when you argue on the basis of that morality in a society where many have no particular desire to be regulated by Catholic teaching (because, like, they're not Catholic), then anticipate that your argument is going to face summary rejection. Arguments concerning marriage that rely upon claims to historical tradition are doomed to fall apart. This is because the way marriage exists today is not exactly traditional in the long scheme of things (and when you evoke "thousands of years of human history," you're specifically putting modern marriage in the long scheme of things). You say that marriage has as its purpose "to allow male and female to commit to each other and come together and produce children for the next generation.|" Producing offspring has been, of course, a primary reason for marriage, but it certainly wasn't the only one or even the main one (and the idea of what is ideal in raising children has certainly changed). Likewise, your claim that thousands of years of human history have taught that homosexual relationships are immoral is bogus. Only a very foreshortened view--one that didn't look past your own culture--would allow for that claim. And for Pete's sake--human history has endorsed a lot of things over the millenia that I expect we'd all be happy to see the tail-end of (e.g. slavery, etc.).Your final claim about diluting the uniqueness of "traditional marriage" is weak because of what I said above concerning the category of traditional marriage and because of your failure to demonstrate that same-sex marriage weakens the special place of marriage in society (instead of, say, strengthening it). I'm especially concerned with your reference to other things that dilute marriage. I would say that the absolutely absurd situation marriage is often in today detracts from your position, because it underscores the fact that society doesn't need homosexuality to make a shambles out of marriage--heterosexuals can screw things up all on their own, thank you very much. Some elected wags have pointed this out by starting petitions to ban divorce: you talk about the other things that dilute marriage in your post, but nobody is seeking to outlaw divorce or the Bachelor.

Abe Rather than putting traditional marriage in the long scheme of things, or putting forth Catholic moral teaching so front-and-center, lets take a more practical approach. No successful society in the history of Man has embraced gay marriage as a norm.Considering that track record, why we now think we should set up gay marriage as some sort of civil norm is beyond me.

Bruce: does this statement .... "Well one obvious example I have personally observed is get divorced and then take up with a gay partner. Happened before as well, but as the gay lifestyle becomes more socially acceptable it happens more. " ... indicate that you believe that gays or lesbians who have entered into a straight marriage for any reason (fear, pressure from family, church, whatever) should remain therein even though they are not fair to their spouse or children in living out a lie? Is that the value you place on straight marriage: it is better to live a lie than to be true to everyone and no longer perpetuate a falsehood?If that is a value of straight marriage that you are proposing --- better to live a lie than the truth --- then you have severe problems that need addressing.The idea that an "attractive gay lifestyle" will lure someone who is not gay is not worth commenting on.

For refeene, currently 7 states allow gay marriage; 43 states do not:http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/09/opinion/stanley-same-sex-marriage/

@Ken: "For refeene, currently 7 states allow gay marriage; 43 states do not . . . ."All except seven states in the Union once had laws on their books (or written into their constitutions) outlawing interracial marriage. Seventeen of those states, all in the South, had such laws up to June 1967, when the Supreme Court declared these laws unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.A Gallup poll in 1958 showed that 96% of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. It seems beyond doubt that, permitted to vote on whether interracial marriages should be legal (or, indeed, if people of color should have the same rights as Caucasians), a majority of American citizens would have voted in the past (and perhaps might still vote today) to deny rights to racial minorities.The human rights of oppressed minority groups should NEVER depend on or be decided by popular vote. The fact that a majority supports the denial of rights to a minority is not a demonstration of the moral insight or moral correctness of the majority.

P.S. Take a look at what the legislature of North Carolina enacted for that state's constitution in 1875, as people of color were returned to quasi-servitude all over the American South in the period paving the way for draconian Jim Crow laws:http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/your-moment-of-history.html

You make a good point William, in that by the time the Supreme Court declare laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional (1967) most of the states (33 out of 50) had already repealed their laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage. In other words, the opinion of the Supreme Court and the nation regarding inter-racial marriage had by 1967 evolved; essentially the High Court's ruling in Loving v Virginia was a reflection of the opinion of the majority of the states.

@Ken (5/9, 1:24 pm) Thanks for this observation. Are you making what we might call a Burkean argument: when and if a majority of the states legalize same-sex marriage, only then should the federal government (whether through the legislative/executive or judicial branches) act?

I will argue for the morality of sex between consenting adults in non-exploitative contextsabe,Polygamy and incest are ok under this definition. You as an outside party certainly cannot determine whether the consent is freely given or not.There is just no argument for gay sexual relationships. They all refer to how its better than some other defective relationship like 'heterosexuals can screw things up all on their own, thank you very much'. Nothing distinguishes it from friendship of various forms. Its an illusion that those with eyes cannot see. You summarily reject any argument1) the morality of sex is not going to go anywhere2) historical tradition are doomed to fall apart. 3) same-sex marriage weakens the special place of marriage in society with absolutely no support. None of those are refutations of my arguments nor are they arguments for gay sex let alone gay marriage.

@Ken (5/9, 12:42 pm) Going back to your earlier statement that "no successful society in the history of Man has embraced gay marriage as a norm", I have a couple of reactions:1 - A minor point perhaps: legal status does not make something a "norm". (Unless one uses a tautological definition of "norm" as "anything that has legal status".) Plenty of "minority" relationships, statuses and behaviors are legal, but not the "norm". It's also true that illegal behaviors, e.g., speeding on the highway, can be the "norm" without being legal. 2 - There are now a number of North Atlantic countries in which same-sex marriage is legal and has been for some years. By the standards of human history, most of them are "successful societies".3 - Also, too, ancient Greece. Generally considered the foundation of "Western culture". Obviously a very different culture and society than our own in many ways, but certainly one in which same-sex relationships had a status higher than opposite-sex marriage (at least by some accounts).

Ken, thank you for your comment.If, as you say, the opinion of the nation had "by 1967 evolved," and if that Gallup poll in 1958 accurately found 96% of white Americans opposing interracial marriage in that year, what do you imagine accounts for such a rapid evolution in such a short span of time?I believe you've been missing an important point I've been making all along in our exchanges. My family considered ourselves among the "good" Southerners in 1957. My father was a lawyer, his brother an academic dean of a college, his sister a registered nurse. My mother's family included several teachers who wouldn't have dreamed of demonstrating prejudice towards a single child in their classroom--ever. Because they were too well-educated and too well-meaning to behave that way. They were particularly outraged at teachers with whom they taught who treated Jewish or poor white children differently than they treated other students.The conversation on which I let you eavesdrop, as it were, from our 1957 Christmas dinner was a conversation entre nous. As much as the adults in my family in that conversation deplored the attempt to "shove integration down our throats" by federal laws and federal courts, we equally deplored the ill-bred malice of those "other" white Southerners who were out in the streets acting out their racial hostility. We weren't, we told ourselves, those sorts of people.Which rather illustrates, I think, a point I've been trying to make over and over: the assumption that I'm "up" and others need to evolve "up to" me may well be ludicrously ill-founded and arrogant. Moral foundations have, it seems to me, to be based on something other than the perception that ANY group of human beings, whether they be "backward Southerners" who need to "evolve up" to OUR standards, or people of color, or gay people, or dclass and uneducated white people, deserve to be tagged as the despised others.I still have to ask: if your position about human rights for gay folks is obviously correct and superior--the "up" to which others ought to evolve--and if the backwards Southerners holding the same position you hold are despicable and inferior others--to what do you appeal to demonstrate your superiority and the superiority of your position, while those others are inferior insofar as they haven't evolved up to you and your norms?I'm curious. From where I stand--admittedly as a despised backwards Southerner who happens to be gay to boot--"up" and superior and the point to which evolution points are not self-evident. I think moral thinking requires more of us than projecting our group and ourselves as the self-evident standards by which others should be judged as up and down or evolved and unevolved.

Lets cut to the chase on this matter. It comes up over and over and over again in this and other Catholic blogsites. Neither side changes its beliefs and opinions.However, time and demographics are on my side, witnessed by this as one example: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/business/media/gay-on-tv-its-all-in-th... partner and virtually all of our LGBT friends, coupled and otherwise, Catholic and otherwise, simply do not give two hoots in hades about what religionists think about our relationships. In general, we are not looking for approbation, blessing or any other sanctions from religious organizations of any stripe.Currently we are hampered by the undue influence that ever-decreasing membership in religions exert over laws that uphold and legislate discrimination against us that would not be tolerated for one moment for any other group. William Lindsey has made a good case for the geographical problems that were enshrined in law against mixed race couples. Similar types of restrictions were permitted by virtue of restrictive covenants in property deeds. These kinds of discrimination were wrapped in the flags of biblicism, tradition, heritage, culture and other self-serving discriminatory reasoning.Bruce and his fellow travelers will continue to argue ever-increasing socially meaningless religious, traditional and cultural biases as justification for their position. Their points will remain upheld in what is becoming a smaller, purer Catholic church and other ultra-conservative denominations. So be it for those who choose to accept this way of theological reasoning. However, these ideas will continue to lose relevance in the greater society that understands that the US is a multi-cultural, multi-confessional, secular amalgamation of peoples who continue to believe in the ideas of equal protection, non-discrimination and that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. You are free to exercise your religious beliefs (within limits ask the Mormons about that) so long as you do not impinge on my right to exercise my religious or non-religious beliefs.As I have stated time and time again, the Catholic Church is free to posit matrimony as a sacrament and has the full and free right to apply or withhold that sacrament as it wishes. What proponents of same-sex marriage are arguing for is an elimination of religious influence over the rights, privileges, benefits and accountabilities that come from a secular institution called marriage. The benefits that come with governmental recognition of ones marital status are funded by taxes paid by all and should inure to the benefit of all, not just a few who want to impose their particular confessional idea of morality on everyone else.

"The President says YES!"Well, kind of. He also says it should be left to the states to decide.Besides, I think he was actually for gay marriage before he was against it, and for it again. Dizzy?

I can't believe how the cable news stations are in such a heat [they are reacting like Gone With The Wind's Aunt Pittypat getting the vapors over Yankees coming to Atlanta] over the announced public positions of President Obama and VP Biden support gay and lesbian marital unions. Duh???President Obama wants to get reelected. Right? This will not be accomplished without the overwhelming support of young voters, mostly under the age of 40. Young people are way ahead of the talking heads on TV - and way ahead of the talking heads in the pulpits of America too!Besides, the President needs the enthusiastic support of the LBGT community as well.Ergo, why wouldn't President Obama embrace the greatest leap in human rights since the Civil Rights Act in 1965? It's a no-brainer!Soon, eventually, even the Catholic clergy, most of whom are either in the closet or are in a covertly gay life style, will have to drop its public opposition to gay marriage and find a way to "ritualize" these loving relationships between gays and lesbians. Unless, of course, the Catholic Church really does have a death wish they are determined to play out in public???

Agree, Jim J.The spouses are the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony, anyway.Good timing by President Obama.Booo to the lewzers who like oppressing people for God-given traits.

"Ergo, why wouldnt President Obama embrace the greatest leap in human rights since the Civil Rights Act in 1965? Its a no-brainer!"Well, don't get carried away. He still believes he has the right as commander-in-chief to assassinate American citizens (but regardless of sexual orientation presumably) on foreign soil to preserve national security.

Well Gerelyn, alcoholism is also a God-given tendency, but we do not tell the boozer to follow hi natural (God-given) instinct. Rather, we correctly urge him to restrain him self from the self-destructive lifestyle to which he feels so strongly and naturally drawn.There are of course other crosses with which people for some reason are born, or for whatever reason they feel inexorably drawn toward e.g.; cleptomania, various mental disorders, and people try their best to deal with thier individual issues.

Ken, Left handedness is a God-given tendency, and we should not let those people follow their God-given instincts either. They need to be restrained from their self-destructive tendencies, and labor to make their right hand dominant.

Ken, Left handedness is a God-given tendencyjbruns,A counter-argument on a morally neutral trait does not refute Kens argument. Its just obfuscates.

Well Gerelyn, alcoholism is also a God-given tendency, but we do not tell the boozer to follow hi natural (God-given) instinct. Rather, we correctly urge him to restrain him self from the self-destructive lifestyle to which he feels so strongly and naturally drawn.--- (I said "trait", not "tendency". There's a difference.) As to the "boozer"? Jesus was called that, too. The appreciation of wine is a gift from God. That's why the Greeks worshipped Bacchus. As to "lifestyle"? Sexual orientation is not a "lifestyle", regardless of how often the term is repeated.

For all I know, the readiness to act irrationally, fearfully, and spitefully against people who have done one no harm may be a God-given tendency. And that it manifests itself most often against people who are perceived to be marginal and vulnerable, and rarely or never against the powerful, may say something about God's predilection. But I hope not.

Bruce and Ken, Marriage is about love, not sex sex sex. I wish for a minute you two could stop thinking about gay sex and start thinking about this debate in terms of love. Some people are born to love people of the same gender. Those people want to get married. This is about love.

If the gay "lifestyle" is all about sex, sex, sex - at the age of 71 I'm in deep trouble!Next we we celebrate #40. That's much, much more than sex, sex, sex.

That s/b "next WEEK, we".

But Bruce, Left handedness was NOT always morally neutral. It is by definition 'sinister.' Perhaps you will find it more to the point that homosexuality may actually be a trait like left-handedness, i.e. not genetic per se, but hardwired into an individual in ways not completely understood. Point being, it may be no more 'sinister' than left handedness, and therefore morally neutral, in which case homosexual 'acts' would be simply, well, natural.

@ Jeff Landry:Do you object to President Obama protecting innocent Americans from the likes of bin Laden? Or, do you just find it objectionable that it is President Obama who is the one wielding the levers of American justice for those who would wantonly murder Americans?

jbrunssinister is the latin word for left. That would be neutral. from online etymology: from L. sinister "left, on the left side" (opposite of dexter), perhaps from root *sen- and meaning properly "the slower or weaker hand"... in genuine Roman auspices, the left was favorable....And homosexuality cannot be a true genetic trait like left handedness. Left handedness has at best a marginal effect on reproduction. On the other hand, homosexuality has a negative effect on reproduction since practicing homosexuals choose not to procreate. A true genetic trait would be naturally selected out of the population, even if a few deny their 'inherent sexuality' and procreate. Over many generations, the homosexual population will necessarily decline to zero. Unless, of course, its not exclusively nature but has nurture characteristics; but then it would no longer be 'natural' :)

This is about loveMatt,That is where your argument completely fails. Any male-female couple has the inherent ability entirely within themselves create a lifelong commitment and grow a family. They dont need love, nor the church, nor the state to approve or disapprove at all. In fact, we have a name for that institution: cohabitation. That is the life state which marriage formalizes.Homosexual couples can only come together for a life-long commitment. They cannot grow a family without the help and support of third parties. I know, I know, not all heterosexuals are fertile therefore homosexuals should qualify. Not really, some heterosexuals seem infertile and then actually procreate and besides, no one knows what the result will be before the marriage. What about aged couples? Well, men can procreate for virtually their entire life while women lose the ability at menopause. So would you propose that we take the right to marry away from women at menopause but allow men to marry their entire life. Or alternatively remove it from everyone at age 50? what about existing marriages and the new trophy wives. No the not all heterosexual couples procreate is just another obfuscation.

About left-handedness and the connotations of "sinister" (dangerous, evil, threatening, etc. "Sinister" originally meant just "left-handed". but it seems it has developed all those awful characteristics in people's minds for some primitive, perhaps unconscious reason. I suspect it's because outliers of *all* sorts tend to be suspected/rejected/marginalized/pushed aside, even ostracized. If you're different, you're bad, if you're bad, we don't want you. Conform or leave.Example: Just today I had to see one of my eye specialists. He is also a plastic surgeon. Years ago he had been recommended to me as "the best in town", and he has successfully operated on my eye twice. But the first time I went to him I wondered if I was making a mistake. As he wrote out something on my chart I saw that he is left-handed and holds his pen at the screw-ball angle that left-handed people sometimes do. It actually made me wonder for a second or two, "How can this weirdo POSSIBLY be a competent plastic surgeon??" Of course, I quickly realized I was being irrational and stuck with him. That was years ago.Well, it just so happened that I had to see him today, and I saw him writing grotesquely with his left hand, and I STILL had the same stupid reaction: How can this man POSSIBLY be a competent plastic surgeon? My reaction was as dumb as ever: tribal prejudice at its most automatic.Tribal prejudices seem to be the most difficult to get rid of. But when there are moral issues involved, we MUST eliminate the subjective nonsense. As to gays, having been presented with evidence and having not-been-presented-with-counter-evidence (still waiting), it now looks quite clear that negativity towards gays is based on nonsensical reactions to what is different from our tribal norms. Like it or not, justice requires that we change our thinking, even if our feelings are hard to re-set. Such tribal reactions to gays can be downright sinister.

" A true genetic trait would be naturally selected out of the population...."Bruce=Right. But you are assuming that there has been enough time for the trait to die out. Just wait, and it will. But that is only one possible explanation for why gay DNA is still around. There is another possible scenario: DNA theory allows for repetition of the emergence of a characteristic. It is possible that it has re-emerged, and so it is still quite common and will remain such for a while. It is also possible that there is more than one genetic cause of homosexuality.

@Matt Moses (5/9, 5:56 pm) and Bruce (5/10, 12:06 am) Some thoughts about love, procreation and civil marriage:1 - Civil marriage is not "all about love". Granted, in our society today, romantic love is the dominant cultural expectation for marriage. However, this is not the case for all societies (including predominantly Catholic ones) in human history. And it's not the case for all marriages in our society (e.g., arranged marriages, which still occur).2 - Civil marriage is not "all about procreation". (Neither is the Catholic sacrament of matrimony.) As Bruce points out, there are many cases in which a heterosexual couple gets married and there is no possibility of that couple procreating.3 - Civil marriage is, among other things, a legal status that defines a broad set of (hundreds of) legal rights, privileges and obligations. The right to visit a sick spouse in the hospital. Inheritance rights. Domestic violence legal protections. Spousal survivor benefits. The list goes on. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights_and_responsibilities_of_marriages_in...)So, should Jimmy Mac and his partner of almost 40 years (congratulations!) have access under US law to those rights, privileges and obligations? It seems to me that question is at the heart of this debate.

So, should Jimmy Mac and his partner of almost 40 years (congratulations!) have access under US law to those rights, privileges and obligations?Luke,I think the question is backward. I would frame it as follows: Marriage confers rights and privileges and obligations to cultivate, protect, and educate the next generation, what makes Jimmy Mac and his partners contribution so different from other societal relationships that it deserves special protection. Its not the sex because that adds nothing to society, its not the longevity because many close friendships last longer, its what? There's nothing there despite Ann being convinced she's seen something.

Right. But you are assuming that there has been enough time for the trait to die out. Just wait, and it will.Ann,LOL. So you think homosexuality just arose? LOL

Ann Oliver, thank you for 'getting it.'Bruce: Left handedness is not understood to be a genetic trait. BTW, I think the reason left handed people write awkwardly is that writing from left to right was designed for right handed people. (I wonder if systems of left to right writing lead to the same awkwardness in righties.Bruce: Left handedness is not a heredity trait and is not traceable (at this time) to DNA. Current thinking is that it is either a modification in the individual's DNA after conception, or is developed due to other factors in utero. Lefties have been subject to discrimination throughout history, and even in recent times schools, many Catholic schools, attempted to 'change' the dominant hand. Since we also don't know the origins of homosexuality, but now are quite certain it is a natural development, it bears some similarities to left handedness, imo.

"Do you object to President Obama protecting innocent Americans from the likes of bin Laden?"First of all, the analogy is totally inept: Osama Bin Laden was not an American citizen living on foreign soil.Second, I find it morally and legally objectionable that any President would claim the authority to assassinate an American citizen on foreign soil without trial or conviction. In the President Obama's view, human beings may marry whom they want (but apparently in his view nothing in the Federal Constitution prohibits the individual states from prohibiting this, i.e. he supports states' rights), but they have no right to be convicted of evidence against them prior to execution. That is a curious world.

Comment of the campaign so far: "When Mr. Romney changes his position on an issue, it's a "flip flop" or "etch a sketch". When Mr. Obama changes his position, it's "an evolution of thinking""http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/05/09/president-obama-in-a-dr...

Thanks, Jim, for undersxoring all the spin out there - oncluding your own.What's hasppening is an evolution in thought about this by the American people and the current divide based in theological/political views will be played out much more in comments of the campaign!

left-handedness, i.e. not genetic per se, but hardwired into an individual in ways not completely understoodjbruns and ann,I do not claim to know the origin of left-handedness or homosexuality. But your 'hardwired' and others 'genetic' are used to absolve those exhibiting the trait, whatever its origin, from taking responsibility for their actions under the guise of 'natural' imho. The origin of Alcoholism is equally as poorly understood but no one condones that behavior as acceptable because its 'natural' and the 'cure' is abstinence. Perhaps that is the appropriate action for homosexuality as well. The collective wisdom of our secular and religious ancestors is just that. Left handedness is an obfuscation.

Bruce: Fair enough. Just for the record, I am convinced that some numbers of people are naturally inclined toward homosexuality, and I am perfectly content to let them follow that inclination wherever that might lead, so long as it does not infringe on my or other's rights, which it generally does not. So I have no problem with gay civil unions or civil marriage, or in exercising their God given natural and government guaranteed civil rights. I understand and accept that you disagree.

@ Jeff Landry:You're looking at the world through the gimlet eyes of a canon lawyer: I didn't say ObL, I said "the LIKES of Osama bin Laden."The distinctions you are making parsing President Obama's use of power to protect Americans are downright "jesuitical."

Jbruns,Thanks. I'm willing to live with the notion that some people are naturally inclined toward homosexuality. I just believe its impossible for the expression of that inclination to 'not infringe on my or others rights'. I also accept and believe the church teaching that its immoral and hence feel benign neglect is not an option. But we all have to inform our consciences as best we can and then make those individual decisions.

the LIKES of Osama bin Laden.I.e., a foreign national who has declared war on the United States."The distinctions you are making parsing President Obamas use of power to protect Americans are downright jesuitical."Thank you; I take that as a compliment.

"Marriage confers rights and privileges and obligations to cultivate, protect, and educate the next generation ---"To my knowledge, nowhere in any legal statutes dealing with marriage is there any obligation that those availing themselves of this social contract that bestows financial, legal, inheritance, survivorship and other benefits ** to cultivate, protect and educate the next generation. If that were the case, there would be innumerable cases of fraud levied against thousands - maybe millions - of straight couples who have been derelict in their obligation by not having children. Also, those couples who failed to adequately cultivate, protect and educate the next generation would also be guilty of a crime.** According to the United States Government Accountability Office there are 1,138 statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining benefits, rights, and privileges. For a listing of these, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights_and_responsibilities_of_marriages_in...

Just so I'm clear, Jim, and avoid "parsing", you apparently accept the moral and legal argument that a President may completely circumvent an American citizen's due process rights under the federal Constitution, and be executed without trial, conviction and sentencing, simply because he or she happens to be in Berlin rather than Kansas City?If so, who's parsing what, exactly?

" I just believe its impossible for the expression of that inclination to not infringe on my or others rights. "There are no real nor perceived "rights" that are absolute in this country except for those specifically enumerated in the Constitution as interpreted and defined by the SCOTUS.Please explain how an expression of a homosexual orientatin infringes on your rights, whatever you think that they may be.

@Bruce (5/10, 9:12 am) Thanks for your reply. With all due respect to how you would frame the question, it seems to me that when we're talking about civil marriage in today's United States, it's not a matter of how you or I would frame the question or understand the institution. It's a matter of understanding what the institution is.The legal rights, privileges and obligations of civil marriage in the US today apply to married couples regardless of whether they have had, do have, or will have children. You or I might prefer or envision a legal regime with a different definition of marriage, but you or I might prefer or envision a lot of things that don't actually exist. In the world as it is, "(m)arriage confers rights and privileges and obligations to cultivate, protect, and educate the next generation..." is an incomplete definition of civil marriage in the US today.

is an incomplete definition of civil marriage in the US todayLuke,Unfortunately Luke, you are correct. So we can either try to get back to its roots by eliminating any possibility of divorce, or we can extend it to any relationship at all. No reason to limit it to two people, or people having sex, or any other restrictions at all. There is no rational reason to stop at a homosexual couple because there is nothing unique in that relationship.

I wonder how the story of Romney the bully will affect voters. (And how will his supporters spin it?)http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mitt-romneys-prep-school-classmat...

"There is no rational reason to stop at a homosexual couple because there is nothing unique in that relationship."Thank you. The next time you hear that gays and lesbians want special rights, remind the speaker that there is nothing unique in our relationships so we are not seeking anything other than the rights that pertain to other couples.You also might want to read the history of how marriage (Christian and otherwise) has changed over the centuries. Here's a source --- http://www.yawningbread.org/apdx_2004/imp-141.htm

The latest (March 2012) stats on (dis)approval of same-sex marriage:http://publicreligion.org/research/2012/05/research-note-evolution-of-am... Religion Research InstituteResearch Note | Evolution of American Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage(snip):"Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Millennials (age 18-29) support same-sex marriage, compared to only one-third (33%) of seniors."Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

@ Jeff Landry: Before you completely indulge yourself, I think you should look up the definition of "jesuitical." Unfortunately for you Jeff, when God created human nature I don't think She was observing legal distinctions and categorical thinking. Life is what it is: Always changing, always evolving, always challenging our puny human attempts to circumscribe it.@ Jimmy Mac: Thanks for your sharing your life and your relationships with us here - It makes this conversation so much more real. I agree, the clock is ticking - and not just for same-sex marriage. I have to believe that those Catholics who cling to their hierarchal church are also on the clock!

Another point worthy of consideration:" Isnt it time for the faith communities of this country to relax and recognize that civil laws regarding marriage need have no bearing on the religious rite of matrimony? A marriage certificate issued by the state does not make a marriage sacramental, and the religious communitys blessing of a faithful, lifelong, monogamous union does not institute a civil marriage. The current consternation in the Archdiocese of Washington exists because we have combined and confused the two entities in this country. It would be incomprehensible to churches and citizens throughout most of Europe, where marriage [civil] and matrimony [religious] are separately contracted. And since the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the civil marriage of its adherents, why should it concern itself with the civil marriages of same-sex couples? "(Rev.) Frank Bergen Tucson, Ariz. Ltr to Editor, 1/4/10http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12079

Thank you. The next time you hear that gays and lesbians want special rights,Jimmy Mac,Great way to misquote the argument! Gay and Lesbian relationships are biologically different from heterosexual relationships, but if you keep obfuscating then you might get your way. Good luck.

Bruce, Your evangelism for loveless marriage and mechanistic sex that happens purely for procreation is certainly a dystopian vision. And you're right about same sex marriage leading to marriage without any restrictions at all. It's the same as how beef eating has lead to cannibalism and how letting gay people vote led to llamas, pigs and turkeys being allowed to vote.http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-04-03/homophobia-psycholo... hope you're alright.

Matt,Thanks for those intelligent, thoughtful comments. Those insights will be helpful in getting to the best solution for the common good.

Lisa, back in the original post, wrote, "And, of course, Im bracing for magisterial push-back to Biden." I just want to call out that there is now a statement by Cardinal Dolan on the USCCB website, not in response to VP Biden's remarks but to President Obama's announcement from a couple of days ago.http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/cardinal-dolan-president-obama-remarks-on...

Tick, tock, Bruce. Tick, tock.

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