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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.


Commenting Guidelines

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. 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. 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 - 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:

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.

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.



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).