A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Marriage Equality: A Gen-Y Perspective

Yesterday morning, I logged on to Facebook just like every other day. The first update in my newsfeed was from a friend who had changed her profile picture to a pink equal sign with a bright red background. I read the description: "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution." Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Article 16:1 (1948). Well, I agree with that. I thought, so I liked her photo, closed my browser and went on with my day. At lunch, I checked Facebook again and about one out of four of my friends had changed their profile pictures to some variation of the same image. By the end of the day, it was nearly half.

Of course, my Facebook friends may not be the most representative cross-section of my generation. Many of my closest friends are openly gay. I live in New York City. I went to a fairly liberal (Catholic) university for my undergraduate degree, and for graduate school I attended NYU-recognized for its advancement of gay rights. Still, my peers support for marriage equality comes as no surprise. While 51 percent of all Americans support same-sex marriage, the number of those aged eighteen to twenty-nine who support it is 81 percent. My generation, regardless of religious or political affiliation, does not see gay marriage as a big deal. I am a practicing Catholic, I was raised in a conservative Catholic family, and I went to Catholic school until I graduated from college. Like many of my peers, I appreciate the church's teaching on marriage, but respectfully hold a different viewpoint. Over the course of my high school and college career, I, like many others my age, watched friend after friend-many of them also practicing Catholics-struggle with their homosexuality, their decision to come out, and the response from friends and family after they made that decision. More often than not, nothing changed, except their comfort level and happiness. For the most part, their peers accepted their admission without hesitation. It usually took their parents longest to come around to the idea, but they ultimately accepted it too.

Because it has become so much more socially acceptable for men and women of my generation to publically declare their sexual orientation and openly date members of the same sex, because we have become so accustomed to seeing and supporting it, members of my generation find it difficult to draw the line at dating. If my friend can date who she wants, why shouldn't she marry who she wants? And moreover, if I can marry who I want, why shouldn't my best friend be able to do the same thing? It may be a long road to true marriage equality, but, as the Supreme Court hears cases for and against Proposition 8 and DOMA, I have no doubt it will happen eventually. The time will come when all those people who changed their profile pictures to equal signs are in a position of much more authority and influence. Of course there are many people of all ages who disagree with me, but it seems clear that the shift in thinking is well underway.



Commenting Guidelines

As for equality, well, those persons with a same-sex attraction have always had, and still have, the fundamental right and ability to marry. But, as noted above, what is desired is not marriage, that is, marriage marriage - marriage with a person of the opposite sex - but something different, something new -- something unequal to what exists today. The argument is basically that equality demands inequality.But then again, it really is not about equality for same-sex persons or couples. They can call themselves whatever they want. They can hold themselves out to the public whichever way they want. They can even find some churches to "marry" them.No, this is not about the freedom of same-sex persons. This is about compelling everyone else to say "yes, you are married." This is about denying other people the fundamental right to speak freely, it is about requiring them to speak and give public fealty to what they know to be false. In historical parallel terms, it is about making everyone give an oath that the true wife of King Henry is not Queen Catherine, but Lady Anne Boleyn.

Per Jim If mixed-race couples wanted marriage, why didnt they mobilize the legislatures at the state level to change state law?That situation was of course quite different than gay marriage Jim. In those days, the state laws were a perversion of the traditional view of marriage. Worldwide up until American racism took hold, societies did not have rules regarding inter-racial marriage. Most hardly even commented on it.And so in Loving v. Virginia, the supreme court set the state laws right with the federal constitution and with the traditional, non-racist view of marriage

The theology of marriage is not impoverished and neither is the philosophy of marriage for that matter (for our non-religious friends). What is impoverished is the imagination of generations of people who do not bother to give serious thought to fundamental questions.But the question of the nature of marriage is as plain as the nose on one's face. Of course, that does not prevent people from ignoring those noses.No need to get into Genesis here -- the nature of marriage is as plain as the human body, made male and female. It is as plain as -- and sorry to have to get graphic here -- as what actually is involved in (a) the sexual union of male and female, that is, the joinder of their respective pro-creative organs, with an exchange of pro-creative genetic material, with the possibility, by their nature as male and female, of perpetuating their union with children, and (b) the physical union of a man and another man, that is, the joinder of a pro-creative organ with a non-pro-creative organ, with the result of absolutely no possibility whatsoever of perpetuating their union when one's pro-creative genetic material is injected into the other's digestive tract. Again, sorry to get graphic here, but the fact is that there cannot be an authentic and true joinder of a man and a man in their physical coupling. By their very nature, they cannot be "married" to each other.It is only by ignoring the nature of the human person, male and female, and by asserting the power to decree reality for one's self that the fiction of "same-sex marriage" could ever exist.Now, if they want to have legal rights, etc. attached to their union, that is another question, but whatever that union might be called, it cannot ontologically and existentially be called "marriage."

Speaking of before the 5th centure, here is a funeral oration of St Basil the Great by his friend and doctor of the church, St Gregory of Nazianzus that was pointed out to me a few days ago. I am told that in places, one finds not only "philia" but also the words "eros" and "pothos".17. This was the prelude of our friendship. This was the kindling spark of our union: thus we felt the wound of mutual love.[]18. {]In this way I restored his cheerfulness, and by this mutual experience, he was the more closely united to me.19. And when, as time went on, we acknowledged our mutual affection, and that philosophy was our aim, we were all in all to one another, housemates, messmates, intimates, with one object in life, or an affection for each other ever growing warmer and stronger. Love for bodily attractions, since its objects are fleeting, is as fleeting as the flowers of spring. For the flame cannot survive, when the fuel is exhausted, and departs along with that which kindles it, nor does desire abide, when its incentive wastes away. But love which is godly and under restraint, since its object is stable, not only is more lasting, but, the fuller its vision of beauty grows, the more closely does it bind to itself and to one another the hearts of those whose love has one and the same object. This is the law of our superhuman love. I feel that I am being unduly borne away, and I know not how to enter upon this point, yet I cannot restrain myself from describing it. For if I have omitted anything, it seems, immediately afterwards, of pressing importance, and of more consequence than what I had preferred to mention. And if any one would carry me tyrannically forward, I become like the polyps, which when they are being dragged from their holes, cling with their suckers to the rocks, and cannot be detached, until the last of these has had exerted upon it its necessary share of force. If then you give me leave, I have my request, if not I must take it from myself.20. Such were our feelings for each other, when we had thus supported, as Pindar has it, our well-built chamber with pillars of gold, as we advanced under the united influences of God's grace and our own affection. Oh! How can I mention these things without tears. [] We seemed to have one soul, inhabiting two bodies. And if we must not believe those whose doctrine is All things are in all; yet in our case it was worthy of belief, so did we live in and with each other. [] 22. [] and so we became famous[]. For our instructors were known to all who knew Athens, and all who knew them, knew us, as the subject of conversation, being actually looked upon, or heard of by report, as an illustrious pair. Orestes and Pylades were in their eyes nothing to us []

Forgot to link to the source:

First off, pace many of the posters here, as a member of Generation Y, I haven't seen the slovenly lack of thought/interest among my peers that you project. To quote Bruce many on here seem to act "as though they have all the knowledge [and] no one of any intelligence could possibly see the world differently." These arguments have been done, and to death. The have been going on (unanswered) in this very post! If the church doesn't recognize purely civil acts as either real marriages or their dissolutions as real divorces, what possible difference does it make if that civil definition is expanded? This also attached to Bender's claims on the ontological status of marriage: the church already recognizes two equivocal senses of the term in its own laws concerning marriage and annulment. Civil marriages are not sacramental, ergo, in the eyes of the church, they are not marriages at all! So why all this fuzz about changing something that isn't recognized as much of anything to begin with, at least ecclesially? On the questions of children, the obvious points about those who are infertile and over-age being able to marry has already been raised......and left unanswered. And even Bill O'Reilly (!) has acknowledged that no one has been able to raise a single, concrete harm that will come of this, other than fear-mongering and vague concerns that cannot possibly be disproven because they do not exist! It's like saying, "We shouldn't elect a pope until we are 100% certain that there is not chance he will somehow harm the church." That conclave would be a rather long one!Aside from this though, there is a more important element that touches on the many references to those who know gay people in relationships and marriages. Earlier, Bruce mentioned the issues of hating the sin but loving the sinner. This may actually get to something quite important. The reason that this approach is abandoned is not that suddenly we think sin is unimportant, but precisely because we recognize that this IS NOT SIN! Many Catholics have experienced (or are in, since gay people are not simply found outside the church) Christ through gay relationships. They have seen grace. In my own case, I have a cousin who, though he knew his intended had a life-threatening and debilitating brain condition that could "go off" at any moment, chose to marry him anyway. And when that condition finally did set off a series of potentially deadly strokes, the fidelity, care, and self-effacing love that was shown was an inspiration to anyone who knew them. Many people I know learned what marriage was from these two men, not from some abstract generalization about ontology. They recognized grace when they saw it, and very, very good fruit. According to the church, the very best that could be said of this relationship is that it was somehow the "lesser of evils" (and more likely that it is a threat to the entire created order). Those who can see it needn't argue against such ideas; they are self-evidently absurd. This is not intellectual laziness or "going with the flow." It is having the capacity to recognize the eruption of grace when it is before our eyes.This, of course, does not mean that all gay marriages would be this way, any more so than all straight marriages are holy unions that show forth and help sanctify those around them, as Todd very nicely put. But it does, I think, show that there is nothing IN PRINCIPLE, that indicates that gay marriage is an obstacle to grace. And if it is not, it is not sin.

I'd like to thank Jim Pauwels for thanking KeriLee. Those in pastoral activities need to understand the forces that have formed Our Young People's opinions and address their attitudes in a friendly way.Harrumphers, Baby-Boom blamers, and the "it's just not natural" party do not understand that, however misguided by Church standards the GenY view of homosexuality and marriage is, it is guided by a basic kind-heartedness. Matthew Sheppard is their Emmet Till, and until Church teaching against same sex attraction can be purged of the hatred and bigotry it sometimes hides, nobody's going to get anywhere with these kids.

"No need to get into Genesis here ..."Of course not. The patriarchs, with the exception of Isaac, were all about taking extra wives/concubines for all sorts of reasons, mainly to ensure their "pelagian" instincts in furthering their vision of God's plan for a great nation.All I'm suggesting is some clarity. If we're talking sacramental marriage, then our first reference point is Christ, not Genesis. Certainly as Scripture, Genesis informs believers. But it doesn't rule us. Abram was impatient with the covenant, hence the dysfunction of Hagar and Ishmael. Jacob was a wuss and a trickster."The theology of marriage is not impoverished ..."lol. It is when anti-gays stop at Genesis 2. Or treat Genesis as science.

Jean wrote - ...until Church teaching against same sex attraction can be purged of the hatred and bigotry it sometimes hides, nobodys going to get anywhere with these kids.Has it not occurred to anyone that maybe these "kids" have it right and that there is at least a possibility that the church's "traditional" teachings on marriage might not be "right' just as some teachings haven't been right at other times throughout church history? Doctrine evolves.It seems that some reduce the holiness of the sacrament of marriage to a purely utilitarian function- procreation. But, lots of people procreate without any holiness involved. And lots of people have very holy and sacramental marital relationships without begetting children - including those who know themselves well enough to understand that they would make lousy parents, but whose loving and holy sacramental marriage grounds them so that their generosity can still be extended to others in the world, because not confined to a narrow world consisting primarily of their own offspring.Jim Dunn has described a very holy and sacramental marriage - how blessed he was to have had such parents. The holiness and sacramental essence of his parents' marriage was in the committed love relationship of his parents. This type of marital relationship was absent through most of the history of marriage, which served as business contract during history when children were sought primarily for their economic utility to the family business, whether sheep-herding or black-smithing. If, as is possible, the Holy Spirit is whispering, is anyone besides the young open to hearing?

Agree, Anne. "Doctrine evolves." So do non-religious definitions of marriage and the reasons for marriage. Those who think/wish their definition should be THE definition should read some history to see how fluid the concept really is (and how often money is the determining factor).Just one example: Augustine and the mother of his son could have married. She was not his "concubine." (Why he refused to marry her is unknown.)"For a concubine was a woman debarred from lawful marriage by the laws that prohibited the union of persons of known high status with persons of low status. Augustine lacked the sort of high status that the late Roman laws against msalliance were designed to protect. He was sufficiently unimportant to be free to marry whomever he wished." Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, by Peter Brown, p. 150.

Andy -- the kind of sacrificial love of which you speak is a great and good thing wherever it is found. That said, can you be more specific about (sorry to be so blunt) the role of orgasms here? Orgasms are pretty much all that distinguish the love of which you speak from the love of a true and committed friend. But why should a devout friendship that occasionally includes orgasms lead to more societal recognition than a devout friendship without the orgasms?

"Has it not occurred to anyone that maybe these 'kids' have it right and that there is at least a possibility that the churchs 'traditional' teachings on marriage might not be 'right just as some teachings havent been right at other times throughout church history?"Of course, Ann. But the reality is that those who support traditional Church teachings on homosexuality and marriage are ascendant, and traditional Catholics need to understand that, to the larger world, they are not offering a compelling case for their views to many young people.

While I have no read every entry, I am surprised that there has been no mention of John Boswell's master works on tolerance and homosexulaity and especially the latter work of "Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe." While controversial, these effectively countered those who believe that there was one monolithic view of homosexulaity and committed union.

No problem with the bluntness at all, but I do think this is a rather reductive view of marriages (one that is perfectly understandable when marriage is seen primarily through the lens of procreation). To be honest, in this particular relationship, I have no idea what the specific role of orgasms are, any more than I do about any other married couple I know. I can only presume, however, that the erotic life of these two men is part and parcel of the covenanted, public commitment and love that they have for one another. Their erotic life (which I would be loath to reduce to orgasm), like that of most good marriages, cannot be separated from their larger commitments. The sacrificial, committed, covenanted love IS erotic love in this case, as it is for all modern marriages. They are the same thing; to quote St. Gregory of Nyssa, "eros is simply agape brought to the point of intensity."

Do you have an answer to my final question? Imagine the same committed love between people, but in the form of dear friendship that doesn't include occasional orgasms. Why doesn't that friendship deserve just as much state recognition?

Also, while somewhat tangential, the complex and long evolving canonical position of the Church regarding anullments would deserve reflection. There is hardly a part of church discipline today that is more relativistic (depending upon place nd culture and availability of canon lawyers!) and trulty undermining of its own proclaimed theology of marriage. Most couples who have sought his realize that they were truly married -with imperfect knowledge or consent or ability to effectuate the bond - but hat they were REALLY married, often giving it their best shot, and it didn't work out. They called it. ow they go back and parse elements for "annulment." Of some value for some, but painfully unnecessary for most...

Remember the national referendum we had on slavery? It was called the Civil War. Historians I've read have said that it would have been unlilkely that "anti-slavery/ freedom from bondage" amendment would have passed even in the North without that blood-letting. and the Confederate states, while eventually adopting the 13th and subsequent amendments, reflected more the coercion than the will of the majority.For those who want referendums to establish the "majority rules" laws regarding gay marriage, our history is not clear that this has been the only vehicle for social change.

Wasting Time--Personally, I have no problem with state recognition of such a union. But since marriage, as currently understood, is assumed to be an erotic relationship--but in a non-reductive sense--it's not really what the conversation is about. Also, the difference between this (as in any marriage) is that it is not simply a devout friendship but, as Jim Pauwels points out above, a PUBLICLY covenanted one. There used to be such a rite for covenanted friendship (see David Pasinski about Boswell, though I think Boswell does stretch the evidence to breaking point in arguing that these were seen as marriages), and I would have absolutely no issue if either the church or state instituted it now, but as it stands currently, eros and the public covenanting of marriage go together.

Also, having relationships of very good friends that are not sexually involved has already been part of our very messy traditions of marriage. The clearest example is the traditional view of Joseph and Mary.

Back to Jim Pauwels and Jean Raber: Thanks are due to KeriLee Homan for a direct and succinct description of her experience as a Gen Xer. And thanks to JP and JR who more than some of us may have direct and frequent contact with Gen Xers, hence their thoughtful pastoral and pedagogic responses. Taken to heart.The whole discussion, which I find fascinating (anyone know how to diagram a discussion?) reminds us that we each speak from a specific context: generation, gender, occupation, marital status, children status, region, urban/rural, education, personal experience, etc. As one born before generation were given nicknames by pollsters and demographers, I would like to mention the following.1. The "Catholic Church" has lost out on this discussion and beating it over the head is, well, beating a dead head. The "Catholic Church" will go on holding views on marriage that are not accepted by non-Catholics, and many Catholics as well. Who is surprised to hear of a pastor who has blessed a same-sex marriage and baptized the children thereof? On the other hand, who is surprised to hear of a pastor who forbids a same-sex couple from receiving communion, singing in the choir, etc.2. Those whose views have been changed in observing the normalness, friendliness, and neighborliness of same-sex marriage and families will in time also have to deal with some such marriages and families that have become as unhappy and as dysfunctional as some "opposite sex" marriages. 3. As someone who grew up in the fifties I find in KeriLee Homan's narrative a strong strand of conformity to the spirit of the times. We are all subject to it. On the other hand, we sometimes have to recognize the limits of agreeing with what our friends and peers think and think for ourselves, hence the value of critical analysis and a certain level of philosophical mulling. That's how we came to have an end to Jim Crow and the civil rights act.4. A minor addendum. One way marriage in the U.S. has changed is that inter-faith and inter-religious marriages, which were once a scandal, are now widely accepted. But not everywhere and by everyone. Why? Because couples, unless one joins the others community [and ends the inter-faith quality of the marriage], often take the easiest path and give up religious practice altogether (see, James Davidson's studies).

But since marriage, as currently understood, is assumed to be an erotic relationshipYes, and therefore what? We're here to challenge the bedrock assumptions about the nature of marriage, no? Why should that assumption lie unquestioned?

Wasting Time--Well, I put the "as currently understood" precisely to show that that is changeable. In fact, it has already changed. It is one of the numerous inconsistencies in Catholic teaching on marriage that, though procreation is the obsessive focus, traditionally many non-sexual couples were married. As I mention above, the clearest example is Joseph and Mary, but there are many accounts of early martyrs (whether historically accurate or not is beside the point) who married people with whom they pledged celibacy. Thus, you are quite correct, "traditionally" there is no requirement for sex to make a marriage (though current annulment law seems to indicate otherwise...if only Mary and Joseph had known!). So please question the assumption, and we might finally start to see that this thing we call marriage is way more complicated than "one man/one woman" permits!

Keri Lee: I don't know if you're reading these comments, but if you are, I'd so like to know how you came to disagree with the Church's position on marriage. I'm assuming that includes its teaching on all aspects of sexuality, and not just who can and cannot marry. Did you ever believe these things? Was Church moral doctrine relating to sex ever presented in detail at school, or did you hear about it mainly from teachers who asked how you and your fellow students *felt* about this or that "issue"? My own children's experience in Catholic schools makes me wonder if that's what more or less passes for "religious education" today. Good teaching in the higher grades clearly requires motivating students to think on their own, but my children never came across a Catholic teacher who managed to impart the intellectual groundwork required to understand Church teaching, much less the tools necessary to seriously criticize it. Instead, students were asked to share personal experiences, the most dramatic of which almost always challenged and rarely undergirded anybody's faith. Little wonder the majority came to the conclusions they did.The point can always be made that parents are the utimate teachers of the young, but we're only one part of the village; the rest matter too....and even more once our children are out on their own.

Margaret, diagramming a discussion might be an interesting exercise. I might try it with my argumentative composition class this spring! I think Beverly gets to something important to the intergenerational discussion, and that is how the faith is presented, not just in Catholic schools, where only a minority of Catholic children are now catechized, but in CCD classes. As important as the intellectual underpinning--which, let's face it, not all children will be able to grasp (I'm not sure I always do)--is the tone with which it is presented. As a teacher now almost 60, I sometimes find it tiresome when students want to wallow around in their "feelings." But that is often a necessary prelude to pushing them them into deeper waters and getting them to examine those feelings and the assumptions they derive from them. My concern is whether any of that pushing is occurring. Or whether rites of passage such as First Communion and Confirmation are merely getting the kids, as our CCD teacher likes to call it, "processed."

"Why doesnt that friendship deserve just as much state recognition?"I'll bite.I think it should. Say my elderly mother and sister choose to live together. Shouldn't there be some benefit to keeping the elderly in families, neighborhoods, and such, and out of corporate housing? If my sister could derive some tax benefit from caring for our mother, I think she should. She's made the sacrifice neither I nor our society have made."Favored" status for people who live together could well be a part of modern society. It's sure a lot better than associating "personhood" to corporations.Also, since it is the sexual act that seems so objectionable, what if the anti-gay movement just went for the criminalization of sex outside of a first man-woman marriage? Then we could have all the unions people wanted.

I cannot, obviously, speak for KeriLee, but in my own Catholic education, I'd say that Beverley's general point stands. I learned very little doctrinally through grade school of any depth (but I did learn how to color pictures!). In the Catholic high school I attended, however, I was challenged enough to begin my own explorations. The one thing I certainly did learn, though, was that birth control was evil, gay marriage an offense against God and nature, and sex was only for within marriage. In other words, my Catholic education was rather weak on the things that matter (the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection) and very strong on the rules and teachings of the church on sex. This is only my experience, however, so I can't comment about how wide-spread it was.

"If my sister could derive some tax benefit from caring for our mother, I think she should."Just a point of information: she does. An elderly relative can be listed as a dependent, resulting in a lower tax burden for the greater income earner."Family" is privileged over "friendship" in the tax code. This reflects a long tradition of family bonds being part of the fabric of society and public life in a way that friendship is not; friendship being something which occurs in the realm of private life.

Beverly: I am reading the comments, and appreciate the spirited debate this comment thread has provided. In Catholic high school I received a good deal of formal education about the morality of marriage and sexuality (as well as other aspects of the faith). We learned abstinence until marriage, followed by natural family planning. These lessons were based in moral doctrine as well as experience provided by guest speakers. Still, my parents were the biggest influence in my outlook on church teachings and as I said in my post, they are conservative. We still disagree about what marriage equality means and discuss it almost every time were together. Personally, I think my views on sexuality are fairly conservative for my generation and are due, mostly, to the example set by my parents.The shift in thinking began when I started to realize many of the people I was friends with were gay. Most of them, in a rural Catholic high school, were not open about it until they went to college. It wasnt confirmed or denied, it just wasnt discussed. How could I not continue to love them, those to whom I had become so close over so many years, because they told me such a basic truth about themselves? They didnt change at all because thats always who they were. We still fantasized about our future weddings, as teenagers do, except now when I envisioned it, they were standing across from another man instead of a woman. As many of you have pointed out, I did not include a definition of marriage in my post. This is, of course, a distilled version of what I think but to me (and likely to many my age) it is very simple: two people who love each other committing to a lifetime together. I think its the same thing as what my parents have except between two members of the same sex. The discussion of whether or not it should be provided by the church is entirely separate.To the point that Bender raised: Ultimately, if marriage equality were achieved, the word gay would not be applied to it marriage. Homosexual couples dont gay date. They date. The word gay is applied in this discussion because saying something like: My generation, regardless of religious or political affiliation, does not see gay marriage as a big deal takes on an entirely different meaning if the word gay were omitted.Margaret: I believe my generation feels marriage is important. Were waiting until were older to commit to getting married (my mothernow celebrating her 30th year of marriagewas engaged at 22 and married at 23, which is younger than I am right now). My generation is not the generation of 50% divorce rate. Whether we continue the same trend remains to be seen, but in my experience, the divorces of those who have raised us has forced us to take marriage more seriously. Ive had many conversations with people who say I dont want to end up like my parents, instead wanting a long and happy marriage with the right person. I dont know many people who feel it is trivial. Many of us are looking forward to eventually making the commitment.

A small point, Margaret @ 12:30. Gen-X is the population cohort born after the end of the "baby boom" generation - from the 1960s to 1980s. They are now in their 30s with the leading edge members pushing middle age. Keri, a member of Gen-Y is reporting the reactions of younger adults - those born from the 1980s through the early 2000s and now in high school, college or making their way as young adults in society, perhaps beginning to make decisions about marriage. Your larger point - that we all are impacted by the cultural norms of our own generation is correct, but it is important to distinguish Gen-X from Gen-Y in looking at religious/belief trends at least in the Catholic church. Going by the responses to studies done by William D'Antonio, the late Dean Hoge, et al at Catholic University, as well as studies done by other groups, Gen-X Catholics are a bit more "conservative" than either their "boomer" elders or the Gen-Y cohort. Your larger point, that we are all impacted by the cultural norms of our own generation is not really under dispute. Nor is your comment about inter-faith marriages, which implies (probably correctly) a trend to less engagement with institutional religion. This is especially true in the Catholic church since the non-Catholic partner, even one who is a baptized Christian, is banned from the Eucharist. This often makes the Catholic partner angry enough to leave, because their loved spouse is being treated as a sort of "second-class" christian, rather than as a committed follower of Christ.You did not mention inter-racial marriages, which have soared in recent years, especially among Gen-Y and younger Gen-X members. Just as they are far more accepting of homosexuality than are most of their elders, they are more accepting of other races. Those of us who are older can well remember when inter-racial marriages were illegal and remember also that much of the opposition to legalizing inter-racial marriage came from "christians" using scripture to support their views that inter-racial marriages were "unnatural" and opposed to God's law.

KeriLee -- You say that marriage is "two people who love each other committing to a lifetime together."Why a lifetime?Does this love have to be erotic in nature?Why two? In other words, why be so limiting as to what "marriage" can be? At the same time, when you've settled on a definition of "marriage," why should the state (the government) grant any official recognition to it?

What I've finally concluded is that bigotry can be put on display by otherwise decent people who do not see themselves harboring and mouthing bigotry. I've no doubt that genteel folks in the Ol' South saw nothing wrong with human slavery, perhaps even treated their property with a modicum of respect.

"But going back to language, notice the very term gay marriage. Not marriage simpliciter, but gay marriage. That is, it is not marriage marriage, but something different."Bruce --You need to learn the difference between a genus and a specific difference. If I say that a "quadrangle" is a "geometrical figure with four sides" then that is a definition of "quadrangle". But if I add "straight sided" (a specific difference), then I have specified a less general class of quadrangles. But the meaning of "geometrical figure with four sides" has not changed one whit. So when I define "marriage" in a particular way and add "gay" as a specification, I do not necessarily change the meaning of "marriage" in that phrase. YOU might change the meaning of "marriage" by adding "gay", but many of the rest of us do not. The question becomes: how do our meanings of "marriage" differ, and most important, Is it *possible* to add "gay" to "marriage" without a self=contradiction? In other words, is it possible for marriage to occur when both parties are of the same sex? If by definition you mean by marriage "a union of a man and woman", then, of ocurse, in THAT sense of the phrase, then same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. But the question is: is what the Church has meant by 'marriage" essentially/necessarily a union of one male and one female? That's the theological issue, and the civil law issue is quite similar. But before we settle the issue, we have to do one thing: define the word "marriage" very, very carefully. Only after we do that can we discuss the issues without talking past each other by giving the word different meanings.

Joseph Jaglowicz: "What Ive finally concluded is that bigotry can be put on display by otherwise decent people who do not see themselves harboring and mouthing bigotry." Sometime dotCommonweal should have a post on anti-bigotry bigotry, when you could more amply and rationally defend your views.

The phrase "the meaning of a word" is highly ambiguous. Let's consider the basic elements in the uses of words. There can be:1. a physical symbol OR a class of similar physical symbols (e.g., "triangle" and all the instances of t-r-i-a-n-g-l-e, including, e.g., "triangle", "triangle", "triangle" . In this sense of "triangle" we can say that "triangle" includes three syllables, but we cannot say that a three-sided, straight-sided geometrical figure includes three syllables.)2. the meaning (sense) of that physical symbol -- the concept it refers to, the definition is refers to (viz, "three-sided, straight-sided geometrical figure")3. the *referents* of the symbols (viz.,every real, extra-mental triangle).NOTE WELL: the *referent* of a physical symbol sometimes does not match the *thought/concept* associated with that physical symbol. For instance, if I say, "that's a pretty little girl", I might have mistaken a pretty little boy for a pretty little girl. In such a case my thought (which includes the thought "girl") does not match/represent what the referent, the boy, truly is, and my judgment is mistaken.Our uses of physical symbols can cause trouble in at least several basic ways. First, when one's own meaning (concept, definition) is different from the *referents* we apply the concept to For instance, when I mistakenly judge something to be a kind of thing which it really isn't (e.g., when I judged the boy to be a girl). Second, when *another person's* definition (concept) is different from my own. For instance, if I say "He's a Saint" (thinking of Drew Brees), you might reply, "Oh, no, he isn't" (you would be probably be thinking of Drew Brees as a nice, but ordinary man). Note: n the latter case we could *both* be right -- if we are using different definitions of "saint". Third, we run into trouble when we confuse referents of a term. For instance, if I say that "Thomas Jefferson was the second President of the U. S." I have confused him with John Adams -- I have misidentified the *referent* of the term "second President of the U. S.". In discussing "gay marriage" all these sorts of semantic problems have arisen.Yes, complexity, complexity, complexity. But that's the way it is. All the more reason to try to define our terms as best we can to start with. That way we can at least avoid some problems.

@Rita E. FerroneYou wanted to know the meaning of what I said "Gay lesbian couples can also bear a child in vitro, as infertile heterosexual couples can do. I offer you additional reflections.1. The ovum of a female lesbian couple or a female heterosexual spouse can be fertilized by the seed of a fertile male outside the woman's body and implanted into the lesbian or heterosexual woman's womb. Here we do not have genetic parenthood (e.g. there is no male spouse in a lesbian relationship and the male spouse is infertile in the heterosexual relationship), but we do have gestational parenthood and the responsibly for upbringing (social parenthood).2. The female lesbian or a female heterosexual can adopt a frozen embryo, one that is not killed as a result of another couple's in vitro fertilization. In this case, a frozen embryo is given a chance at life. Here we have no genetic parenthood, but we do have gestational parenthood and the responsibility for upbringing as well (social parenthood).3. Homosexual couples, lesbian and heterosexual couples can adopt a post natal child. In either case, we do not have genetic or gestational parenthood but only social parenthood.If the argument is that some of these cases are immoral because they lack genetic parenthood, but possess only gestational and/or social parenthood, one needs to explain the licitness of postnatal adoption by heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian couples where there is neither genetic or gestational but only social parenthood.

"Before one ever gets to the question of equality, one must (or should if he really cares about the matter) first ask the primary and fundamental question of what is marriage? What is the ontological, existential nature of marriage?"Bender --When you refer to "the" ontological existential nature of marriage it *shows* that you think that the symbol "marriage" has ONLY ONE REAL/IMPORTANT meaning AND ITS YOUR OWN MEANING.Not so. All the various meanings of "marriage" are real meanings. The question should be: which is the meaning of "marriage" that is most important for the common good? If there are indeed different species of marriage and all of them are important for the common good, then we have to explore that matter. Do not oversimplify!!!!

Bender -- You win the argument that you have set up by your defining "marriage" as being between a man and a woman. But the issue here is; is the procreative nature of the man-woman species of marriage essential to what "marriage" is? You can appeal to Genesis, but note that Genesis does NOT itself claim to say all that can be said about the most intimate friendship of human beings (i.e., marriage). So you can't really elimenate gay marriage on the basis of Genesis. Genesis is non-commital on the subject. There might be more to be said.

LukeThanks for the age grouping, I actually know a few!How could I not continue to love them...Am I the only one who finds the implications of this question troubling? Who, at any point in any conversation on this topic, ever suggested in any way, shape or form that we not continue to love them? Is that what is thought of those who support traditional marriagethat they dont love people with same sex desires? I see the Church teaching to be just the opposite--to love them until it hurts. To suffer every type of slander against you from the politically correct, but to stay focused on what ultimately helps lead them to Christ. After all, the teaching is not that we should celebrate an alcoholic taking another drink, though that may be his (seemingly) greatest desire, is it? Wheres the equality in that?

Sacramental/religious marriage is NOT the goal of most of the same-sex couples I know. Stop worrying about it! If a religious group chooses to bless a same-sex marriage, that is frosting but not the cake.The only reason religious marriages are vehicles for imparting SECULAR rights, obligations and benefits is because the state has chosen to deputize those in a ministerial capacity to sign the SECULAR marriage license. All of the religious documents, seals, trumpets and blessings in the world do not impart secular benefits.Secular marriages would be outside this intersection of "church" and state. That is what most of us are looking for. But they will be marriages in the eyes of the law. That's all that is important because they will impart the same rights, benefits and obligations granted by the religious deputies of the state, i.e., the taxpayers who fund all of what heterosexuals take for granted as their rights.You can take the locks and chains off your church, synagogue, mosque and coven doors and remove the guards with their AK-47s. We won't be storming them unless you open them to and for us. And I am not going to hold my breath that Holy Mother Church will do that anytime soon, with or without a human being the quality of Francis as pope.You all can debate this until Jesus comes, but things are changing so fast these days you won't know what has hit you when you wake up and find out how MUCH has changed. Continued opposition just reinforces the every-widening (and may I say valid?) view of so much of society that religions are repressive rather than supportive.

Bender --By asserting that human genitals may be used only for procreative purposes you are asserting that parts of human bodies can have one and only one main purpose which must never be subverted. However, the Church in effect has contradicted this. For instance, human hands, which are used for the necessary basic purpose of feeding ourselves (thus making continued life possible), also are allowed to be used for many other things at other times, even frivolous things like waving bye-bye to babes or tapping our fingers in rhythm to a snappy tune, or blessing bread. Further, reducing marriage to the use of genitals reduces people to merely brute animals, a most unChristian view.What reasons do you give to justify your positions -- that there is an animal purpose for human genitals that must always be intended? (Note: sexual intercourse results only in human bodies, not human souls. So the process is essentially animal.)

Ann, Nice explanation but since marriage does not currently include gay couples, nor has it ever, you need the adjective to expand the definition. Your geometry example is the exact opposite.

"But what does that have to do with not supporting marriage equality?"I am asking for the same advocacy for the poor as we have for same sex marriage, married priests, women priests, etc. I want the poor in the discussion fully. Not as lip service or occasional. We should not use "preferential option" unless we take it seriously. Francis gets this. He is going with the poor and downtrodden first. Hopefully that will lead to "all" the poor and downtrodden.

Claire --That is indeed a very beautiful testimony to human friendship, but it is not (from what I understand from the best-married people I have known) FULL, most intimate human friendship. John Donne, the greatest of English love-poets is perhaps most famous for his extraordinary poem about the fulness of human love, in which he grants the superiority of the spiritual dimension, but notes that to be fully human it must also be physical. Here is it:The EcstasyWhere, like a pillow on a bedA pregnant bank swell'd up to restThe violet's reclining head,Sat we two, one another's best.Our hands were firmly cementedWith a fast balm, which thence did spring;Our eye-beams twisted, and did threadOur eyes upon one double string;So to'intergraft our hands, as yetWas all the means to make us one,And pictures in our eyes to getWas all our propagation.As 'twixt two equal armies fateSuspends uncertain victory,Our souls (which to advance their stateWere gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.And whilst our souls negotiate there,We like sepulchral statues lay;All day, the same our postures were,And we said nothing, all the day.If any, so by love refin'dThat he soul's language understood,And by good love were grown all mind,Within convenient distance stood,He (though he knew not which soul spake,Because both meant, both spake the same)Might thence a new concoction takeAnd part far purer than he came.This ecstasy doth unperplex,We said, and tell us what we love;We see by this it was not sex,We see we saw not what did move;But as all several souls containMixture of things, they know not what,Love these mix'd souls doth mix againAnd makes both one, each this and that.A single violet transplant,The strength, the colour, and the size,(All which before was poor and scant)Redoubles still, and multiplies.When love with one another soInterinanimates two souls,That abler soul, which thence doth flow,Defects of loneliness controls.We then, who are this new soul, knowOf what we are compos'd and made,For th' atomies of which we growAre souls. whom no change can invade.But oh alas, so long, so far,Our bodies why do we forbear?They'are ours, though they'are not we; we areThe intelligences, they the spheres.We owe them thanks, because they thusDid us, to us, at first convey,Yielded their senses' force to us,Nor are dross to us, but allay.On man heaven's influence works not so,But that it first imprints the air;So soul into the soul may flow,Though it to body first repair.As our blood labors to begetSpirits, as like souls as it can,Because such fingers need to knitThat subtle knot which makes us man,So must pure lovers' souls descendT' affections, and to faculties,Which sense may reach and apprehend,Else a great prince in prison lies.To'our bodies turn we then, that soWeak men on love reveal'd may look;Love's mysteries in souls do grow,But yet the body is his book.And if some lover, such as we,Have heard this dialogue of one,Let him still mark us, he shall seeSmall change, when we'are to bodies gone. John DonneSubmitted: Monday, May 14, 2001Edited: Monday, May 14, 2001 was an Anglican priest, but so far as I can see, his poem is theologically sound by RC standards.

Good point Bruce. Since marriage has been thought of by every society of record, in the traditional sense (i.e., man and woman) since basically forever, the burden of making the case in favor of redefining marriage to include gay people should be on the gay-marriage advocates.Leftists are great at turning the tables and playing victim however, and so we have a situation where regular, decent Americans are put on the defensive (called hateful bigots and worse) simply because we do not think it wise to toss aside so many thousands of years of traditions and practice.

Andy B. --The Church distinguishes both natural and supernatural dimension in sacramental marriage. This isi why it teaches that the state has a right to make laws about certain aspects of the civil dimension, e.g., the educational rights of children. In strict parlance, the civil aspects are called "marriage" and the civil plus religious aspects are called "matrimony" or "holy matrimony". There is no question (or shouldn't be) any question of opposition between the two.

For those of you who like the "what harm will it do?" argument; let me simply ask how often have your heard someone say "what is everyone else doing?" or words to that effect? Every time that question comes up, the observed and discussed behavior is having an impact on others. It is working to change their behavior as well. So what has that meant for Gen Y? Well, they think marriage is very important because they saw how difficult divorce was on the couple and the kids. So they wait to commit and marry. But they also learned that being unmarried is no reason not to cohabit with your current lover. So what is the harm: They are having over 50% of their children out-of-wedlock. It is a fact that these children are demonstrably hurt by any family structure other than one composed of their married biological parents. So while marriage may be important to the couple, the kids are being treated like a sideshow. Thats a specific harm we indirectly taught our kids and its being visited on them and our grandkids.So why do we think 'gay marriage' wont visit similar harms? because some gay couple we know is so happy and loving? The same was true of those divorced or cohabiting couples. Look how that is turning out.

@Ken (3/28, 5:18 pm) Just for the record, and for purposes of clarification, many human societies have not thought of marriage in the "traditional sense (i.e., man and woman)". Nor have they legislated marriage as an institution between "a man and a woman". (See, for example, any number of stories and laws in the Hebrew Scriptures.)The institution of marriage as you and I experienced it growing up is one small sliver of "many thousands of years of traditions and practice". I hope one thing that KeriLee Horan and Andy Buechel have made clear by their example in this thread is that the overwhelming majority of "regular, decent Americans" of their generation (over 80%, if I recall correctly) have made a more-or-less prudential judgment (to use the language of Catholic social teaching) in favor of civil recognition of same-sex marriages, with all the legal rights and responsibilities that follow.For their generation (at least), this is not a leftist v. rightist issue. Most "regular, decent Americans" under the age of, say, 35 favor extending civil marriage to same-sex couples. That's a fact that those of us who are older have to reckon with.

"For those of you who like the what harm will it do? argument ..."Actually, Bruce, it's the anti-gay side who has argued, "This will do harm." Can they demonstrate this? Unless they tackle the act the Church calls "sinful," namely sexual intercourse outside of marriage, why should we believe it? In other words, if the sinful behavior is a problem, why aren't traditional marriage advocates hammering harder on sex outside the first man-woman marriage? Why do they single out gays and lesbians above divorced and remarried people, or people who have sex outside of marriage.This is another strain of bigotry: scapegoating homosexual persons for the problems of pornography, addiction, consumerism, etc.

@Bruce (3/28, 5:34 pm) Thanks for your comment. Could you provide a link to the source for your assertion that "it is a fact that these children are demonstrably hurt by any family structure other than the one composed of their married biological parents"?Note - Other family structures to consider include: single parent who left abusive partner, widowed parent, widowed and remarried parent, adoptive parent(s), guardians of orphans (e.g., grandparent, aunts, uncles, family friends of deceased parents)...among others.

I have never understood why a married couple with no children or old people who are thoroughly dependent on them should be legally favored over single people, especially single people who care for thoroughly dependent relatives. Not fair.