The Things We Share

A Catholic's Case for Same-Sex Marriage

There's this guy I know in Manhattan. Call him Jim. Jim Watson. We’re friends, I guess. We used to be friends, anyway—grabbing a hamburger together near Gramercy Park, from time to time, or meeting out on the Stuyvesant Town Oval on a summer afternoon to play some folk and bluegrass with the guitar strummers, mandolin pickers, autoharpers, and amateur banjo players who’d drift by. None of us any good, but fun, you know? Old-timey Americana like “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Pretty Saro,” and “The Orphan Girl.” A version of “Shady Grove,” I remember, was one of his specialties: When I was just a little boy, / all I wanted was a Barlow knife. / But now I am a great big boy, / I’m lookin’ for a wife.

A few years ago, his friendship began to cool, bit by bit. You understand how it is: a little here, a little there, and last time I was through New York he didn’t even bother to answer my note suggesting we put together one of our low-rent urban hootenannies. The problem, our conversations had made pretty clear along the way, was that I am a Catholic, and Jim is gay.

Well, actually, gay isn’t the word he would use. I have what might be the worst ability to recognize sexual orientation on the planet, but no one needed sensitivity to guess Jim’s views. Not that he was campy or anything when I knew him, but he was always vocal about his sexuality, naming himself loudly to anyone nearby with words that polite society allows only in ironic use by gay men themselves.

Anyway, Jim gradually started to take our difference personally, growing increasingly angry first at the Catholic Church for its opposition to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage and then at Catholics themselves for belonging to such a church. His transformation didn’t come from any personal desire to marry—or, at least, from any desire he ever articulated or I could see.

But then, I’ve already mentioned how blind I can be, and maybe a hunger to marry was gnawing at his heart. However much the culture piously proclaims the equivalence of all lifestyles, a vision of the lonely bachelor’s deathbed can begin to haunt any man. We could talk here of what even back in the 1820s Schopenhauer insisted was the woe in marriage, but we can’t deny the sheer companionable comfort that marriage seems to promise as well: the hope that we won’t grow old and die alone, the hope that the good life and good death of Baucis and Philemon (in Ovid’s wonderful old myth about the gods rewarding an aging couple) might still be available—for me, for you, for any of us.

Still, as Jim began to formulate the emerging thought, his anger wasn’t for himself but for his people: exactly as though sexual desire had created an ethnic group that was the source of his deepest, truest self-identity. Measured by the lifetime of most cultural upheavals in American history, the debate about same-sex marriage has risen to its current prominence with astonishing speed. But rise it did, like the sun, becoming the symbolic issue around which a whole galaxy of moral impulses, political aims, social discontents, and personal grievances seem to gravitate. And my friend Jim found himself, like many others, pulled into that orbit.

Fair enough, I suppose. Certainly, without an expressed desire to be married himself, Jim’s support for same-sex marriage was at least partly free from the grating self-interest, the fallacy of special pleading, that infects too many declarations on the topic. When we’re told—as we were, for example in the spring of 2013—that the conservative Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) now supports same-sex marriage because he’s discovered that his son is gay, it may have a certain rhetorical effectiveness. And so too when a gay-rights activist speaks emotionally of the personal sorrows he suffered during the time he was unable to marry. But even when offered in service of something we agree with, doesn’t that kind of personal fact deployed as argument reduce public discourse to little more than self-interest and self-importance? The sexuality of Portman’s son doesn’t strengthen the logic of the senator’s new position; it weakens it, when offered as the reason for Portman’s changed views.


IT'S A LITTLE ODD, I realize, to press an argument against special pleading while writing a personal essay—especially one that opens with a plaint about a decaying friendship. But Jim’s increasing anger, the manner and the timing of it, at least helped bring into focus for me the question of what purposes the fight over same-sex marriage has been serving.

Not the fact of the legality of same-sex marriage, exactly. That ship has already sailed, as well it ought to have. By July 2013, thirteen states had already recognized it, and under any principle of governmental fairness available today, the equities are all on the side of same-sex marriage. There is no coherent jurisprudential argument against it—no principled legal view that can resist it. The Supreme Court more or less punted this June in its marriage cases, Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, but it was a punt that signaled eventual victory for advocates of same-sex marriage. And by ruling in Windsor that Section 3 of DOMA (the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional, the justices made it clear that the court will not stand in the way of the movement’s complete triumph. We are now at the point where, I believe, American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans.

For that matter, plenty of practical concerns suggest that the bishops should cease to fight the passage of such laws. Campaigns against same-sex marriage are hurting the church, offering the opportunity to make Catholicism a byword for repression in a generation that, even among young Catholics, just doesn’t think that same-sex activity is worth fighting about. There’s a reasonable case to be made that the struggle against abortion is slowly winning, but the fight against public acceptance of same-sex behavior has been utterly lost.

I find these practical considerations compelling, just as I think most ordinary Catholics do. The church in America today is in its weakest public position since agitation about Irish and Italian immigration in the 1870s prompted thirty-eight states to pass anti-Catholic Blaine amendments to their constitutions. A great deal of goodwill was built up by Catholic work in the 1980s and 1990s, from John Paul II’s successful campaign to “live in truth” by opposing Soviet Communism to the prestige of Mother Teresa’s work with the poorest in India. But the goodwill disappeared in a flash, just over a decade ago, with the Boston Globe’s 2002 stories of the horrifying priest scandals.

Regardless of the church-bashing uses to which some commentators put the news, the central fact of the scandals remains: a corruption, a horror, and an outrage, which many bishops tried criminally to bury in their bureaucracies. And major effects of the scandal included feeding the schadenfreude and sense of victory among anti-Catholics, wiping out the moral stature of the church in the mind of the American public, and eliminating the respect in which the seriousness of Catholic ideas was once held even by those who thought that such seriousness began with mistaken premises and arrived at false conclusions. In the context of the deserved contempt that followed, what kind of loony, pie-eyed judgment could lead the bishops to engage in a sex-based public-policy debate they are doomed to lose—feeding mockery of the church while engaged in the expensive process of losing that fight?

An easy answer is that America’s bishops have not always been famous for their skill at predicting public reaction. But the more serious response is that the bishops hold exactly what’s held by everyone from the Communist Party to the NRA, Occupy Wall Street to National Right to Life: Prudential and practical concerns direct how one fights in public but not why one fights. If a legal regime is wrong, then it’s wrong. And however much the culture despises and punishes those who resist its judgments, somebody needs to rise up and say we’re going to hell in a hand-basket if that is indeed where the culture seems to be going.

Like most Americans, I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for those who resist cultural consensus—the gadflies, curmudgeons, and cranks—however idiotically they choose their fights. And given the social and historical prominence of their ecclesial positions, and the confidence in same-sex marriage among the young and the cultural elite, the American bishops have chosen what these days can only be called the countercultural side in opposing civil recognition of same-sex marriage in America. They cannot have done so for prudential reasons, for every such consideration is against them. Rather, they have taken their position, the place at which they make their stand, for the simple reason that they think same-sex marriage is philosophically wrong: damaging to the individual and destructive for society.

In other words, the bishops are not going to be convinced to end their hopeless fight by some casual appeal to cultural consensus or a feel-good call to join the winning side. And if we appreciate a willingness to be countercultural, how can we ask them to do so for those reasons?

In June 2012, David Blankenhorn took to the New York Times with an interesting op-ed titled “How My View on Gay Marriage Changed.” To read Blankenhorn’s books—especially his 1995 Fatherless America—is to think him the nation’s leading commentator on the social importance of marriage. And he opened his op-ed with his long-held view that “marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the biological, social, and legal components of parenthood into one lasting bond. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.”

Same-sex relationships, he noted, cannot by their nature fulfill the biological condition in his deep definition of marriage. But against that fact, he set three considerations that led him to support same-sex marriage: equal treatment (“legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness”), comity (“we must live together with some degree of mutual acceptance, even if doing so involves compromise”), and respect for the emerging consensus on the topic (“most of our national elites, as well as most younger Americans, favor gay marriage”).

I understand the point, and I suspect that Blankenhorn and I, like many others, are arriving at much the same place. But the Blankenhorn line leaves me unsatisfied. It’s not enough for a Catholic to say that legal fairness and social niceness compel us. We have a religion of intellectual coherence, too, and the moral positions we take have to comport with the whole of the moral universe. That’s the reason for trying to be serious—for demanding that the unity of truth apply, and that ethical claims cannot be separated from their metaphysical foundations.

If there is no philosophical or theological reasoning that leads to Catholic recognition of civil same-sex marriage, then we’re simply arguing about what’s politic. What’s fair and nice. What flows along the channels marked out by the dominant culture. We’re merely suggesting that Catholics shouldn’t make trouble. And how is that supposed to convince anyone who holds intellectual consistency at more than a pennyweight?


I DON'T MEAN to hide this essay’s conclusions. Where we’re going with all this is toward a claim that the thin notions of natural law deployed against same-sex marriage in recent times are unpersuasive, and, what’s more, they deserve to be unpersuasive—for their thinness reflects their lack of rich truth about the spiritual meanings present in this created world. Indeed, once the sexual revolution brought the Enlightenment to sex, demythologizing and disenchanting the Western understanding of sexual intercourse, the legal principles of equality and fairness were bound to win, as they have over the last decade: the only principles the culture has left with which to discuss topics such as marriage.

And so, I argue, a concern about the government’s recognizing of same-sex marriage ought to come low on the list of priorities as the church pursues the evangelizing of the culture. For that matter, after the long hard work of restoring cultural sensitivity to the metaphysical meanings reflected in all of reality, Catholics will have enough experience to decide what measure of the deep spirituality of nuptials, almost absent in present culture, can reside in same-sex unions.

But before we reach for those conclusions, there remains, I think, a question religious believers must ask: a prior question of whether the current agitation really derives from a wish for same-sex marriage, or whether the movement is an excuse for a larger campaign to delegitimize and undermine Christianity.

The question is not an idle one. Yes, American culture, through the devices of American capitalism, has repeatedly proved its ability to adapt to social changes, reshaping them into middle-class norms. This was exactly the complaint of the activist Donna Minkowitz back in 1994. Bruce Bawer had just published A Place at the Table, his plaintive call for national acceptance of a bourgeois gay lifestyle, and Minkowitz raged against it as a betrayal, a co-opting, of the true radicalism of the gay and lesbian movement. “We don’t want a place at the table,” she announced on Charlie Rose’s national television program. “We want to turn the table over.”

In the years since, the radical wing lost badly the fight to be the public face of the movement, but Minkowitz’s successors have hardly been shy about their desire to use the visibility of the same-sex marriage debate as an opportunity to damage public perception of Christianity. And watch, for instance, the downstream effect on someone like Patrick B. Pexton, who used his Washington Post ombudsman’s column in February 2013 to explain that journalists like himself “have a hard time giving much voice to those opposed to gay marriage”—because “they see people opposed to gay rights today as cousins, perhaps distant cousins, of people in the 1950s and 1960s who, citing God and the Bible, opposed black people sitting in the bus seat, or dining at the lunch counter, of their choosing.”

One wonders what the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., would have had to say about this interpretation of the civil-rights movement as fundamentally an overcoming of Christianity. But if that’s what the same-sex marriage movement is really about—the redefinition of history as Christian oppression, the rereading of even success stories like the civil-rights movement as tales of defeating Christian evil, all for the purpose of cutting off the religious roots of Western civilization—then to hell with it.

To hell with it, as well, if the campaign for same-sex marriage has anti-Catholicism as one of its major causes, or a feeding of anti-Catholicism as one of its welcome effects. Well through the nineteenth century, the church often seemed as much a refuge as those who felt same-sex desire were likely to find. There are reasons that Oscar Wilde, for example, returned to the church after his public trials, and they involve his aesthetic sense of the capacious Catholic understanding of sin and grace in a fallen world: the beauty of European Catholic medievalism, matched with a sophisticated, confessional-trained understanding of the real pressures under which human beings labor.

In Protestant America, however, a word like sophisticated (to say nothing of confessional) was more a denunciation than mild praise of practical wisdom. Catholics sometimes exaggerate the extent to which they were oppressed by their WASP overlords, but they are not wrong that suspicion of Rome is one of the small but constant motors on which our national story has run.

By the late 1960s, some of the fuel for that motor was still coming from the far right, among the traditionalists keeping alive the antique quarrels of the Reformation. And some was coming from the far left, among the radicals who saw the Vatican as a hindrance to either the communist future of the world or the transformation of human nature through the sexual revolution. At least a little anti-Catholicism, however, remained in the central current of American elite culture, among the heirs of the old Protestant consensus.

They stripped out much of the doctrinal Christianity, of course; the general collapse of the mainline Protestant churches is one of the most fascinating historical trends in the past fifty years. But the elites kept that curious mainline class-based combination of a nobly wide ethical concern and an infuriatingly self-confident assertion of moral ascendancy. And to listen to its current members is to get the feeling that they may have also kept, and even reinvigorated, the good old-fashioned, all-American anti-Catholicism and suspicion of Rome. If the campaign for same-sex marriage is just a further development in this historical line, then the theological argument isn’t worth making. Isn’t worth even trying to develop.


THINK OF IT THIS way: The funny thing is that, back when I first knew him, my gay friend Jim Watson was more conservative than I was. Or more Republican, at any rate. My writings against the death penalty, for instance, produced nothing except a snort from him. He hated the huge tax bite of New York City, municipal taxes piled on state and federal, and the best way to turn him away from his let’s-embarrass-strangers-with-my-sexuality game was to mention Manhattan’s rent control—provoking a free-market tirade that was good for at least fifteen minutes of soap-box statistics. It bored me, but then my vociferous opposition to legalized abortion probably bored him, and affectionately putting up with each other’s crotchets may be as good a description of friendship as we’re likely to find in this fallen world.

Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bawer, Michael Lind, even David Brock—the 1990s had its share of avowedly conservative or libertarian commentators who were also more or less openly gay or activists for gay causes. Sullivan, for instance, is a disciple of the British political theorist Michael Oakeshott, and I remember reading a passage in which Sullivan was willing to put (even though he disagreed with it) a fair statement of a political-theory rejection of same-sex marriage. To be conservative, Oakeshott had famously written, “is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.” No culture has ever fully embraced same-sex marriage; every culture has understood that marriage, through heterosexual procreation, touches the deepest and least-understood structures by which civilization survives. And this wide testimony from human experience, together with the dangers of meddling in the unknown, ought to make us hesitate.

By somewhere around the midterm elections of 2002, those conservatives had generally disappeared from mainstream conservatism. (Or, at least, the male ones had. Interestingly, the Libertarian, Catholic, and Straussian lesbians tended to remain, many of them still writing for conservative publications.)

Some gay conservatives would later insist that they had been pushed out of public-intellectual conservatism by what they believed were bigoted Evangelicals—the people a conservative movement needs to attract to overcome the large Democratic voting blocs. A good example might be the argument, through the 1990s and 2000s, against allowing gay and lesbian anti-abortion groups a place in prolife marches and strategy meetings. And there are still portions of the Republican world that suffer no dissent on social issues. Just this year, I was invited to give a small talk on faith at CPAC, the enormous annual conservative convention in Washington—and then disinvited, my time given over to someone safer on the topic of marriage.

Other gays seem to have felt the pressure more on the inside, finding it impossible to hold both support for same-sex marriage and any political theory that rejects same-sex marriage. But regardless of the cause, they nearly all disappeared from conservative discussions precisely at the time the issue grew in public importance, and I doubt that there was a single one who didn’t vote for Democratic candidates in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

My friend Jim Watson certainly became a functional Democrat, suppressing his fiscal conservatism to vote for Barack Obama as the official candidate of gays. A relatively wealthy man who inherited trust-fund money from his grandparents, he stopped giving to conservative candidates and even gay groups like Log Cabin Republicans, transferring his election-year donations to left-leaning same-sex-marriage organizations and Democratic office-seekers.

Along the way, Jim also picked up a case of virulent anti-Catholicism. I suspect that there genuinely exist activists who welcome same-sex marriage as part of the great destructiveness of the Enlightenment project: a blow against whatever medieval Christian ideas still linger in modernity. I also suspect that they are a minority, and Western culture will prove, as it has so often before, resilient enough to absorb same-sex marriage—turning it possibly into an aid to, but at least not a further weakening of, the endangered culture of marriage.

Still, I can’t ignore the changes in Jim. In the first years I knew him, he would speak of the Catholic Church as something like a batty great-aunt: crazy, of course, but fondly indulged. He admired the solemnity of the Mass, in the abstract, together with the beauty of the church’s long deposit of art and architecture. The dedication of hospice nuns invariably made him quote Santayana’s wistful line, “There is no God, and Mary is his mother.” Without a religious bone in his body, as far as I could tell, he nonetheless appreciated the seriousness of Catholic intellectuals, even if the church’s continuing ability to attract any intellectuals seemed to him one of the mysteries of the age.

A decade or so later, and all that was gone. The Catholic Church now appeared to him genuinely evil, and Catholic intellectualism an entirely malignant force, born mostly from hatred of gays in general and even, at his most paranoid, of him personally. The long denunciations of the bishops’ contrarian and countercultural leadership had taken its toll. The old ACT-UP protests over condoms hadn’t moved him, but the same-sex marriage agitation pushed him over the edge—until I do not believe Jim can now be conciliated even by something like the Catholic case for same-sex marriage. Nothing but the total eradication of the Catholic Church, its complete repudiation by its members, will satisfy him. Ecclesia delenda est, I can picture him mumbling to himself as he paces through New York. The church must be destroyed.


ONE MORE ASIDE before we arrive at the argument for same-sex marriage—not a mea culpa exactly, but an attempt to examine my own conscience, for even as I write this personal essay, I’m growing uneasy with the petulant and aggrieved way it is presenting the idea that anti-Catholicism was one of the purposes of, or at least one of the bonuses for, the cultural elites who took up the cause of same-sex marriage.

I’ve made it sound, for example, as though the fading of my friendship with Jim came entirely from his side. Actually, it did, considered purely as a private matter. If only the personal were the political, as the 1970s feminists used to claim, then Jim and I wouldn’t have had much more than an abstract disagreement. Unfortunately, often enough, the political becomes the personal, and Jim had public activities for which to blame me.

I did not believe then, as I do not believe now, that opposition to same-sex marriage must, by its nature, derive from (or issue in) hatred of gays and lesbians—else one would never see pieces like Doug Mainwaring’s “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage,” which appeared in March 2013 to argue, “In our day, prejudice against gays is just a very faint shadow of what it once was. But the abolition of prejudice against gays does not necessarily mean that same-sex marriage is inevitable or optimal. There are other avenues available, none of which demands immediate, sweeping, transformational legislation or court judgments.”

Still, in the current state of the public square, opposition to same-sex marriage gets portrayed (and thereby perceived) as hatred. And if I have felt old friends pull away from me over the issue, then I also have to admit that they must have felt my occasional public work on the topic to be the equivalent from my side. To be my breaking off friendship with them. To be an attack on them individually in what they take as part of their very existence.

I think I met Bruce Bawer once at a poetry festival or a magazine party, but maybe not, and regardless I can’t say I know him. Still, perhaps we could use him as an example here—for I recall being taken aback when I came across an interview in which he declared me fundamentally unchristian, some years after my negative review of his 1996 anthology, Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy. Insofar as I remember the book, I still think Beyond Queer was not great work. For that matter, even though Bawer is an admirable poet and interesting author of nonfiction, he has surely received other unflattering reviews. But what I hadn’t considered is the way disagreement over this particular topic feels intensely personal: perceived not as rejection of a public position but rejection of how one understands the self.

We could probably work up an indictment of the media, identity politics, and the grievance industry for this perception (as Bawer himself has in other contexts): turning even slight deviations from the accepted position into occasions for full-blown accusations of bigotry. But why bother? Hot or cold, the water in which we find ourselves is the water in which we have to swim. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes a distinction between same-sex orientation and same-sex activity that might have once seemed intelligible, even commonsensical. But the distinction has absolutely no purchase today. And what good does it do to complain—as does, for example, Ryan T. Anderson, the sharpest of the younger activists now working against same-sex marriage—that the distinction somehow ought to have purchase?

Some of the perceived offense may have come from inattention. In 2011, the Washington Times asked me for a little piece celebrating the anniversary of the classic 1981 BBC mini-series version of Brideshead Revisited. And after its publication, David Boaz, the gay-marriage supporter from the libertarian Cato Institute, dropped me a note taking me to task for using the word “homosexuals” instead of “gays” in my opening description of the series’ reception. He understood that I was trying to recapture the tone of those early 1980s days, when homosexuals was still more or less the polite term of reference. But we are long past all that, he insisted, and I should realize that the word, taken as a generic noun, had picked up enough negative connotations that writers ought not to employ it even in a historical way.

I think I replied with a casual apology and a hackneyed quip about how one should never give offense unless one actually means it. But I didn’t mean personal offense with any work I did on same-sex subjects—and still I managed to give offense.

How rarely the subject actually came up surprises me now, looking back. In the hundreds of essays, poems, and reviews I published over those years, opposition to legalized abortion and rejection of the death penalty are constant themes. Raging themes, to the point where I probably lost most of even the best-willed readers. But gay topics? A brief contribution as the token Catholic in a little-noticed symposium in Newsweek. A 2004 editorial co-written with Bill Kristol. A review of Bawer’s anthology in the Weekly Standard. Another of Andrew Holleran’s depressing novel The Beauty of Men. And not much else that I can still find.

In my editorial jobs at the Weekly Standard and First Things, of course, I came to know some of the people fighting same-sex marriage. Ryan T. Anderson, for example, co-author of the widely discussed, career-defining 2011 essay “What Is Marriage?” in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Later expanded into a book, it remains the clearest, most cogent defense of traditional marriage. David Orgon Coolidge, too, founder of the Marriage Law Project before his untimely death in 2002: Richard John Neuhaus helped raise money to support Dave’s work, and we would often sit together and drink at Fr. Neuhaus’s innumerable theological and social-policy meetings.

I was much under the influence of the Christian poetics of W. H. Auden in those days—a man who, though gay himself, hated organized homosexuality: “the Homintern,” he mockingly named the gay establishment in poetry (playing off the Comintern, the international arm of party-line Soviet policy). Under the influence, for that matter, of the suspicions of attempts to claim victimhood expressed by René Girard—the contemporary writer who most formed my mental universe. Then, too, as the mantle of gay rights passed from the wild contrarians and countercultural figures of its early days to become the received view of the entire elite liberal class, it came to seem increasingly bland and uninteresting, with little in it tempting me to reject the general conservative position.

“At times one remains faithful to a cause,” Nietzsche writes, “only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.” It’s a sad observation of human behavior, but who among us hasn’t been guilty of it? “Same-sex marriage is the great civil-rights struggle of our time,” a young newspaper writer grandly announced to me in 2009. She had come to interview me for some article she was planning, but she spent most of her time lecturing me on how immoral it is that anyone opposes the right of gays to marry.

As it happens, when I asked, she proved to know almost nothing about the controversy: hadn’t read the legal decisions, hadn’t followed the arguments, hadn’t examined DOMA, hadn’t even tried to keep up. Only the warmth of her conviction of her own moral superiority seemed necessary, and I remember thinking: This is supposed to persuade me? Insipid self-righteousness—delivered in exactly the hectoring tones with which her Protestant great-grandparents would have lectured me about lack of Catholic support for Prohibition?

At the same time, looking back, I can see that even in my editorial choices I was avoiding the topic. Not entirely: there are some pieces the institutional weight of a magazine simply won’t let an editor refuse. But generally I turned down pieces on same-sex topics—and I did so by telling myself I found the subject dull. That’s an editor’s privilege, of course, and a lot of the thinking genuinely was dull. Dull as dishwater, gray from all the old, similar writing that had already been washed in it. But the avoidance was also, I now realize, a species of dishonesty: an unwillingness to sit down and decide what I really thought about it all.

Not that the world was waiting breathlessly for my nattering asseverations on the topic—and, anyway, the moment for being genuinely serious about same-sex marriage may have passed while I wasn’t looking. Or while I was refusing to look.

Still, it all came to a head for me when, one morning down in Lansdowne, Virginia, Chuck Colson woke up with a plan to gather every religious leader he could find and decry the destruction of Christian culture in America—promising civil disobedience, if necessary. The outcome was The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, a manifesto issued in November 2009 that equated abortion, same-sex marriage, and intolerance of religion, and vowed to oppose any mainstream consensus that licensed them. Dozens of important religious figures met with Chuck Colson in New York to become the initial signers, and The Manhattan Declaration would go on to find half a million additional signatories.

One of the problems with the document was that none of the people on the drafting committee—Chuck himself, Princeton’s Robert P. George, and the very smart Baptist divinity-school dean Timothy George—were primarily writers. They were activists and teachers who happened to write, sometimes (as in Robby George’s 1995 book Making Men Moral) with real skill. But the genuine literary talent behind an entire generation’s set of manifestos had been Richard John Neuhaus—first as a Christian protester against segregation and Vietnam, and then as a Christian neoconservative. And with Richard’s death from cancer earlier in 2009, they had to produce The Manhattan Declaration in his absence.

The result would prove turgid, politically clumsy, and strangely disorganized. Just as there’s a rule in some online discussion groups that you’ve automatically lost an argument if you compare your opponents to the Nazis, so there ought to be a rule in public discourse that you’ve guaranteed your failure if you compare modern America to the decline of Ancient Rome. But that’s how the declaration opened, and as it wandered through its various complaints about the nation, it came to seem more and more a laundry list in search of a thesis: there’s bad stuff out there, people hate us, and it all adds up to, well, a picture—a modern reflection of the moral collapse of Rome from the stern glories of the republic to the satyricon of the empire.

I spoke to Chuck privately about the draft several times, urging him to reorganize it and tone it down, but he was too enamored of the frisson of rebellion in its call for civil disobedience to agree. Finally, at the New York meeting, I got up and announced publicly my unease: The equating of these three concerns is a mistake; not only do the possible negative results of same-sex marriage fail to match the horrors of abortion, but religious freedom isn’t even the same kind of thing. It’s like equating a small weed to a giant sequoia—and then lumping them both together with an umbrella. The entire text needs to be recast, I said. If the document has to threaten civil disobedience, then it ought to be about freedom: religious Americans may accept a culture that recognizes same-sex marriage, but they hereby announce that they will not accept a legal regime that uses same-sex marriage as a wrecking ball with which to knock down every religious building in the public square.

And in response, Maggie Gallagher stood up in that crowded room to call me a coward—or, at least, she declared that any reduction in the status of the fight over same-sex marriage was a counsel of cowardice, born from a fear that same-sex marriage was inevitable. A writer and activist, former president of the National Organization for Marriage, Gallagher has always struck me as a fearless and contrarian figure, and in this case, I think, she was correct.

Oh, not about the law: the legal victory of same-sex marriage actually was inevitable; not a single persuasive legal argument emerged against it in the courts. But right in her accusation of cowardice—although maybe not in quite the way she thought. My worry with The Manhattan Declaration wasn’t about the consequences of defeat, as Gallagher suggested; if something is wrong, you oppose it even though the heavens fall. But cowardice about my own mind, yes: my profamily friends were a strong public-intellectual force opposed to abortion, and I went along with them on same-sex marriage mostly because I lacked the seriousness and strength of mind to work through it for myself. I was just like that young woman journalist I found so insipid and self-righteous for pronouncing uncritically the views of her class.

In the end, my friends...but why should I continue to blame them for my own fault? In the end, I let myself be talked into publishing the (only slightly altered) document, despite my objections—talked into becoming one of the original signers of The Manhattan Declaration myself. It was a mistake, and one I regret.


LET'S TURN AT LAST to the actual intellectual questions raised by same-sex marriage. At the time Americans were waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the two pending marriage cases, Catholics were waiting to see if the new reign of Pope Francis would signal any change in the church’s views. And if, as I suggested earlier, the Supreme Court basically punted when it handed down its opinions on June 26, the pope refused to punt at all when he promulgated his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, on July 5.

There’s something in the new encyclical to disappoint everyone who longs for direct political action from the Vatican. Those who were hoping that a radically leftist Pope Francis would repudiate what they saw as the radically rightist work of his predecessor are bound to be saddened. A draft was prepared under Benedict XVI before his retirement on February 28, and Francis himself has described the completed document as written with “four hands”—Benedict’s and his own.

At the same time, disappointment must haunt those who hoped that a radically traditional Francis—a lifelong churchman instead of an academic theologian like his predecessor—would step back from the softness of Benedict’s economics and confront the world with the hardest edges of the institutional church. Faith is at “the service of justice, law, and peace,” Francis insists. We need it “to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted.” Yes, he notes, all “authority comes from God,” but it is meant for “the service of the common good.”

Not since John Paul II’s great crusade against Soviet Communism has the Vatican been easily classifiable by the world’s political categories, despite the incessant effort of the world, left and right alike, to pin the church with those categories. That unclassifiability may be the best way to understand our new pope. He is an advocate of the poor who opposed many of the Argentinian government’s programs for the poor. A social activist who cannot be counted on to support social reform. A churchman who refused the elaborate trappings of his office even while he promoted the power of the church. A radical who rejects the state power and cultural change demanded by the secular left. A traditionalist who despises the accumulation of wealth and libertarian freedoms praised by the secular right. No attempt to impose liberal and conservative definitions on him will succeed. Pope Francis simply won’t fit in those categories.

Still, in Lumen Fidei he grants the faithful Catholic little room to maneuver on same-sex marriage. In “Faith and the Family,” section 52 of the encyclical, he calls the family the “first setting in which faith enlightens the human city”—a political-theory reading of the church’s interest in the institution. Indeed, “I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage,” he explained. “This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom, and loving plan.” In marriage, “a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith.... Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person.”

But perhaps Francis does offer us an opportunity to think about marriage in terms of the politically unclassifiable that constitutes much of Catholic teaching. The stony ground on which the church must sow is the landscape created by the sexual revolution. Made possible by the pill, accelerated by legalized abortion, aided by easy pornography, that revolution actually needs none of these any longer to survive, because they never defined it. They merely allowed it, and the completed change is now omnipresent. The revolution is not just in the way we use our bodies. It’s in the way we use our minds.

One understanding of the sexual revolution—the best, I think—is as an enormous turn against the meaningfulness of sex. Oh, I know, it was extolled by the revolutionaries as allowing real experimentation and exploration of sensation, but the actual effect was to disconnect sex from what previous eras had thought the deep stuff of life: God, birth, death, heaven, hell, the moral structures of the universe, and all the rest.

The resulting claim of amorality for almost any sexual behavior except rape reflects perhaps the most fascinating social change of our time: the transfer of the moral center of human worry about the body away from sex and onto…well, onto food, I suppose. The only moral feeling still much attached to sex is the one that has to hunt far and wide for some prude, any prude, who will still condemn an aspect of sexual behavior—and thereby confirm our self-satisfied feeling of revolutionary morality. Of course, the transfer of moral anxiety away from sexual intercourse might not be so peculiar. Think how often ancient thinkers, from the pagan stoics to the church fathers, would reach to gluttony and fasting, instead of lust and chastity, when they needed examples for their discussions of virtue and vice.

The turn against any deep, metaphysical meaning for sex in the West, however: that is strange and fascinatingly new, unique to late modernity. Jean-Paul Sartre once denounced Michel Foucault as one of the “young conservatives” for his refusal to embrace Communism, but in other ways, the radical gay philosopher, the very model of a star French philosophe before his death from AIDS in 1984, was the key explicator of the sexual revolution. And just as he saw a change in moral understanding of the body slowly developing among Christian writers from the fourth-century John Cassian to the eleventh-century Peter Damian, so he saw yet another change emerging in modern times. The comic line that “sex was invented in 1750” is an exaggeration of his thought, but Foucault quite rightly understood that there were bound to be consequences to what Max Weber called the great “disenchantment of the world” in the joining of the “elective affinities” of the Protestant Reformation, the scientific and industrial revolutions, and the triumph of Enlightenment philosophy.

Those consequences were, in essence, the stripping away of magic—the systematic elimination of metaphysical, spiritual, and mystical meanings. Science, Francis Bacon told us, could not advance in any other way. Real democracy, Diderot explained, would not arrive “until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” When the Supreme Court gave us the infamous “mystery passage” in the 1992 abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey—“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”—the justices were merely following out to its logical conclusion the great modern project of disenchantment. And it’s worth noticing that the mystery passage was quoted approvingly and relied upon in the 2003 sodomy-law case Lawrence v. Texas and by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 2005 when it ordered the state to register same-sex marriages.

As a practical matter, the gay-rights lawyers were probably smart to take the mystery passage and run with it. You use what tools you’re given, even if they confirm your opponents’ inchoate sense that all social issues are somehow joined, abortion of a piece with same-sex marriage. But as a theoretical matter, I’m less convinced. What kind of moral or social victory do you obtain if the marriage you’re granted is defined as nothing more than a way in which individuals define the concept of their own existence? Marriage seemed one of the last places left where Weber’s “great enchanted garden” of traditional societies could still be found.

And yet, again, I could be wrong, even about a premodern enchantment perduring in marriage. G. K. Chesterton once suggested that if there truly exists such a thing as divorce, then there exists no such thing as marriage. The root of the paradox is his observation of the metaphysics implicit in marriage ceremonies: “There are those who say they want divorce in the second place without ever asking themselves if they want marriage in the first place. So let us begin by asking what marriage is. It is a promise. More than that, it is a vow.” If we allow divorce, then we have already weakened the thick, mystical notion of marriage vows. Adultery is an everyday sin. Divorce is something more: a denial of a solemn oath made to God.

I’m not trying to argue here directly for an end to the culture’s embrace of legalized divorce, much as the sociological evidence about the harm to children now appears beyond dispute. Rather, the point is that the legal and social acceptance of divorce, building in Protestant America from the late nineteenth century on, culminated in the universal availability of no-fault divorce. And if heterosexual monogamy so lacks the old, enchanted metaphysical foundation that it can end in quick and painless divorce, then what principle allows a refusal of marriage to gays on the grounds of a metaphysical notion like the difference between men and women?

Think of the parallel with laws against sodomy. Justice Thomas may actually have been right that, bad as such laws were, it’s better to have our feckless legislators accept democratic responsibility and replace them than it is to have the courts rule on their constitutionality. But whatever the cruelty and prurience of such laws in the first place, they had become entirely ungrounded by the time of the 2003 Lawrence case. If marriage is nothing more than a licensed sexual playground, without any sense of sin attached to oral sex and anal sex and almost any other act, then under what intellectually coherent scheme can one refuse to others the opportunity for the same behavior?

And, of course, not only did marital relations become a value-free zone in the sexual revolution, but non-marital relations did as well. The seal of virginity, the procreative purpose, the mystical analogy of marriage to Christ’s espousal of his church, the divinely witnessed vow, the sexual body as a temple, the moral significance of chastity: all that old metaphysical stuff got swept away. And regardless of whether the metaphysics was right or wrong, without it there is simply no reasoning that could possibly outweigh the valid claims of fairness and equality. Same-sex marriage advocates don’t just have better public relations than their opponents. They have better logic, given the premises available to the culture.


THIS POINTS US toward the general problem with arguments that rely on natural law—natural law, that is, in the modern sense, as developed most notably by the philosophers John Finnis and Germain Grisez, and explicated for political application by Robby George and many subsequent conservative writers. As deployed in our current debates, this kind of thing has always seemed to me a scientized, mainline-Protestantized version of the thicker natural law of the medievals: natural law as awkwardly yoked to the “elective affinities” of modernity.

On point here is Russell Hittinger’s critique of “new natural law” as an attempt to have a theology-free version of a rational philosophy that depended, by its original internal consistency, on premises of God, creation, and Aristotelian natural forms. Natural law was always a little theologically thin. It derived from a rich understanding of the world, yes, but it was something like the least common denominator of spiritual views: a “mere metaphysics” (to misapply a concept of C. S. Lewis’s). And it worked well enough as a philosophy in a time when people generally agreed that the world was enchanted, however vehemently they disagreed about the specifics of that enchantment. Natural law broke spirituality down to its most basic shared components and then built a rationally defensible ethics up again from that foundation.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a thick natural law. To read the questions on law in the Summa is to watch Thomas Aquinas assemble a grand, beautiful, and extremely delicate structure of rationality. As the Duke theologian Paul Griffiths pointed out in a prescient 2004 Commonweal article (“Legalize Same-Sex Marriage,” June 28, 2004), the premises may not be provable, but they are visible to faith, and from them a great and careful mind like Thomas’s can logically derive extraordinary things. The delicacy is revealed, for example, in his analysis of the questions of marriage. Too careful, too honest, simply to condemn everything except the sanctified monogamy that Christianity had given him, Thomas works through an escalating series that ends up preferring the Christian idea of nuptials as the richest, most meaningful form of marriage—without condemning even polygamy as necessarily a violation of the most philosophically abstract application of the natural law.

In this, I think, is a model for how Catholics might think about the world in which legal recognition of same-sex marriage has emerged. The goal of the church today must primarily be the re-enchantment of reality. This is the language in which Pope Francis speaks: Marriage “as a sign and presence of God’s own love.” Birth as “a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom, and loving plan.” Mutual love as something that engages our entire lives and “mirrors many features of faith.”

Is sex the place in which that project of re-enchantment ought to begin? I just can’t see it—not after the nearly complete triumph of the sexual revolution’s disenchantment, not after the way “free love” was essentially sold to us by the Edwardians as an escape from narrow Victorian Christianity, not after part of the culture’s most visible morality became the condemnation of those perceived as condemning something sexual. The campaign for traditional marriage really isn’t a defense of natural law. It revealed itself, in the end, as a defense of one of the last little remaining bits of Christendom—an entanglement or, at least, an accommodation of church and state. The logic of the Enlightenment took a couple of hundred years to get around to eliminating that particular portion of Christendom, but the deed is done now.

We should not accept without a fight an essentially un-Catholic retreat from the public square to a lifeboat theology and the small communities of the saved that Alasdair MacIntyre predicted at the end of After Virtue (1981). But there are much better ways than opposing same-sex marriage for teaching the essential God-hauntedness, the enchantment, of the world—including massive investments in charity, the further evangelizing of Asia, a willingness to face martyrdom by preaching in countries where Christians are killed simply because they are Christians, and a church-wide effort to reinvigorate the beauty and the solemnity of the liturgy. Some Catholic intellectual figures will continue to explore the deep political-theory meanings manifest in the old forms of Christendom, and more power to them, but the rest of us should turn instead to more effective witness in the culture as it actually exists.

In fact, same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in chastity in a culture that has lost much sense of chastity. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in love in a civilization that no longer seems to know what love is for. Same-sex marriage might prove a small advance in the coherence of family life in a society in which the family is dissolving.

I don’t know that it will, of course, and some of the most persuasive statements of conservatism insist that we should not undertake projects the consequences of which we cannot foresee. But same-sex marriage is already here; it’s not as though we can halt it. And other profound statements of conservatism remind us that we must take people as we find them—must instruct the nation where the nation is.

For that matter, the argument about unforeseen consequences is a sword that cuts both ways. Precisely because human social experience has never recognized same-sex marriage on any large scale, we don’t know the extent to which metaphysical meanings—the enchantment of marriage—can be instantiated in same-sex unions. How faithful will they prove? How much infected by the divorce culture of modern America? How spiritual? How mundane? How will they face up to the woe of the quotidian that, as Schopenhauer insisted, marriage forces us to see? How will such unions aid their participants to perceive the joy of creation?

The answer is that we can’t predict the effects of same-sex marriage. I think some good will come, I hope some good will come, but I cannot say with certainty that all must go well with this social change. Still, as the church turns to other and far more pressing ways to re-enchant the world, we’ll have time to find out. And when we are ready to start rebuilding the thick natural law that recognizes the created world as a stage on which the wondrous drama of God’s love is played, we will have the information we need to decide where same-sex marriage belongs in a metaphysically rich, spiritually alive moral order.


I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS not the answer my traditional-marriage friends demand. But then, it’s not the answer same-sex marriage advocates want, either. Far too many people on both sides see the issue in such stark terms that they dismiss any nuance as merely giving excuse to immorality. As only lending countenance to evil.

Certainly it will not satisfy Jim Watson, my old friend from New York. How could he accept talk of the Catholic Church’s charity and evangelizing? He wants the church hurt, its tax exemptions and even property-holding rights stripped away until it not only accepts laws allowing same-sex marriage, not only encourages same-sex marriage, but actually performs same-sex marriage. Even that might not be enough; the institutional weight of the history of Catholic bigotry, he thinks, is probably too much for repentance and reformation to overcome. Best, really, if the Catholic Church is systematically outlawed.

And that is one Catholic fear about same-sex marriage with force—the fear that the movement is essentially disingenuous. That gays don’t actually want much to marry, but Catholic resistance to the idea is just too useful a stick not to use. That modern Americans, heirs to the class-based self-satisfactions of their Protestant ancestors, look at same-sex marriage and think how wonderful a device it proves for a little Rome bashing.

But how can we not take same-sex marriage advocates at their word, accepting that they really seek the marriages they say they desire? For that matter, I still believe in the general resilience and common sense of America, which will halt those who wish to hijack the movement. Christians are sometimes called to martyrdom: “The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants,” as the interesting lesbian Catholic commentator Eve Tushnet once observed here in Commonweal (“Homosexuality & the Church,” June 11, 2007). But I just don’t think that same-sex marriage is going to be the excuse America uses to go after its Catholic citizens.

At the same time, there’s been damage done in the course of this whole debate, some of it by me. And I’m not sure what can be done about it. I certainly lost my friend Jim along the way. Some come here to fiddle and dance, I remember he used to sing. Some come here to tarry. / Some come here to prattle and prance. / I come here to marry. You remember how it goes. “Shady Grove,” the song is called. A bit of old-timey Americana, the stuff we all still share.

Funding for this essay has been provided by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.



Commenting Guidelines

Reminder, the discussion is about CIVIL Marriage NOT HOLY Marriage

More Christian Hate on Gays. This one From Australia

Tony Abbott makes campaign pitch at school that calls homosexuality an 'abomination'

And from the UK

Archbishop of Canterbury tells gathering of Christian Leaders, "We have to be really really repentant for our Homophobia"


It is a Religious War against Gay People. The gays report every single instance of the Christian war against them. Research shows that Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner, Does.Not.Work. In fact, the more people hate the sin, the more they hate the sinner. Research out of a Catholic University.

-R. Sertorius - Only RELIGION teaches that gay sex is a sin (vice). SCIENCE says homosexuality is on the NORMAL scale of Human sexuality. Thus you prove my point, it is simply a Religious War on gays. You are going against science and while that may work for a while, eventually Religion looses and Sciences wins the hearts and minds.


Back to San Antonio Texas where the fight is on to institute a Non Discrimination Ordinace in the city.

You watch this video and imagine if you were gay. Just put yourself in the shoes of a gay person. Just pretend you are gay while you are watching this.

All this to preserve the existing right to say in San Antonio,

"We don't serve Faggots here"

I'm not gay but I cna't imagine what it would do to my psyche to sit there for hours and hours and haours listening to people talk about how vile you are. To listen to people talk about their <i>Religious</i> rights, how based on <i>their religion </i> they should be able to say, "Pick up your check in the office, I just found out you are a Dyke, we don't cotton Dykes working here."  It is perfectly LEGAL in San Antonio Texas to be kicked out of your apartment for being gay. They can write that right into the leases, <i>legally</i> "No homosexual allowed." In fact they can run it in their newspaper ads advertising an apartment for rent,

"2 Bedroom, 900 sq ft, No Homosexual allowed"

That is perfectly Legal.  Does this remind you of anything? Anything?

Anthony J. diStefano:   Of COURSE the President is an atheist. Aren't all Kenyan Socialists atheists?

Joy  Powers:    I’m going to let you in on a well-kept secret (but don’t tell anyone, OK?) Homosexuals were around lonnnnnnnnnng before birth-control pills were invented by that good Catholic doctor (John Rock). Just because you didn’t know anything about it speaks more to your ignorance than to reality. Now don’t tell anyone, puhleeez. You’ll scare the women (particularly cloistered nuns), children and horses.

Is it true that Jim's anger helped persuade the author to change his mind about centuries of Church teaching?  I kept imaging the opposition facing Jesus.   Ought He to have changed His mind about His teachings when He saw the cross, the nails, the whips, the chains, the crown, the anger?  Are we to change our minds when we experience the same?  Jesus said that his words would bring division here on earth. These blogs, the homosexual-marriage issue offer evidence of the truth of His words.      

M Lieberton,

Can't you stay on topic?

Jesus is not mentioned even ONCE in our Civil Laws. Not once.

The discussion is about CIVIL MARRIAGE NOT Holy Marriage.

The history of marriage and the Church is clear enough. For almost the whole of the first 1,000 years of Christian history there is simply no such thing as “Christian” marriage. Christians get married, but they get married according to the laws and traditions of secular culture. There is nothing resembling a Christian marriage service, a liturgy, until at least the eighth century. Even then weddings remained firmly under civil jurisdiction for another 400 years. It is only in the post- Reformation period that, by canon law and custom, it becomes a requirement in both Catholic and Anglican traditions that a priest officiates at a wedding. Always, of course, the actual ministers of the sacrament are the couple themselves and not the priest.


Marriage is robustly secular. Although often missed, this is what informs Paul’s teaching on marriage. Getting married is what people do, and that is part of its “worldly” nature. Christians have had to recognize for most of the last 2,000 years that marriage has taken a variety of forms and that these have largely been dictated and developed by secular culture rather than by the Church.


The history of marriage and the Church has not been helped by a deep pessimism about sex going back at least to Jerome and Augustine. And while the very positive statements of modern church leaders about marriage and the family are welcome, these have little resonance in the tradition. The lives of the saints illustrate this very well. Few formally canonised saints in the Western Church have been married. When they have, their sanctity has more to do with marriage as a negative experience.

Supporters of Mr. Bottum can spare us all lengthy arguments by answering one simple question:

Is sodomy a vice or a virtue?

As a Catholic educated in the Thomistic tradition of natural law, I have for years, reconciled same sex relationships through the understanding that being gay simply represented  an inversion rather than perversion for the human's object of sexual desire. This understanding is supported in anthropology, and ethology (a substudy within zoology). It occurs naturally and has been observed for decades in more than 250 animal species, including humans. It is part of natural diversity in the animal kingdom. As Thomas' arguments were molded by his understanding of science in his day, I've never understood why it could not expand as our understanding of the science of the nature of things expanded. Thomas was wrongly accused of supporting abortion because of his purported belief that the fetus represented "lower" animal life (because of its tail like structure) during early gestation. I'm not certain of the veracity of this claim, but 13th century science was certainly limited in what it could explain about the developing child. Ensoulment was more the concern than abortion.

So, as we gain in our understanding of what constitutes the full breadth of the human condition, we need to be willing to go where the "natural" sciences take us, espeically over time. That said, it certainly doesn't mean the Church should embrace sacramental unions of any variety. Sacraments are defined and limited, for convention and at this tiime in salvation history to seven in number. The Church has every right to define its sacraments, rites, sacramentals, and devotions. Civil and sacramental unions between a woman and man may be defined as Marriage within the church, blessed by a priest and witnessed by the couple's attendants. If the state or civil society wants to add other unions,so be it. Those additions do not diminish  my solemn vow, taken both legally and spiritually within my community of faith as defined by that faith community and recorded by civil court.. The acceptance in society of commitments by same sex couples to support each other and live together and share in all the benefits that results in committed relationships - especially in an aging society, may be recognized by civil and legal entities but they pose no threat and will not destroy the Sacrament of Matrimony that I share with my spouse.. So for the sake of compassion and our search for Truth let us embrace diversity and stop trying to legislate morality to the masses - especially those who have no intention of ever wanting anything to do with the sacrament. . We all learned a long time ago that Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by CHRIST to give grace. Ain't no "state" mentioned anywhere in that definition.  If the state wants to let my wife and I to seal the deal with a legal document  in addition to sharing in  the Sacrament, then hey, let's take the twofer and let those that want the marriage with a small "m" have it. We already know that kids do better in two parent households simply because there are more resources - human and financial. Divorce is what destroys marriage, not same sex couples wanting to be married. 

The most thorough and cogent reply to Bottum's position I have read so far:


An excerpt follows:


Even if Catholics could find a stronger defensive position, what would we use it for? To launch our own offensive? On what issue? What other public battle should we be fighting? From the Catholic perspective, there is no public-policy issue—none—more important than the defense of marriage. Bottum toys with the notion that after conceding on same-sex marriage we might regroup to oppose abortion. Really? In theory homosexuals should have no stake in the abortion issue, but in practice they have made common cause with feminists. (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) We will not break up that alliance. More to the point, since the family is the fundamental cell of society, any attack on the family—whether it is abortion or homosexuality—is the equivalent of a cellular disease: potentially fatal. A society that his given its stamp of approval to homosexual alliances is not a society that will protect innocent children, born or unborn.

Bottum theorizes that if Catholic leaders relent in their opposition to same-sex marriage, hostility to the Church will decrease. This too is a fantasy. The avowed enemies of Catholicsm will not be diverted from their purpose. In a revealing piece in the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner heaps scorn on Bottum’s argument because it is, he says, “a calculated attempt to ensure the flourishing of conservative Catholicism.” He might be willing to accept Bottum’s help to ensure full acceptance of same-sex marriage, but if that maneuver would strengthen conservative Catholicism, the deal is off.

Wayne Sheridan, "Bottum theorizes that if Catholic leaders relent in their opposition to same-sex marriage, hostility to the church would decrease"

Bottum is right and I am a perfect example. I had no bone to pick wiht the Catholic Church BEFORE you jumped in so forcefully into the public discrimination laws against sexual minorities. You, you yourself turned me into a hater of Catholic Leadership and all who follow thier lead on the public persuction of sexual minorities. It didn't have to be this way, leadership could have done the exact same thing as Richard Cardinal Cushing did in Massachusetts with the change in law to permit the sale of contraceptives. Cardinal Cushing said that Civil Law does not have to match Canon Law for a good and faithful Catholic, that you can follow Cannon law. 

Trust me gays report on every single anti gay mutting of your lips. They don't miss a one. Every day across multiple gay rights websites I see multiple different stories on what the Christians are doing today to hurt gay people. You don't realize the damage you are doing becuse you only hang out with each other on Catholic websites. Go hang out at the gay websites and your eyes will be opened.

or for strictly Catholic Hate

I would say you don't even have to endorse same sex marriage, just stop opposing it would go a long way. Just shut up. And stop your lying against gay people, accusing them of being pedophiles, and not capable of monogomus lifelong pairing.  Quit showing up in San Antoinio Texas waving your Bibles around claiming you want the RIGHT to fire gay people simply because they are gay, and not have anything at all to do with what type of employment work they actually do. Just STOP!!

You have not only lost all claim of attracting gay people to your faith, you have lost many of us who ere not in opposition to you prior. What do I read constantly as comments on gay sites, "Why don't they worry about feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, instead of worring about us?" You are picking on gay people, you are being mean to them, and they dind't do anything to deserve it.


If you REALLY believe your doctrin is the right way, then make yourself attractive, show God's Love, do good works to help the poor and the suffering, people will become attracted to you and then want to follow your doctrin. Instead what you are doing is forcing your doctrin on all the rest of us who ARE NOT CATHOLIC.  You Catholics need to learn your place in the secular world.


And Maximus15 The Supreme Court has already ruled in Lawrence vs Texas (and you can go look that up and do read the court's decision) SCOTUS has ruled that it does not matter if gay sex is a vice or NOT, under civil law people have the Liberty Rights granted them under the Constitution to do whatever they want to, even gay sex if they want. We do NOT live in the United Catholic States of America! Live your life the way you want, if you think gay sex is a sin, well then don't ever do it.  Again Maximus15 our laws are based on our HUMAN RIGHTS not church doctrin so it does NOT MATTER if gay six is a vice or a sin. It.Does.NotMatter. You live in the United STATES of America. We believe in Liberty and Freedom to choose our own morality, not have it forced onto us through force of Civil Law. You want to decide what is moral, and legal for everybody. I don't, as long as people are not harming anybody they are free to make their own decisions for their lives, THIS is called Freedom & Liberty.


You Catholics are horrible, jsut horrible the way you treat gay people, and you are hated for it.

Bottum theorizes that if Catholic leaders relent in their opposition to same-sex marriage, hostility to the Church will decrease. - See more at:

Bottum theorizes that if Catholic leaders relent in their opposition to same-sex marriage, hostility to the Church will decrease. - See more at:

Okay this time Evangelical CHRISTIAN HATE and LIES. See you can't speak the truth because the truth is on the side of gay people, so you HAVE to LIE.

Focus on the Family president misses point, makes ours

You have lost the argument that the fight for gays rights is NOT a Civil Rights struggle similar to what black people fought. If you listened to the speakers this week for the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King March on Washington almost every single one of them cited Gay Rights as part of the greater struggle for equality. MLK's daughter, son, even if I remember right his sister who is quite elderly. ALL of them see the same predjudice and de jure discrimination against gay people TODAY in 2013 that they fought against in the 1960's.

NOM wnated to drive a wedge between black people & gays. It didn't work. Except for the minor following of anti gay black pastors, black people are solidly PRO GAY. And why wouldn't they be? They have seen and felt discrimination and are able to see that in others. Actually Hispanics are the biggest group that supports gay marriage, I forget the percentage but I think it is in the high 60's. 


You have lost this Religious War against gay people and all you are doing is making people want to protect and support gay people and to hate you for your hatred, discrimination and predjudice under civil law.

Maximus15:  "Sodomy" is also practiced by married heterosexual couples.  Is THAT a vice?

Wayne Sheridan:  Why should gays have no stake in the abortion issue?  Lesbians do exist, you know--and some of them become pregnant.

All the anti-gay, or at least anti-Bottum, comments I have read here seem to be fixated on sex between males.  Lesbianism doesn't seem to get under anyone's skin to nearly the same degree.

Anglea: Yes!

Everyone else: It is not bigotry to defend traditional marriage or to use precise moral language. A thousand sneers do not make an objection. Find another line of argument for redefining marriage, for changing our laws to teach that mothers and fathers are optional, instead of essential. (For starters, why dont you offer a definition of marriage to start with, clearly you find the traditional legal definition insufficient).

I might add that the traditional understanding of marriage (the one that went unquestioned for 2,000+ years) existed prior to Catholicism, and can be found throughout societies in history, many untouched by Judeo-Christian ideas. In short, no one religion "invented" marriage.

The traditional definition is true, and therefore its Catholic. Not the other way around.


The quote is the commentator's, not mine. Yes, lesbians do become pregnant, but, of

course, not by their partner. I think those who are Pro-Life would welcome support to

stop the horror of abortion on demand from anyone who is truly pro-life. So, I hope that

is your position and your support, if so, is blessedly welcome.






Let's change countries. On my my French Twitter followers tweeted me out a French Bishops letter. In it he says that Catholics SHOULD NOT follow unjust laws. There should be a get out of jail free card for Catholic Mayors who refuse to mayy a couple of the same sex. The French words for this are when he speaks about Freedom of Conscience.

Then he invites everyone to what is called Summer University. That was such an odd phrase I had to ask one of my French Twitter Peeps what that was. Basically the term University is a misnomer, think of it more as a Value Voters Summit type of thing. Notive on the right hand side of page 4 who will be speaking, why what a surprise! (not) the President of Manif Pour Touse which is the main French Catholic Group that puts on all those protests. Manif Pour Tous tries very hard to hide thier Catholic group founding and continuing basis. But trust me is is completely Catholic lead and followed. That is who is protesting in France, Catholics.


A newspaper reporter in Paris did a big investigation becasue Manif Pour Tous tried very hard to hide their Catholic assocoations. They got so busted, it was amusing actually. They created all these fake websites to make it look like these jsut generic children's groups were supporting Manif Por Tous. Turns out all the websites were created recently and they were all created by leaders of Catholic organizations. I mean it was so obvious, they did a terrible job at obfuscation. I at least give more respect for Brian Brown at the National Organization for Marriage at least he is up front and honest (unlike the French) about NOM being created and funded by religious organizations. He is very up front about it.

Here is the French Bishops letter and notice President of Manif Pour Tous will be presenting. It is a Global Religious War against Gay People and the Catholics are the Leaders

Maximus15:  is divorce and remarriage a vice or a virtue?  How about “Catholic divorce” … annulment?

The Catholic Church effectively gives tacit approval to divorce with what has become the charade of annulment.  In their 2002 book, “Catholic Divorce:  The Deception of Annulments”, Joseph Martos and Pierre Hegy state:

“Because the grounds for annulment have become so broad that practically anyone who applies for one can obtain it, many observers now regard annulments as ‘virtual divorces.’  After all, the same grounds for divorce in a civil court have ‘become grounds for the nonexistence of marriage in an ecclesiastical court.’  (Page 23)  To add to the deceit, many couples who receive annulments do so believing that their marriage was, in fact, sacramentally valid – that the marital bond did exist but that, over time, it began to break down.  These couples, understandably, choose not to disclose this part of the story to marriage tribunals so that they can qualify for an annulment.”

In other words, it is the Catholic game of nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Does that make it virtuous?

But once again … as StraightGrandmother keeps pointing out … Bottum’s argument … and those of so many of the rest of us … is about CIVIL marriage, not any religious rite.  Feel free to put whatever conditions on your religious rites that you want … the more onerous, the better, I gather from you.  However, keep your hands off of the rights, benefits and responsibilities granted to tax-paying citizens by the State in a CIVIL marriage ceremony.

Jim: Stop changing the subject. What ought the CIVIL definition of marriage be? The traditional (conjugal) definition? Or an alternative (which no one, not even Bottum, has articulated explicitly)?

The onus is on you to argue for redefinition. I stand on the tradition.

And it does not follow that abuses of the annulment process necessitate the redefinition of CIVIL or sacramental marriage.

Max15 I will give you what you have been asking for. I think you will REALLY want to read the Testimony of Dr. nancy Cott Professor of Histlry harvard University. Dr. Cott studied Marraige from the States point of view for 10 years before writing the definitive peer reviewed book on it.

She testified in the Prop 8 Trial and actually Judge Walker used her words practically verbatium in his decision. And in the DOMA cases this is also the definition used.

Here it is-

"But I think that the larger understanding of marriage, from the State's point of view, and the larger purpose would put an emphasis on the household formation that marriage founds, and the stability of that household formation, its contribution to the social order, to eceonomic benefit, to governance."


"However, still today, the purpose of the state in liceensing and incentivizing marriage is to create stable households in which the adults who reside there and are committtedd to one another by thier own consents will support one another as well as their dependents."


"The institution of marriage has always been at least as much about supporting adults as it has been about supporting minors, children, as the proponents tend to emphasize the child's side"


You shoudl read her who testimony it is facinating and saves you from having to read her book. Civil Marriage has changed plenty in our country and the witholding of Civil Marriage Licenses was used OFTEN to punish unfavored groups. You will want to read about the States of Clifornia & Oregon and other western states when there was a great migration of Chinese men whe came there and built the railroads, the States made laws that said prohibited marriage between whites and Chinese, Maylays. etc. And Russians The Congress made a law that said if a woman married a Russian man she would loose her US Citizenship. You already know that slaves were not permitted to marry and of course interacial marriage was struck down in Loving vs Virginia not that long ago.


The point is, if you read Dr. Cott's testimony you will see that we often used Civil Marriage laws to punish unfavored groups of people. The final group is now gay people. All these laws changed, when people talk about how marriage has been the same, no it hasn't, we have used Civil Marriage Laws to discriminate against unfavored groups of people.

Here is a link to her full testimony and I think you will find it facinating. She is a Hitorian who studied the State's interest in Marriage for 10 Years. She is THE expert so you can't jsut say, "Well I don't agree with her" She's the expert. Unless you have a bigger badder PhD in History we have to accept her scholarship. Many people have written books on Marriage, but no one wrote it the way Dr. Cott did, form the Stattes Point of View, or I shoudl say the State's Interest in regulating Civil Marriage.

Apologies for all my typos, I jsut plain have to slow down in my typing, I am typing to fast and making to many typos.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will Officiate at a Same Sex Wedding this week-end. 

See Catholics you lost. Surrender, resistance is futile.

Under CIVIL LAW there is no justifiable reason for allowing old people beyond that age of pro-creation to marry yet deny CIVIL Marriage to gay people. We see it as what it is DISCRIMINATION. The gays are an unfavored group, and this is one way you can discriminate against them, tell them, shove their faces in it, that they are not like privelagged you, and not worthy of the same rights you claim for yourself.


When Justices of The Supreme Court start Officiating at Gay Weddings, you lost. And when the movers and shakers of Washington Society show up for the wedding they are telling you that they approve.


You have lost and you are just making people hate you for keeping up resistance, you are wrecking Catholcism. You are giving Catholocism a bad name because we all see that all you are trying to do is force your religious views into CIVIL MARRIAGE (NOT Holy Marriage) CIVIL MARRIAGE. You are mean bullies trying to throw your weight around and make everybody conform to your Religious views on what CIVIL Marriage should be.


Straight Grandmother,

It is not a civil recognition of gay relationships that most people who oppose so-called "gay marriage"  object to, it is the equating ofsuch with real marriage, as defined by nature, by history and by all civilzations to date. If the State wants to grant civic benefits to gay couples, so be it; it may be both advantageous to the State and to the couples. But, to equate such an arrangement with marriage is patently absurd. It is not a religious view to say gay couples cannot be married. It is a common sense, traditional, natural and right view to anyone who looks at it objectively.


Wayne Sheridan


Wayne Sheridan, to afford sexual minorities the exact same State benefits but to call it by a different name stigmatizes gay people. It is the same as having seperate drinking fountains. If you are all in favor of the State recognizing these unions with the exact same benefits then there is no good reason not to call them marriages, other than predjudice.


Here, you would do well to read the testimony of Dr. Ilian Meyer PhD Columbia University Sociomedical Sciences start on the .pdf page 137


And the testimony of Helen Zia start at .pdf page number 213





Grandma, my generation believes that witnessing to truth is never futile. You may think us naive. Perhaps we are. But we are no more naive than those pro-lifers who rejected the wide consensus that Roe v. Wade "settled" the abortion debate (we now know how shortsighted that was!) They kept witnessing to truth, and so will we.

More later on your definition of marriage (eg, the "consent-based" view) and your comparisons to interracial marriage.

One of the worst enemies of Tradition is traditionalism.  Real tradition lives by changing and dies by simply repeating itself.  Sebastian Moore, OSB, letter to editor, "The Tablet" 29 July 1989.

Theologians have always held that tradition comes in two forms. There's Tradition with a big "T" and there's tradition with a little "t." Big "T" Tradition encompasses the authentic teachings, life and worship of the church handed on through the ages; it's the presence of the Christian mystery revealed in time and space. With a little "t," tradition refers to beliefs, devotions, pious practices, regulations and interpretations of the Gospel that may have impact for a time but are of human origin. Not everything labeled Catholic tradition is necessarily big "T." So how do we tell the difference?

None other than Professor Joseph Ratzinger, then at the University of Tubingen,  regretted that Vatican II had not taken a new examination of tradition. "Not everything that exists in the Church must be for that reason also a legitimate tradition," the future pope wrote. "There is a distorting, as well as a legitimate tradition. ... Consequently, tradition must not be considered only affirmatively but also critically," with Scripture serving at times as a criterion for "this indispensable criticism of tradition."

In 1976, the eminent theologian Karl Rahner discussed John Paul's declaration on ordination: "If the declaration appeals to an uninterrupted tradition, this appeal is not necessarily and justifiably an appeal to an absolutely and definitively binding tradition, an appeal to a tradition which simply transmits a 'divine' revelation in the strict sense, since there is obviously a purely human tradition in the Church which offers no guarantee of truth even if it has been long undisputed and taken for granted."

One of the points that needs to be made over and over again is that what the “Church” teaches isn’t “traditional” marriage in any sense of the word tradition. First, the Church’s own teachings aren’t “traditional” because they have recently and materially changed, and have probably changed throughout two millennia in ways I don’t know.

Second, when one expands marriage to incorporate other cultures, now, and going way, way back, to examine concepts such as pair bonding and monogamy and polygamy it is simply uncertain or doubtful that what the Church teaches at any given time is strictly Traditional.

And so, what one finds simply from the perspective of sociological examination, is that marriage has always been a changing institution, and that changes have taken place primarily for cultural, social and economic reasons. The effort to fix marriage in time, any time, ours or our parents or grandparents, is a mistake because it is far less likely to be able to be flexible enough to offer a practical model for happy and durable marriages in a changing society. This is the major flaw with Humanae Vitae: it makes marriage so hard one might conclude one should give up on either marriage or the Church or maybe even both, if that’s what it really takes to have a “successful” marriage.

Traditional marriage, over time and in different (including various Christian) cultures has been: one man with multiple wives, multiple concubines, wives conquered in war and wives acquired in levirate marriage, possibly including girls under the age of ten, but definitely not including anyone of a different ethnic group, in an arranged marriage with disposition of property as its purpose. That seems very different from “one man, one woman,” does it not?  (See also:;

Today the legal significance of the word “marriage” -- as describing the place of legal sexual expression, shared property, and, most importantly, core obligations for the care of children -- is once again different from what it once was. Marriage is a changeable idea that today, as in the past, matters politically, legally, culturally, and for individuals as they construct meaning in their lives.

There is no prejudice against gay people by recognizing the profound difference between marriage and gay unions. If gay couples seek benefits from the State for their union and the State grants them, so be it; it may be good for the couple and the State. Their is no need to change the millenia definition and understanding of marriage.


"There" rather than "their" in the above; too early to be typing.


Wayne, there is no "profound" diffenece between gay couples and their Love and straight couples. You are making that up. It is a declaration on your part not supoorted by facts. Look at these wedding pictures and point me to the "profound" differences.


Wayne, so did you read the Testimony in the links I provided to you above?

Do the readers here actually read the sources I point you to? Or do you stick your head in the sand and only hang with your Catholic Peeps?

Are you afraid to read them?


Gays attacked in thier own homes as Jamaica hits 'record levels' of violence

Pastors accused of stiring up mob violence as Christian groups plan second anti LGBT-march.

Jamaica’s LGBT community is facing an ‘unprecedented’ level of mob attack and is appealing to the world to come to their rescue.

Jamaican LGBT advocate Maurice Tomlinson told Gay Star News he believes the violence is being stirred up by anti-gay pastors who are angry at moves to rid the island of its sodomy law.

The last month has seen attacks on people in their own homes, in private cars, and even an assault on a police officer suspected of being gay who had to be saved by fellow cops using teargas.

Meanwhile the murder of 17-year-old cross-dresser Dwayne Long Jones on 22 July made headlines around the world.

The violence has spiraled after the Love March Movement organized protest parades against gay rights around the island on 23 June.

That was two days before the domestic legal challenge to the island’s sodomy law started in court on 25 June.

Tomlinson highlights the following incidents:

  • Dwayne Long Jones was stabbed and shot to death and thrown into bushes at public street-dance near the resort city of Montego Bay on 22 July.
  • A suspected gay police officer was mobbed in downtown Kingston on 1 August. Fellow officers fired gunshots into the air and teargas into the crowd.
  • On the same day the home of two gay men was surrounded by an angry mob trying to get rid of them. The police had to rescue them.
  • On 6 August reggae artiste Queen Ifrica used her performance at a taxpayer funded independence celebration to condemn gays and demand they be removed.
  • A cross-dresser was rescued by police after being attacked by a mob in St Catherine on 10 August.
  • Residents form the parish of Manchester attacked the home of five gay men on 22 August, barricading them inside. The police had to save them.
  • On 26 August the Minister of Education said at a press conference to launch the new Health and Family Life Education Teachers’ manual ‘we are not grooming children into the homosexual lifestyle’ and ‘the only wholesome relationship is between a man and a woman’. Ironically, the Minister has an adult gay son who lives outside of Jamaica.

On the same day, two gay men in the town of Old Harbour were in a car crash. But when onlookers realized they were gay they had to flee and seek shelter in a police station.

Tomlinson said: ‘The public reporting of attacks is completely unprecedented. We would normally expect to hear about an incident a month. It is not just the level of the attacks, but also the severity.’

Now another hate-fuelled Love March is planned for 14 September, with organizers promising it will be even bigger, further heightening tensions.

Tomlinson compares it with a similar march in Haiti which led to spiraling violence with 47 gays beaten with machetes, sticks and cement blocks in one week.

Tomlinson, who is legal advisor for minority groups at AIDS Free World, said: ‘One pastor went on a public platform and said there are religious leaders who are willing to die for this issue.

‘So if they are saying this in public, you can just imagine what they are saying in their churches.’

Tomlinson said people were even scared in their own homes and driving private cars after the thug attacks.

He added: ‘There is a general tension in the [LGBT] community.

‘There are some who are more strident now about demanding their rights because they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

‘Others are more nervous. They are talking about being careful, watching who you go out with and going out in groups.’

He reports the police have improved their response to homophobic incidents, having been instructed by their commissioner that discrimination would not be tolerated.

But he says the government must now act.

Tomlinson told us: ‘The government said they would be calling a parliamentary conscience vote on the sodomy law before the end of the year. But that was three months ago and we have not heard anything since.

‘We are not sure if they will act now or wait until the legal challenge progresses.

‘It is now in the hands of the government to see these attacks stop happening because even a police officer was mobbed in the middle of the city because he was suspected of being gay. Nobody is safe.

‘The longer the sodomy law stays on the books, the longer we will have these attacks and the religious groups will continue to use it as rallying cry.

‘But it is not sufficient to just remove the law. We need the government to make definitive statements to promote the rights of LGBT people.’

Tomlinson says Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has remained silent on the matter, and he wants people to contact her to show ‘the world is watching’.

- See more at:

Gay people are being attacked and MURDERED in Jamaica. READ THE STORY.


And remember every single day the gay press reports the Christian persecution of gay people by Christians. Every.Day You are just a bunch of Haters hiding behind your cloak of religion to justify your maltreatment of gay people.

You are no different than the Southern Baptists who started the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 in order to maintain slavery. This is a Religious War on Gays and it is Lead by the Catholics.

More to the point, since the family is the fundamental cell of society, any attack on the family—whether it is abortion or homosexuality—is the equivalent of a cellular disease: potentially fatal. A society that his given its stamp of approval to homosexual alliances is not a society that will protect innocent children, born or unborn. - See more at:

More to the point, since the family is the fundamental cell of society, any attack on the family—whether it is abortion or homosexuality—is the equivalent of a cellular disease: potentially fatal. A society that his given its stamp of approval to homosexual alliances is not a society that will protect innocent children, born or unborn. - See more at:"


More to the point, since the family is the fundamental cell of society, any attack on the family—whether it is abortion or homosexuality—is the equivalent of a cellular disease: potentially fatal. A society that his given its stamp of approval to homosexual alliances is not a society that will protect innocent children, born or unborn. - See more at:

I think I may have figured out the copy/paste from this website.

How the heck is homosexuality an "attack" on the family? A gay couple living on your street is NOT an personal attack on you. Mind your own business. You live in America, not Russia. In America we have agreeded to live under the Constitution which says that we are all, all citizens, are to be treated equally by their government. It pointedly does NOT say that heterosexuals are a privelaged class.

And linking gays with abortion is simply a mean tactic to connect TWO unrelated issues. It's ganging up. This is a not so veiled appeal to people opposed to abortion to join you in your fight against people who are gay. In other words, "If you are against abortion you have to be against gay people too."

People who are gay are NOT ATTACKING YOUR FAMILIES. They are living their lives and want you to leave them alone. You are attacking THEM, not the other way around. Gay people are NOT promoting State Constitutional Amendments to dissolve your families. People who are gay anr NOT seeking to pass laws that say that a heterosexual couple may NOT jointly adopt children. No it is the other way around. In 27 States it is ILLEGAL for a gay couple to jointly adopt a child. Gays are not attacking YOUR families trying to pass that same law against heterosexual couples like you did to them.

Using "Attack on the Family" is a psychological play on words make it seem like you are "victims." You are NOT victims, you are the aggressors.  If anybody is being attacked, it is gay people.

"Their is no need to change the millenia definition and understanding of marriage."   Wayne:  I'll repeat it again as you obviously didn't read it:

Traditional marriage, over time and in different (including various Christian) cultures has been: one man with multiple wives, multiple concubines, wives conquered in war and wives acquired in levirate marriage, possibly including girls under the age of ten, but definitely not including anyone of a different ethnic group, in an arranged marriage with disposition of property as its purpose. That seems very different from “one man, one woman,” does it not?

(See also:; -

Which of these definitions and understandings of marriage are you touting as sacrosanct?

All I mean by tradition is that marriage was defined as a man-woman union across cultures, in societies untouched by Judeo-Christian ideas. So marriage isnt a Catholic invention. But just because something has been, doesnt mean that it must continue to be. That is fallacious. Rather than argue from tradition, its better to argue from reason. What is marriage? Give me a cohesive definition that provides a PRINCIPLED basis for excluding "throuples." Why only two? Why must it be permanent? Why must it be exclusive? The "consent-based" view does not answer these questions. The traditional (better term is "conjugal") view DOES answer these questions.

Laws banning interracial marriage were about WHOM to allow to marry. Not about WHAT marriage is. White supremacists thought a black man marrying a white woman was just as possible as a black man drinking from a whites only water fountain. Legalizing same-sex marriage is not about expanding the pool of people eligible to marry, but about what marriage IS.

Grandma, you could spend hours relating horrific stories of violence against people with same-sex attraction. Such acts are despicable. But it does not follow that marriage ought to be redefined because true bigots are commiting acts of violence.

"Wayne, there is no "profound" diffenece between gay couples and their Love and straight couples."

Only one man and one woman can unite bodily in the behavioral portion of the biological process of human reproduction. Two men's acts, or two women's acts, form NO part of this process. Their unions, however tender and emotionally bonding, are not true bodily unions. Bodily union = marital act. Where marital acts are impossible in principle, marriage is impossible in principle. other words, there is a PROFOUND difference

Max15 you asked for a definition of marriage and I gave you one. Now you ask how I can defend that position against polygamist marriage, okay I'll defend it. The States interest in regulationg CIVIL Marriage is primarily to create stable households to more easily govern the amorphous. Note the words, "To More Easily Govern" The reason we can have same gender Civil Marriage and NOT polygamist marriages are that multiple partner marriages make it to hard for the State to govern, it is contrary to the State's interest.

Just think of a State employee, say it is a man, he pays into the State Pension system as ONE MAN. He dies, at payout to surviving spouses the State now has to pay out to 5 widows. Plural marriages put the State at an ecconomic disadvantage therefore we will never have polygamist marriages.


So you never commented about the definitive History of the State's interest in regulating Civil Marriage, Dr. Nancy Cott's testimony. Why is that?

You are trying to obliterate a part of a persons core identity when you use the term same-sex-attraction. Is that ALL YOUR heterosexuality is to you? Opposit sex attraction? Or is your heterosexuality a large part of your personhood? It is just another tactic to demean and devalue people who are gay. To reduce their sexual orientation to merely "attractions."


And YES you contribute to all this violence against people who are gay when you protest their Equal Civil Rights. Becasue you are telling the world that gay people are "less than." People hear your message Max15, and they act on it.  So keep it up, keep calling people :sodomites" keep denigrating people who are gay, accept your part in the resultant beatings, torture and murder.  You have blood on your hands.



The State has an interest in children. Why else would we have civil marriage? The State has no interest in regulating my love life. The State DOES have an interest in incentivizing mothers and fathers to stay united for the sake of any children their union produces.This isnt about the desires of adults, but about the needs of children. Kids need a mom and a dad. President Obama agrees, especially when it comes to fathers abandoning their families. But it's very hard to argue that fathers are ESSENTIAL when our laws teaches that fathers are OPTIONAL.

Sodomy is a precise term that describes a particular act that is, in principle, not marital. This is the truth. I will witnesd to it. Another truth is that my brothers and sisters with SSA are just that, my brothers and sisters, deserving of my love and compassion. But as Ive stated before, compassion for SSA persons does NOT require that we redefine marriage.

If the state has "an interest in incentivizing mothers and fathers to stay united for the sake of any children," divorce would be much harder to obtain.  For that matter, I remember when it was so difficult to obtain a Catholic annulment, engaged couples would write each other letters "confirming" their agreement not to have children, thus insuring that in case their marriages failed, they'd have written, though bogus, proof of one of the few grounds for annulment.  

Straight Grandmother has been right all along: Bottum is talking about civil marriage, not sacramental marriage.

What does Max15 do? Does he discuss the testimony of our Nations Leading Historian who spent ten years researching the State's interest in regulating Civil Marriage, Dr. Nancy Cott Professor of History Harvard University? Does he do that? Why doesn't he discuss her testimony under oath, and she was NOT contridicted by any witnessess for the defense, her testimony that the State's interest in regulating Civil Marriage was to create stable homes for the economic benifit of the State, in order for the State to more easily govern? AND that the State has always focused on the Couple, not simply for the benefit of Children. Here let me get that quote for you,

Q. - Now, here Professor Cott, I'll read this for the record. Mr. Cooper said that: "Across History and customs marriage is fundamentally a pro-child institution between a man and a woman. Marriage aims to mee the child's need to be emotionally, morally practically and legally affiliated with the woman and man whose sexual union brought the child into the world." In your view, from a historical perspective, is that acorrect and complete description of the purposes of marriage?

A.- No, I think it's a very partial description.

Q.- And why is it only a partial description?

A.- Well, as I look at the history, I see very little evidence that the State atuthorities considered marriage from the point of view of it's pro-biological-child advantages. It's not that those advantages were absent. Not at all, But, rather that the purpose of the state, as I began to say before, and the incentives given to marriage were much broader than this, in the aim to create stable and enduring unions between couples, and so that they would support one another, whether on not thy had children, and that they would support the broad range of thier dependents. Biological children but others (*Note from SGM, "others" included slaves, parents, orphaned nieces & nephew, etc.)



A.- Looking at this historically, what I am emphasizing here in using that word is the regulatory purpose of marriage from the State's point of view. And long ago marriage had an importnat political governance purpose. It set men up as heads of households who would be responsible economically for thier spouses and for any of thier dependents, whether those were biological children, adopted children, step children, slaves, apprentices, etcetera. But the point of establishing marriage and giving certain benefits to it was to ensure that the sovereign would be able to govern the large amorophous, large, variable population in smaller subunits which were households. Now, that political governance purpose of marriage today is -- has shifter rather dramatically, becuase we no longer assume that a single head of household governs everyone below it. We have a much more individualized distribution of political power in our population, particularly since 1920 when women got the right to vote. However, still today, the purpose of the state licensing and incentivizing marriage is to creates stable households in which the adults who reside there and are committed to one another by thier own consents will support one another as well as thier dependents. The institution of marriage has always been at least as much about supporting adults as it has been about supporting minors, children, as the proponents tend to emphasize the child's side.


But what does Max15 do? Instead of talking about the evidence he runs from that and resorts back to hectoring his point of view with nothing to back that up. Ignoring the truth testified to, and never refuted by the defense, will NOT have you winning any arguments. 


Sexual Minorities are jsut as capable of creating stable homes as straight couples and they DO FIT THE HISTORICAL and PRESENT DAY purpose of the State's interest in having them married.


You can hector all you want all over the itnernet but in Court where rights are won, it is evidence that Judges rule on. Your hectoring of your opinion is NOT evidence. I'm bringing you the evidence here, which you are pointedly not discussing.


Next, our Moring CHRISTIAN Anti Gay HATE

(I told you the gays report every single instance of Christian HATE against them)

Australian anti-gay protestors face off at marriage equality rally

Christian group attempted to crash pro-gay rally, but were shouted down.

Christian anti-gay groups interrupted a rally for equal marriage on the teps of Sydney's town hall today (01 September)


Pro gay activists from Community Action Against Homophobia gathered for a demonstration in support of marriage equality six days before Australia's federal elections.


The day began with speeches outside Sydney town hall, followed by a march through the streeets.


The rally was quickly interrupted by anti-marriage equality campaigners, who countered the protest with anti-gay rhetoric.

A man with a loudspeaker was joined by Christian activists waiving anti-gay banners warning homosexuals about 'judgement day'.


The banners included the messages, 'Do you love your sin enough to burn in Hell forever?' and 'Hell is horrible, no warning is too strong!'


Joining the Christian protestors were members of Adelaide's controversial Rundle Mall street preachers, known for their homophobic views and attempts to charash Adelaid's gay pride parades.

See rest of article here -

Australian anti-gay protestors face off at marriage equality rally


Christian group attempted to crash pro-gay rally, but were shouted down

- See more at:

Australian anti-gay protestors face off at marriage equality rally


Christian group attempted to crash pro-gay rally, but were shouted down

- See more at:

This is a global Religious War against people who are Gay and it IS Lead by the Catholics. Shame on you, shame on all of you. You are so unlike Christ.

Id give Professor Cott the same response I gave you. Why is the state interested in regulating my love life? True equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing, but you do just that when you espouse a definition of marriage based on mutual consent and shared experience AND refuse to extend marriage benefits to "throuples." Tell that to polyamorous persons, "you cant have marriage because it would be alot more paperwork." Your revisionist view reduces marriage to the level of ordinary friendship. In other words, "marriage" simply offers the most of what makes any ordinary friendship valuable: emotional union. If this view prevails, our marriage law will be reduced to a government registry of friendships. I see little reason why Prof. Cott, or anyone, wants that to happen...but that is precisely where the argument goes.

Angela, you make a great point. "No-fault" divorce harms a healthy marriage culture by teaching that marriage can end for any reason, or no reason. The traditional reasons for civil divorce were adultery, abandonment, and abuse. We are talking about civil law only. Our law taught that marriage ought to be permanent and lasting, and in terrible circumstances, could be legally dissolved. But that is no longer the case. A culture of no-fault divorce teaches that marriage need not last longer than the love lasts. And this harmed our culture.

Max15 I Defended my definition of CIVIL MARRIAGE, the State's interest in regulating CIVIL MARRIAGE and I defended why the STATE is not obligated to issue marriage licenses to polygamist marriages using not MY definition but the definition provided by Dr. Nancy Cott.


Your follow up "opion" does not trump the expert 10 year peer reviewed scholarship testimony of Dr. Cott. Do you have a bigger badder PhD in History than Dr. Cott? You can't wish it away and opinion that this isn't the History of the State's Interest in regualting Civil Marriage. It is not my opinion or definition, it is the Historical Facts of the State's Interest in Civil Marraige.


August 31, 2013 - 6:01pm

I suspect Prof. Cott would be the first to say that an argument ought to be evaluated on its merits, not on the academic degree of the advocate. I find Prof. Cotts arguments unconvincing. Instead I find the arguments of Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George far more compelling (see their book "What is Marriage?" for a serious non-religious defense of the conjugal view. They rely on reason, not their academic prestige, to make their case. (Though prestige they have aplenty...Girgis is a Rhodes Scholar at Yale Law School, Anderson is a Fellow at Heritage, and George is Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom).

In short, neither you or Prof. Cott (or Joseph Bottum for that matter) counter these objections to redefining marriage.

If true equality forbids arbitrary line drawing, how can you deny "marriage" to a polyamorous union when the definition of marriage rests on mutual consent and emotional union (but not sexual complementarity as described in a previous comment)? Theres no reason of principle why three people cant agree to share assets, live together till death do them part, agree to hospital visitation rights, file taxes, etc. Why does it even need to be sexual at all? This definition collapses marriage into ordinary friendship, which is my point.

Max15, you have not refuted anything. I am done with you. Keep on Hectoring your unjustified "opinion"

It doens't matter what Robby George et al, posit about (Catholic) Natural Law. What matters is CIVIL LAW and our CIVIL American History. And on this point Dr. Cott is the expert. We are not making Greek, or Roman Law, we are in the United States of America, talking about OUR AMERICAN History and what the State's interest has been. We are also talking about the longstanding history of DISCRIMINATION that Americans have used via Civil Marriage Laws to punish disfavored groups.

I am done with you. Your generic hectoring of your "opinion" is not based on any historical facts.

But it is based on reason and human nature (no one religion invented those things either!) You have not responded to my questions, which is a shame. If you cant answer the most standard objections to your position, why are you in this debate?

I hope you reconsider your support of the redefinition of marriage. With marriage goes the culture. May that disaster be averted.

Mr. Bottum, thank you for this thoughtful piece.  As a bisexual woman who, just two weeks ago, legally married my same-sex partner (now wife!) of over 8 years, and as someone raised in a conservative Christian (non-Catholic) church, it brings me great joy  to read about your journey towards a deeper understanding of fairness, equality, AND the true purposes of the Church, which do not include fighting against equal treatment under the law for all people.

Given that I am bisexual (and was born this way, thank you very much), I have experienced two great loves in my life.  The first was a man and the father of my first child.  We were teenagers when we became parents, and the difficulties of that reality proved too much for our relationship.  Although we gave it a valiant try, we eventually accepted that the best thing for our daughter and for each other was to separate.  I am proud to say that we still successfully raised our daughter to adulthood without the need for court intervention.

The second great love of my life is the woman I married, and she is the other loving mother to our adopted child--a child who is also my biological niece, but is truly our daughter, as we have raised her since she was three days old.  A child who was born to a drug dealer father and a drug addict mother, neither one able and/or willing to parent the little girl that they had created.  In fact, he has never met her or even wanted to, and he could not wait to sign away his parental rights when we adopted her, so that he would no longer be responsible for paying child support.

We have provided a loving, stable, and happy home for our daughter, which is something that would not have happened for her if she had been raised by her biological parents.  We are the only parents she has ever known, and we love her fiercely.

Having the unique experience of these two great loves of different sexes (and NO, not at the same time, as the myths about bisexuality might suggest), I can attest to the truth that there is no meaningful difference in the way people in straight relationships love each other and the way people in gay relationships love each other.  There is also no part of being a good parent and raising healthy and happy children that is dependent upon the sex, gender, or sexual orientation of the parents.  A child needs parents who love, nurture, educate, sacrifice, discipline, role model, and provide a safe and secure home.  And I dare anyone who believes that our daughter is harmed by having two loving mothers instead of a mother and father to come into our home, meet our smart, funny, amazing child and see how mistaken such a belief truly is.

Those who claim to favor the so-called "conjugal" understanding of marriage demean the institution by reducing it to the penis-in-vagina sex act.  Marriage is so very much more than that.  When I married my wife two weeks ago, it was because I love and know her in a way that no one else does.  It was because I chose to pledge my life and my fidelity to her, to support her and care for her, to honor her above all others, to share in all of life's joys and sorrows, to vow before God, my family, and friends that I would love and protect her for as long I live and breathe.  Although I was committed to her and would be with her for life regardless of whether we could legally marry, being able to do so serves to strengthen our bond and our family in ways that being together without marriage could not.  And as an attorney, it is immensely gratifying to lay claim to the equal protection of the laws and the liberty promised to all citizens by our Constitution.

I am familiar with all of the arguments and catchy talking points of those who would deny our freedom, our equality, our family, our marriage.  They claim that state recognition of our right to marry will destroy society, damage children, and erode freedom.  They claim that there is no public purpose to including same-sex couples in marriage, and that marriage will become nothing more than "a registry of friendships," as if fairness, equality, stability for our families and our children are somehow invalid public purposes, and as if our loving and committed romantic relationships are indistinguishable from mere friendship.  Yes, my wife is indeed my best friend, but  she is so very much more than a friend.  She is my closest companion, my lover, mother to one of my children and stepmother to the second, the glue that holds our family together, my muse, my biggest cheerleader, my rock, and the one person in this world who can see through to and touch the depths of my heart and my soul.  To degrade and demean our love by assuming we are without "complementarity" simply because we are of the same sex, by believing that we should be treated as legal strangers by our government, by referring to us as mere friends or roommates when we are a family, by accusing us of destroying society or hurting children when we are excellent parents who participate in our community and support each other and our friends and family, by using the Bible as a weapon against us when we were both raised in the church and are motivated by our faith to be kind, compassionate, humble, responsible and respectful human beings--all of this fundamentally wrong, unChristian, and anti-American.

Apologists for depriving us of our equality and our dignity rely often on logical fallacies, half-truths, gender stereotypes, and other invalid and ill-informed arguments to make their case.  They reduce marriage to a sex act and to procreation.  Indeed, they even claim--without the slightest bit of intellectual honesty--that sexual orientation is a choice (or they try to make a false distinction between who a person is romantically attracted to, and falls in love with, and how that attraction and love is physically expressed.  They claim that same-sex couples cannot enjoy the oneness and bodily union that men and women enjoy in marriage, as though such a bond and a union is possible only by procreative intercourse (or, in the case of infertile straight couples, a participation in the procreative sex act but without the actual procreation).  Those who make such claims are either willfully ignorant or purposefully calculating and cruel.  I prefer to believe that they just do not get it, instead of believing that their great harm done to LGBT persons is fueled by hate, although I know that many do just hate us.

But I am still astonished by the great lengths some will go to, the intellectual dishonesty they employ, the animosity they will spread, the ease with which they engage in moral condemnation of us, the mischaracterization of our lives and of our motivations for marriage, the refusal to respect our families, and the failure to understand the simple truth of the universality of love, commitment, and yearning for marriage to the one person in life who chooses you and who you choose to walk beside along the uncertain and unfolding of life's journey.  

At the end of the day, I know the tide is finally turning in our favor.  And so I am able to just shake my head in exasperation at those who would deprive us of our place at the marriage table.  "Tradional" or "natural"marriage is not diminished or destroyed by allowing us to marry.  It does not neef "defending." The sky is not falling!  Heterosexuals will still fall in love, get married, and have and raise children.  Not one single same -sex  marriage will prevent heterosexuals from doing these things.  In fact, the only thing that will change is that more people will be fulfilled through legal marriage.  I know I am.



About the Author

Joseph Bottum is an author whose latest book is An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America (Image/Random House). The former literary editor of the Weekly Standard and chief editor of First Things, he lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Also by this author