It is not unjust to deny legal status to same-sex unions because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities, said the U.S. bishops in their first public statement on same-sex marriage.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the document, called “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions”, at their semi-annual meeting yesterday in response to the growing movement in the U.S. in favor of making same-sex unions legally equivalent to marriage.
“To uphold God's intent for marriage … is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons,” reads the bishops’ statement. “Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth, and oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.”
The statement, based on reason and faith, argues that marriage is instituted by God and cannot be separated from procreation and parenting. Marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan for creation, said the bishops, making reference to the book of Genesis.
Since marriage originated from God, “neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage,” they said.
The document states that marriage is a "lifelong union of a man and a woman," and says that approving any same-sex union legally "contradicts the nature of marriage”, based on the “natural structure of human sexuality” and the complementarity of men and women.
“Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity willed by God for marriage,” reads the statement. Since people in same-sex unions “cannot enter into a true conjugal union,” it continues, “it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage.”
The bishops also argue that marriage is the foundation of the family – and has been the basic unit of society throughout history and across cultures and religions – and it “provides the best conditions for raising children.
“The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good,” said the bishops. “The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage. Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others.”
The bishops also acknowledged the important role laws play in society, stating that they are educational “insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable. In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral,” they said.
The bishops concluded their statement, urging Catholics to take part in the national debate, to defend marriage and to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.
For the complete statement, go to http://www.usccb.org/laity/manandwoman.htm