A 'reality-based' approach to children's stake in marriage dispute

Equality California CNA US Catholic News 10 6 11 Equality California

As California's largest gay activist group Equality California launches its new “Breakthrough Conversation Project” to change public opinion on marriage, Catholics for the Common Good wants to talk about what society's basic institution really is – and who loses out if it is redefined.

“We are taking an entirely fresh approach to communicating the reality of marriage in secular society,” said William B. May, founder and chairman of the San Francisco-based group that promotes Catholic social teaching on society's common interest. “Marriage is the reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

“We call it a 'reality-based' approach – reality, as an antidote to relativism,” May told CNA on Oct. 6. “We're looking at the reality of marriage from the perspective of the child.”

May spoke about Catholics for the Common Good's approach to the marriage-definition controversy – as a question of children's rights and best interests – one day after Equality California announced that it was droppings its effort to redefine marriage through a ballot initiative in 2012.

Instead, the homosexual activist group says its “Breakthrough Conversation Project” will use “new, cutting-edge research, media tools and intensive trainings across the state,” to promote the idea that marriage is simply the committed union of two adults and should therefore include gay couples.

Catholics for the Common Good maintains that defenders of marriage need to expose the false premise behind Equality California's arguments, in order to make a real “breakthrough” in discussing why marriage exists and must not be redefined.

The key is in understanding the nature of marriage as more than a bond between two adults.

While many people hold this view of marriage, May explained, they fail to account for another essential feature of marriage: the purpose of ensuring that children know, and are cared for by, their biological parents.

“Underlying the proposal to redefine marriage, is an assumption that marriage is merely the committed relationship between two loving people,” he said. “And a lot of us think of marriage in terms of the adult perspective, and the benefit for adults.”

“That's a private interest – and that's not what marriage really is.”

“Marriage is more than that. It's a communion of persons. And when we look at it from the perspective of the child, it's the heart's desire of every person – without exception – to be united with, and to know, the man and woman that they came from. That's part of who we are.”

“What's happening now, with the redefinition of marriage in the minds of people, is that more and more children are becoming deprived of that experience – which is a human right – to be born into, and raised in, a family with a mother and a father united in marriage.”

Society and culture, May explained, have perennially defined marriage in this manner for the sake of binding men and women to fulfill this duty to their children.

Thus, any redefinition weakens the unique cultural and legal standing of the only institution that secures the integral bond between children and parents.

“The harm is this,” he said. “By redefining marriage as merely the public recognition of a relationship between adults, we essentially ban the promotion of marriage as the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

“It creates a conflict with the human rights of the child, to know and be cared for by their mother and father in the union of a marriage.”

May said this conflict would represent a clash between the public interest of all children – in the recognition and promotion of the type of union in which they have a right to be raised – and the private interest of homosexuals involving an essentially different type of relationship.

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“To promote the unique value of the union of a man and a woman would then be legally 'discriminatory' against homosexuals – because it would be making a statement that one type of relationship has greater value. And it would not be permitted, if marriage is redefined as merely a committed relationship between adults.”

Not only the state, but “every institution in society,” May indicated, would then be “bound under the law” to ignore the most compelling public purpose for marriage, as a safeguard for children's rights.

“It will affect parishes,” he said. “It'll affect every organization in society.”

“In a court document from the Obama administration, involving a case to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the Justice Department states: 'The government does not contend that there are legitimate government interests in creating a legal structure that promotes the raising of children by both their biological parents.'”

“That is startling,” May said. “And that's the endgame.”

“Basically, the government is opposing marriage that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

He noted that citizens often “can't see how startling this is, unless we start thinking – not about adults' interests, but about the common desire each of us has, for that connection with our mother and father.”

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Equality California's new campaign, May said, is “really opposing the fulfillment of that desire,” by proposing that the type of union that bonds a man and woman to one another and their children should not enjoy any privileged social or legal standing.

Thus, the question of how society defines marriage is ultimately “a question of solidarity with the common interest and the human rights of the child,” having “nothing to do with gays and lesbians” as such.

“It has everything to do with the human rights of the child, which are currently not being defended,” May observed. “Everyone without exception has a mother and father. Every child in an alternative family is in a state of privation, lacking the connection with their mother or father or both.”

Such basic truths, however, are rarely discussed in a culture that exalts the individual, and works to obscure any connection between sex and procreation.

So as Equality California begins its new “education” campaign – confronting Californians at home and in public places to promote a new idea of marriage – May and Catholics for the Common Good have their work cut out for them, reminding citizens of basic truths about the human person.

It is an urgent task in the San Francisco archdiocese where May is based. During the last 20 years, he pointed out, “the Catholic population has increased by 12 percent – but marriages are down by 50 percent. And that's happening across the country: 41 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers.”

“People are shocked when they look at their children and say, 'Wow, they're not building relationships toward marriage. They're cohabiting. They're having children out of wedlock.' And this is touching every family.”

“The solution is education and formation of people – understanding what love is and its relation to what it means to be human,” said May. “These are some of the basic things that will help people understand their vocation of love, and help them in their quest for true freedom and happiness.”

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