Marriage is 'colorblind' but not 'sex-blind', says Catholic author

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After a wedding venue employee in Mississippi cited her Christian beliefs in refusing to host the wedding of a mixed-race couple, a Catholic scholar clarified that "marriage is a colorblind institution."

"A man and a woman, regardless of their race, can unite as one-flesh as husband and wife, and that marital union can give rise to new life and connect that life with his or her mother and father," said Ryan T. Anderson, the John Paul II Teaching Fellow at the University of Dallas and a co-author of "What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense."

Anderson told CNA that race is not relevant to the nature of marriage, and the race of a person does not negate any of the requirements of a valid marriage.

His comments come after a woman in charge of a wedding event venue in Mississippi apologized for declining to host the wedding of a mixed-race couple, something she had claimed violated her "Christian belief."

According to the Washington Post, a black groom-to-be and a white bride-to-be had scheduled their wedding celebration to be held at Boone's Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Mississippi. They were finalizing plans when they were informed that the venue retroactively declined to host their celebration because the wedding would violate the owner's Christian beliefs.

The groom's mother and his sister, LaKambria S. Welch, drove to the venue to demand answers. In a filmed exchange first posted by the website Deep South Voice, Welch can be heard calmly asking a woman in a gray shirt about the cancellation.

"Well we don't do gay weddings or mixed race," the woman in the video said. "Because of our Christian race - I mean our Christian belief."

Welch told the woman that she, too, is a Christian, and asked the woman from where in the Bible her belief came.

"Well, I don't want to argue my faith," the woman responded. "We just don't participate. We just choose not to."

"Ok. So that's your Christian belief, right?" Welch said.

"Yes ma'am," the woman replied.

After the video spread on social media, the venue issued an apology that has apparently since been deleted. According to The Washington Post, the apology was reportedly written by the woman in the video, who said she did not know that the Bible did not condemn mixed-race marriages.

"As my bible reads, there are 2 requirements for marriage and race has nothing to do with either!" the apology post said, according to the Washington Post. "All of my years I had 'assumed' in my mind that I was correct, but have never taken the opportunity to research and find whether this was correct or incorrect until now."

The incident drew intense criticism on social media as well as from Booneville city officials, who said on Facebook that they were "aware of the comments recently made by a privately owned business located within the city of Booneville. The City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status. Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not object to interracial marriages. In fact, when the Catechism speaks about "mixed marriages," it is in reference to couples of mixed creeds who marry - for example, a Catholic marrying a Protestant (or other baptized non-Catholic).

"Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ," the Catechism states.

"But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home," it adds.

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The Catechism, and other Catholic documents, do not mention interracial marriages as immoral for any reason.

The Catholic Church does teach, however, that the sacrament of marriage must be between one man and one woman: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

The Catechism adds that men and women must give themselves to each other in marriage freely, totally, and fruitfully, meaning that the couple must be open to life. The sacrament of marriage also "requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses."

For a same-sex couple, marriage is impossible according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, because sexual acts between same-sex couples are "contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved," the Catechism states.

Instead, people with same-sex attractions "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and are "called to chastity," the Catechism states.

Anderson clarified that interracial marriage differs from same-sex marriage, because the biological sex of the individuals involved is directly relevant to the nature of marriage, unlike their race.

Because the Catholic Church is concerned for the good of spouses, children, and the greater society, Anderson said, it teaches that marriage must be between a man and a woman.

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"While marriage must be a colorblind institution, it can't be sex-blind. Only a man and a woman can unite as one-flesh, and every child has a mother and a father," he said.

"So it's for good reason that marriage is about uniting the two halves of humanity--male and female--for a common good they participate in that, in turn, benefits the general common good."

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