The Tablet Blog
Redefining marriage: will liberal critics please stand up?Elena Curti
19 July 2012, 9:00
Between those who support gay marriage and those who back the Church's campaign against it, there is another group that is not making its views known.
I refer to the many liberal Catholics who feel uneasy about gay marriage but stay silent. Perhaps they are afraid of being perceived as homophobic or maybe they feel so uncomfortable about how their Church has treated gay Christians that they have allowed this to sway their judgement.
As someone who supports civil partnerships and - in particular cases - gay adoption I think it is important to stand up and say that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples for the sake of the wellbeing and security of children. By sanctioning same-sex marriage, society would be sending out a powerful message that it makes absolutely no difference whether a child is brought up by a gay or straight couple.
The ideal is for children to have a mother and a father who are married. There is a basic desire for all of us to know our natural parents and to know that we were born out of their love for each other. One can say this without denigrating single parents or indeed gay couples who find themselves bringing up children from a previous relationship or who have adopted. There are cases such as where a child has been abused by a man and would be best placed for adoption with a single woman or lesbian couple. Gay and lesbian couples have also successfully adopted children with special needs who would otherwise remain in foster care.
There is evidence that children born to a loving married couple will grow up more secure than those brought into the world by a same-sex couple in an arrangement with a third person. Even Sir Elton John said this week that it is going to be 'heartbreaking' for his young son to grow up and realise he hasn't got a mother. But almost in the same breath he announced that he and his civil partner David Furnish would love to have more children.
It is attitudes such as these that are driving the gay marriage agenda: the 'right' to marry runs parallel to the 'right' to have children. One naturally follows the other and it is all in pursuit of 'equality'. Yet Stonewall et al are confusing equivalence with equality.
Civil partnerships are different from marriages but that does not mean they are not equal. They are just different.
Elena Curti is deputy editor of The Tablet.
31 August 2012 12:40 (13 of 13)
As a person soon to be 81 and in a very happy gay relationship of more than 45 years, I feel very strongly that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Civil Partnerships are all a gay couple need. I certainly would not wish to be a named a 'husband' of another man and certainly not a 'wife'!! - I have many friends both gay and strait and all agree with me on this issue. Of course these are mostly of my generation!!!
1 August 2012 12:43 (12 of 13)
Carlo Lancelloti: Elana Curti's non-sequitur was that she argued that 1) Gay couples may not be the best sort of couples to bring up children. 2) Allowing gay marriage would therefore be saying that it makes no difference whether a child is brought up by a gay or straight couple. That is a non-sequitur because 2 does not follow from 1. There are many couples that are allowed to marry who are not the best sort of couple to bring up children. If society thinks that couples have a right to marry even if they would not make optimal parents, then this permission to marry does not say anything about society's opinion on who makes the best parents. Perhaps Mr Lancelloti could now point out the alleged non-sequitur he claims to have found in my post.
30 July 2012 20:19 (11 of 13)
Patrick Hadley: the non sequitur is yours: that fact society does not make employement status a criterion for civil marriage has no implications whatsoever regarding the fact that society may well choose to privilege and reward family arrangements such that children have both a mother and a father.
23 July 2012 22:57 (10 of 13)
The idea that children raised by heterosexual biological parents are better off is at best an assumption. Many studies have shown children raised by gays/lesbians are just as well adjusted. This article lists some of the studies .... http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/12/health/webmd/main938234.shtml The American Academy of Pediatrics has ststed that children adopted by same-sex couples do as well as with heterosexual parents .... http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/109/2/341.full The American Psychological Association says the same ... http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx
23 July 2012 14:19 (9 of 13)
Just picking out one small aspect of Elena's comment, regarding the adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples - 'Gay and lesbian couples have also successfully adopted children with special needs who would otherwise remain in foster care.' I'm sure it's not meant that way, but this sounds quite offensive to both children with special needs, and gay and lesbian couples. It sounds as if Elena is saying that a) children with special needs are not worth being adopted by 'normal' couples and b) gay and lesbian couples are only useful for adopting children that 'normal' couples don't want. As I say, I'm sure this was not intended, but that's how it comes across. The comment regarding children who've been abused by men could/should be adopted/fostered by single women or lesbian couples is also rather condescending - again, to the child, and to the many loving, caring men out there, straight and gay, who would be able and willing to help the child to heal in their experience of men. Not to mention the fact that women abuse children too. To remove the abused child from all familial experience of the gender of their abuser is actually going to make their issues worse in life, not better. To give some facts and figures from today's BBC: 65,520 children in local authority care in England as at 31 March 2011 Most (62%) came to social services' attention due to abuse or neglect 48,530 (74%) were in a foster placement Total of 2,450 children placed for adoption at 31 March 2010 Are we really in any fit state to be denying any loving, kindly, and importantly, capable couple, or even individual, the chance to either foster or adopt a child in need? Shouldn't we be sending out a powerful message that all children have an equal right to a loving family? Our Lord was brought up by a man who wasn't his father and John the Baptist by parents who were elderly - and that's not even beginning to consider some of the more unusual family units in the OT.
23 July 2012 12:54 (8 of 13)
I believe there is, at least, a case in justice for Civil Marriage. Whilst Civil Partnership confers rights as next of kin, ability to inheir tennancy etc. in U.K. I am told it is not recognised worldwide, whereas a marriage certificate is. Imagine state of a grieving or worried partner, trying to deal with say repatriation of body or seriously injured 'other half' having the added complication of no legal status.
22 July 2012 21:28 (7 of 13)
When heterosexual couples decide to marry in a religious institution they are simply asking God to bless their union. Homosexual couples are in my humble opinion no different. The presider and invited guests are there to witnesses the event, nothing more. We should celebrate and rejoice when couples are publically inviting God to enter into their union, regardless of their sexual orientation. Thus the ritual in reality only affects the relationship between the couple and God. Who are we to override God and prevent our Creator from blessing this union. Why do we even object and make judgment about it? In the end opposition, whether religious or civic, will not prevent these couples from sharing their lives together in the future. For those still stuck in legalities, established customs or fear remember that many biblical heroes, such as King David lived their lives surrounded by concubines, and multiple spouses. If God blessed these ancient unions why do we now oppose same-sex marriage? If a same-sex couples should desire to adopt children how would that desire be any different from heterosexual couples? Love is a gift from God and has nothing to do with ideals. The capacity to love is unlimited, for either couple. Why do we fear that which comes from God.
22 July 2012 4:48 (6 of 13)
Exactly why are some people and religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage? Have they experienced one and found it wanting? Are they afraid that ultimately it will result in marriages involving more than two people - as is the case with some adherents to the Mormon faith? Would opponents of same-sex marriage approve of them only if it were called something else? Perhaps they would accept the term 'pairiage'. Is it the concern about procreation, or the fear that homosexuals might adopt foster children and not love them enough? On the other hand why not just focus on your own marriage and try to make it work better. Remember David and his concubines, how has that affect your marriage? For more on the subject, please visit: http://whenreligionfails.blogspot.ca/2012/01/same-sex-marriage.html http://whenreligionfails.blogspot.ca/search/label/same-sex%20marriage
21 July 2012 0:09 (5 of 13)
Hi Elena, This is an interesting article and I respect you for standing up and stating your point of view. I do struggle with two of your arguments however. 1. If same sex civil partnership is OK, why can't same sex sacramental marriage be OK? Why are our gay fellow Christians denied something that we heterosexuals are encouraged and supported to do? 2. I know several gay couples bringing up children who are well rounded individuals, well loved and not suffering. Why should parental love only be confined to mixed sex couples? I don't think your arguments are homophobic but I just can't agree I'm afraid
20 July 2012 17:10 (4 of 13)
I am puzzled by Elena Curti's argument that allowing gay marriage would mean that 'society would be sending out a powerful message that it makes absolutely no difference whether a child is brought up by a gay or straight couple.' I do not understand how she draws that conclusion. 'Society' probably thinks that it is better for a child to be brought up by parents at least one of whom is working, than by parents who are in long term unemployment; but that does not mean it would be right to ban unemployed couples from marrying. I suspect that 'society' has a lot of views about what makes the best sort of family in which to bring up a child, but that despite this 'society' does not think it is right to deny marriage to those who would not be optimal parents. Am I right in thinking that this article is based on a non-sequitur?
20 July 2012 15:52 (3 of 13)
From a different perspective, the concern for marriage equality is not about a right to have children, but about the regard with which gay and lesbian relationships are held in civil society: that two people of the same sex may commit themselves to one another, and be honoured in doing so, as are heterosexual couples. Rights regarding the legal care and raising of children is another matter. The Catholic tradition is largely ambivalent about marriage, and it is only in recent years that bishops have become so enthusiastic for it, though not to the extent of giving up their own celibacy. Jesus did not marry, and indeed warned that those who would follow him would have to give up such things as family. Many of his early followers took him at his word. Paul reluctantly allowed marriage as a way of avoiding fornication: marriage puts out the fires of lust. He gives no thought to the having of children. Sex was the problem, and marriage a solution, and having children was thought to justify having sex. But celibacy was always the preferred option, for sex and children get in the way of devoting oneself wholeheartedly to God. Always the preferred option until relatively recently. Today, most Christians would think that sex and children can be a way of devoting oneself to God, as can devoting oneself to another person in marriage. Children are not a necessary consequence of marriage (or of sex). Some married couples don't want children, and some can't have them. Marriage is first and foremost about the relationship of people, a training in devotion, and a training well suited for the arrival of children, whether through birth or adoption. But as many testify, such training is often imperfect. Marriage does not guarantee that children will be properly raised, while other children flourish in relationships that do not meet the ideal of a heterosexual nuclear family. And needless to say, such an ideal tends to denigrate other relationships, either because disqualified by their form (e.g. same-sex marriage), or, having the form, they prove not to be as loving as all that. Perhaps this is why the story of Jesus offers no such ideal family. Allowing same-sex couples to marry will no more undermine marriage than allowing non-procreating heterosexual couples to marry or remain married. For marriage is about a vowed commitment to love another, and to love the fruit of that love, which may or may not be children. (Paul imagined himself married to Christ, and the fruit of their union was not children, but the churches established by Paul's preaching of Christ.) Indeed, the advent of same-sex marriage will only enhance marriage, for it will no longer be seen as what you do if you want to have children, which is why so many heterosexual couples choose to cohabit, thinking of marriage only in the advent of children. It is very strange that so many bishops implicitly endorse this latter view by so strongly associating marriage with procreation. If they were better theologians, more keen readers of scripture, they would remember that Paul made the marriage of Christ and Church the ideal marriage, a marriage which is undoubtedly queer, since it is polygamous and/or bisexual (either all men have to be deemed as women ”brides of Christ” or as Christ's same-sex partners).
20 July 2012 3:34 (2 of 13)
What do you call it when two senior citizens enter a relationship. There generally no expectation that they will have children. So is it a domestic partnership. What about a younger couple who are unable to have children and are not interested in adopting a child. Another domestic partnership. It just seems consistent, if marriage is only marriage when children are involved.
20 July 2012 0:17 (1 of 13)
I think the arguement outlined above by Elena Curti may be a bit flawed in presupposing that all marriages are in fact loving, and that all children born within marriage will be raised in a loving family. That is the ideal, but is often not the reality. It's wrong to suppose that love is only experienced within the confines of traditional marriage. it has been my experience that many families which do not fit the Catholic model are nevertheless very loving - and often more life giving.