It is not for federal judges to redefine marriage for us. When they do, it is tantamount to cultural suicide, and we should not be surprised at the cultural and social degradation sure to follow.
William Bennett writes in his book The De-Valuing of Society, “Our common culture … embodies truths that most Americans can recognize and examine for themselves. These truths are passed down from generation to generation, transmitted in the family, in the classroom, and in our churches and synagogues.” But the truths of our culture and the traditional American family are now being attacked and demagogued like never before in our history in the name of “tolerance” and “rights.”
Granting homosexuals a newly created “right” to marry will have unimaginable detrimental effects on society. The fact that the federal courts have no constitutional authority to grant rights is only one aspect of the problem. They positively have no authority to define marriage for us.
It is really no surprise that it has come to this. After all, we have been given many such rulings by the courts in the past: no-fault divorce, abortion “rights,” and nude dancing in public and burning the flag – the latter both defined as “free speech.” This is what happens when the Constitution is understood to be a “living document.”
The fact is that no court, no lawyer and no churchman can redefine marriage or grant new rights based on a new definition of marriage. Their pronouncements to the contrary, marriage is what it is and nothing else; and when these judgments are disconnected from any moral grounding, a just and decent society should not respect or accept them.
Marriage transcends all nations and societies. It existed thousands of years before the founding of the United States, and will exist beyond any current member of government. The government’s proper role is to recognize it and support it legally for the common good of all.
The marital covenant is far different from any purely contractual relationship. A contract is limited by time, terms and conditions. A contract can be rewritten or changed. A covenant is unconditional and is made to last forever. Once married, the man and woman who have committed themselves to a life-long relationship become something new. They are no longer the same. They are one flesh, and they are able to become co-creators of new life.
Indeed, if marriage isn’t the spiritual and physical lifelong union of one man and one woman for the purpose of mutual love, support and the creation and nurturing of new life, then what exactly is it? Is it simply the union of two consenting adults seeking happiness together? Or sexual pleasure? If it is, then why only two? And what happens when they are no longer so “happy” together?
Hollywood and the media have, through word and deed, told us what they think. They prefer to treat marriage as some kind of temporary arrangement that works so long as it “makes me happy.” We have long been treated to the stories of the “stars” and their celebratory sexual exploits producing out-of-wedlock children who in many cases are treated as the celebrities’ latest accessory. There is never a word about commitment, loyalty, love or sacrifice.
The Hollywood vision of sex and marriage is the logical conclusion when sex is disconnected from marriage and lifelong fidelity tossed out the window.
If Hollywood’s views are right, why aren’t all the stars blissfully happy? Why so many divorces? And how can so many ordinary, average citizens have happy life-long marriages? How can a poor, simple, ordinary American couple like the one I met last week in their neat little home in east Houston be so happily married these 56 years? Apparently they haven’t read many of those slick supermarket magazines glorifying the stars and their play-acting at marriage. They seemed to know the secret; namely, that they entered into a covenant with each other and believed that it was forever. And with all of their health problems and their poverty, they have worked hard, stayed together, sacrificed for each other and raised their children. They are the model for us.
Marc D. Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, says in his 2006 book Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, “Once the state recognizes us as married, no private group outside of the sanctuary of the church is entitled to treat us otherwise, and various civil rights laws banning discrimination over sexual orientation ought to take priority over religious liberty inevery case” (emphasis added). This should serve as a pretty clear indication of what is to come with the redefinition of marriage.
Dr. Martin Luther King, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” quotes St. Augustine’s declaration that “an unjust law is no law at all.” King goes on to explain, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”
So what are we to do about it? First of all, don’t be intimidated. Don’t automatically accept that every law passed is a just law. Understand well that our inalienable rights come from our Creator, not our government, and if a law violates any of those rights, it may be legal, but it cannot be just. Stand up for what you know to be true. Stand alone if necessary. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “Be Not Afraid.”
Let your representatives know what you believe. Vote for those whom you believe will appoint judges who know their proper role in American government. Vote for those who understand constitutional limits. And continue to pray for our country and its leaders.
Ned Piedmont is a resident of Houston, Texas and parishioner at Saint Edith Stein Catholic Church in Katy, Texas.