Marriage and the Supreme Court
Maggie Gallagher says the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage will impact everyone . . .
Do the American people have a right to retain marriage as the union of one man and one woman — or will nine black-robed justices decide that this perennial, cross-cultural, interfaith understanding of marriage is now bigoted, discriminatory and unconstitutional?
The debate over gay “marriage” comes to a head as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 26-27 in two cases that could decide the fate of marriage in all 50 states — and indirectly the rights and liberties of Catholics and Catholic institutions nationwide.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court will consider whether California voters may keep the right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in their state constitution, as the majority of states now do. After being approved by more than 7 million voters in 2008, California’s Prop 8 was overturned by Judge Vaughn Walker in a ruling upheld by the liberal Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court will also consider U.S. v. Windsor, which turns on whether Congress may enact its own definition of marriage for federal purposes as one man and one woman, or whether it must defer to states’ definition of marriage, including gay “marriage.” Mandatory gay “marriage” for all 50 states or the freedom to protect marriage in law, culture and society? Those are the stakes in the epic battle being fought by legal eagles Chuck Cooper and Paul Clement on behalf of millions of Americans’ traditional understanding of marriage.
As the push for gay “marriage” continues not only here but internationally, Pope Benedict XVI has boldly called Catholics first to understand and then to stand for the truth about marriage in the public square. In his message to the Roman Curia at Christmas, he laid out the deep spiritual significant of this fight: “The attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother and child, goes much deeper. It is now becoming clear that the very notion of being — of what being human really means — is being called into question.”
In the Christian view — and the view of most of humanity until about a decade ago — we are born male and female. We are called to come together in love to make the future happen — a future in which the child has the dignity of being welcomed into the world and loved by the mother and father who made him or her.
As Pope Benedict put it, there is a powerful push to deny “man and woman as created realities. [Instead,] man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”
The consequences are grave at the deepest spiritual and cultural level: “When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defense of the family is about man himself,” the Pope said.
Repeatedly, at every turn, the Holy Father is trying to alert Catholics to the truth beneath the Big Lie — that gay “marriage” is just about what two adults do in private with their own lives.
Instead, he asks us to recognize that the question of marriage raises the most profound questions about humanity itself: Can we recognize the reality that children only come from a union of male and female? That both men and women are necessary to the good of the child? Will we continue to aspire to build a marriage culture that connects the goods that otherwise fragment: marriage unites male and female, bodily, spiritually, emotionally, and financially in the service of the great truth that children have a right to know the love and care of their own mother and father?
In a broken world, it is not always possible to achieve the ideal for every single child, but it is possible to give to each of America’s children a vision and an ideal of what marriage is, which corresponds to the reality of what it means to be human and which satisfies the deepest longing of a child’s heart.
Conversely, if the Court redefines marriage on the grounds that the Biblical understanding of marriage is bigotry and discrimination against gay people, the consequences for our culture and for Catholic institutions will be grave. Our faith itself and its common-sense understanding of marriage will be redefined as the legal equivalent of racism by our own government.
MAGGIE GALLAGHER is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and a leading voice in the new marriage movement. She is a former president and chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.