Justice for married couples

Thursday, July 22, 2004

By Mike Hoey

The so-called gay-marriage ban that Missouri voters will consider Aug. 3 makes no reference to same-sex unions but simply affirms that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Opponents characterize the amendment as discriminatory against gays, but few consider that redefining marriage would unjustly harm married couples or those considering marriage.

Later this year my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage. One thing I have learned is that a successful marriage is not an island unto itself. A married couple needs the support of family and friends.

In similar fashion, the institution of marriage lends support to each marriage by promoting certain values like monogamy and faithfulness. What happens when we begin to redefine marriage to include other kinds of relationships?

Redefining marriage would re-enact the classic Trojan horse scenario: Under the guise of marriage, same-sex and polygamous relationships would slip inside the gates of marriage and promote values in direct contradiction to the values of traditional marriage. If polygamous marriages were recognized, then marriage could no longer promote monogamy. If same-sex marriages were recognized, then marriage would no longer be the foundation of the family.

Over time, a new concept of marriage would reshape attitudes and behavior. Marriage would become a menu of choices. A person could choose monogamy or polygamy, same-sex or heterosexual marriage. Personal desire would replace personal commitment. The big losers -- as they have been throughout the sexual revolution -- would be women and children.

Some claim same-sex unions are like marriages that do not produce children, but only relations between men and women can produce children. This is why cultures have given legal recognition to marriage. It is a way of ensuring that children are born into a family setting. Marriage is the foundation of the family, which is the basic building block of society.

Some support same-sex marriages as a means for two individuals to share certain financial benefits, such as health-insurance coverage. If that is the goal, it can be achieved through partnerships or other legal contracts. But marriage should be reserved for relations between one man and one woman. We owe that much to married couples and those considering entering the state of marriage.

Mike Hoey is the assistant director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency in Jefferson City of the Roman Catholic bishops of Missouri.

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