A lot of conservatives continue to reel from the results of last week’s elections in the US. With respect to the election of representatives and the President, very little has changed in the balance of power. What was notable but probably under-reported was the result of referenda in 4 states on the question of same-sex marriage. This past election was the first time the majority of voters in all these jurisdictions accepted same-sex marriage; past attempts in other jurisdictions had failed to legitimize it. In my own state of Washington, the campaign to change the definition of marriage was well-funded and the debate was framed, as it usually is, as a matter of civil rights and freedom – to “love who you want to”.
Supporters of retaining traditional marriage as an exclusive union of a man and a woman with the intent of fostering a secure social structure for children were relegated to having to argue against what is in the eyes of many, a matter of civil rights. This is not very different from the way this debate played out in Canada a few years ago. What little data there is on the consequences of the definition change is irrelevant as those of us who understand the institution to be God-ordained for the union of sexually complementary roles can already see the danger that lies ahead.
In my view the debate has never been ably played out in a fair manner as the argument for the good of the children never made it to the central focus of such a debate. The definition of marriage, in civil terms, is simply up to the preferences of the people entering into the contract – regardless of children. Taken to its logical conclusion, there is no reason why there should continue to be limits on number of people, whether or not there were prior marriages, familial relationships of those involve – that is if consequences to the lives of children should not be considered. One wonders what the point is for society to care at all what people agree to privately. Opponents to same-sex marriage have never had a true opportunity to voice their concerns without being shouted down, marginalized and associated with the most notorious human rights abusers.
Prior to legal definition changes, the idea of the family has been distorted by culture and this is the harder fight. Looking out towards the next few decades, we will have to grow to tolerate new domestic configurations and wish the best for children born and adopted into these models. New types of pastoral support may be needed, but the Church will never be silent on what’s best for children – to be raised and loved in a stable environment by a mother and a father. I can see society being inspired by the best families who strive to maintain a household modelled after this definition. In the heat of the coming darkness and persecution, living out this vocation will be the best argument for traditional marriage to be offered. This can be the radical love that re-transforms society. It will take time and endurance, but I maintain hope that truth wins out in the end.