Marriage is based on the fullness of the human person, of which sexuality is an irreducible part. Each person’s identity is inseparable from the reality of their body; each of us is a body-person. That is a deeply personal reality and it means that loving as a human person means loving as a man or a woman. The body and gender are not inconsequential, nor are they just tools to use towards pleasure. They are essential aspects of being human and of loving as a human person.
The full physical communion that is marriage is also not just about legal sex, or the right to put someone’s name on a benefits package. It is about a full and complete self-giving that looks to the generation that comes from that total self-giving. It is about creating a stable environment for the children that will continue the human race – an environment where they learn what it means to be fully human.
This is why states define marriage – marriage is intrinsically tied to the common good, and has a great social value. Marriage is a public as well as a personal relationship. A lifelong, faithful, and fruitful union between a husband and wife serves the good of the spouses, the good of the children who come from their union, and the good of society by ensuring that reproduction happens in a socially responsible way. It is a microcosm of the ideal of the greater society when the family, in its loving interdependence, rejects selfish individualism, and seeks the common good. That the ideal is often not reached cannot be argued. But neither can it be argued that society should not strive for the ideal.
Changing the legal definition of marriage causes thousands of changes. The term “marriage” exists in family law, employment law, trusts and estates, healthcare law, tax law, property law, and many others. These laws affect religious institutions: churches, religiously-affiliated schools, hospitals, and families. Because of that, the re-defining of marriage by the State results in enormous conflict between the law and religious institutions and families, with the State apply sanctions for refusal to comply. Some of the areas affected:
1) Compelled association – the government forces religious institutions to retain as leaders, employees, or members those who are in legalized same-sex “marriages”, or obligates wedding related businesses to provide services to those same-sex couples.
2) Compelled provision of special services – the government forces religious institutions to extend the same benefits to same sex “married” couples as to heterosexual married couples.
3) Punishment for speech – preaching, political action, or conversation reflecting moral opposition becomes actionable harassment, discrimination, or hate speech.
4) Exclusion from accreditation and licensure – those who adhere to the traditional definition of marriage are excluded from participation in highly regulated professions as licenses are revoked and accreditation is lost.
5) Exclusion from government funding, religious accommodations, and other benefits – those that adhere to the traditional definition of marriage are excluded from government grants and contracts to provide social services.
These threats have already started to come to pass: the extension of married student housing to same-sex “married” couples (a Catholic college in MA); the extension of spousal employment benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” (Catholic Charities in Portland, ME); the loss of funding and licenses to provide adoptions for refusal to place with same-sex couples (Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and DC); the imposition of tax penalties for preaching about marriage amendments (Montana); the loss of state tax exempt status for a religiously-affiliated camp (New Jersey); the conviction for discrimination of professional photographers who refused, on religious grounds, to photograph a "commitment ceremony"(New Mexico).
Canada legalized homosexual marriage in 2005, and there have now been more than legal 200 cases against opponents of same-sex marriage. Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, for instance, was charged with human rights violations for sending a letter to the churches in his charge that simply restated the Church’s position on traditional marriage. There are bills being put forth that would make it illegal for teachers in private, religious schools to criticize homosexual marriage.
I have freely drawn from and tried to condense from the much better written document "Frequently Asked Questions About the Defense of Marriage", published at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's website and from Jeffery Kuhner's Thursday commentary "State Sanctioned Anti-Christianity" from yesterday's Washington Times.