GETTING THE MARRIAGE CONVERSATION RIGHT:
A Guide for Effective Dialogue
by William B. May
Emmaus Road Publishing)
Paperback: 82 pages
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
In this succinct 82-page booklet (which includes a 40-page essay with 30 pages of Q&A), the president of US-based Catholics for the Common Good lays out some helpful pointers on how to engage in the debate on homosexual marriage.
He shows us what the real nature of marriage is, why it is so important for children, and how it fundamentally differs from non-heterosexual relationships.
The most important aspect to this entire debate is to get a proper understanding of just what exactly marriage is. A faulty understanding of marriage will simply provide fodder to those who seek to deconstruct it for their radical purposes.
Marriage is not the mere public recognition of adults who are in a relationship for the sake of personal fulfilment. Any number of combinations could be called marriage if that were the only definition. Not only homosexual relationships, but two or more close sisters living together, or a threesome or foursome of committed, loving, adults, etc.
Marriage, properly understood, has always been about that which unites a man and a woman with each other and any children who may come from this union.
Clearly all relationships are not equal. The social good of marriage is the uniting of a man and a woman and the protection of any children resulting from that union.
If marriage had nothing to do with children, then there would be no need for state and public recognition of marriage. But marriage is always about at least the possibility of children. And children have a fundamental right to know and be cared for by their own mother and father.
Marriage is that public institution which specifically unites children with their own parents. That is why talk of “same-sex marriage” is simply an oxymoron. It is not marriage and can never be marriage. It is simply a radical attempt to fully redefine the very nature and purpose of marriage.
Instead of talking about homosexual marriage, May says we should more wisely describe the issue as “redefining marriage to accommodate same-sex couples”. For that is exactly what is being attempted here. And he offers a number of other pointers on how to conduct the debate on this issue, such as avoiding religious language, and so on.
In the second part of the book, a number of common objections and questions are raised which are handily answered by May. He continues to offer suggestions as to how best to frame the discussion. For example, instead of saying “I oppose homosexual marriage”, say instead: “I oppose redefining marriage to accommodate homosexual couples”.
As to the question of allowing two types of marriage to exist side by side, May replies that this would simply weaken and nullify the real institution of marriage, and governments would then enforce the public recognition and acceptance of the counterfeit.
As to the supposed “right” to homosexual marriage, May says, “Everyone is made for love, but not everyone is made for marriage.” While plenty of loving relationships exist, not all of them are about marriage, nor can be. Recall that marriage unites children with their own parents.
And he deals with the claim that we all have a right to a child. He says: “No one has a right to another person. Does anyone have a right to you? Thinking that way treats a child as property instead of a gift — a person of equal value and dignity to the adult.”
He also rejects the suggestion that we allow civil unions or domestic partnerships. They simply create confusion about the real nature of marriage, and again falsely imply that any and all relationships deserve public and state recognition and approval.
As to infertile married couples, May replies: “Not all married men and women have children, but every child has a mom and a dad, and marriage is the only institution that unites them in a family. That is the primary interest of marriage.”
However, there are some who argue, “Changing marriage will have no impact on you.”
But it does, of course. Anyone who disagrees with the new law changes will be regarded as discriminatory under the law and subject to prosecution of various types. And that is happening already wherever such changes have taken place. Everyone is put at jeopardy if they do not accept the redefinition taking place.
And those who argue that heterosexual marriage is already in bad shape are missing the point; making it worse by redefining it out of existence helps no one. Sure, heterosexual marriage needs to be reformed and restored, but this is not done by altering its very nature and design.
Other queries and objections are briefly looked at here. This short volume is a welcome addition to a number of books which have appeared of late making the case for marriage, and withstanding the attempt to redefine it into oblivion.
Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com