Marriage: we are losing sight of its role in society
Natural law provides that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The traditional and practical purposes of marriage are to establish families, which are the nucleus of society, and the yielding of children to carry the society into the future.
A court has now ruled that the state cannot enforce natural law. If two citizens decide to violate natural law by entering into an unnatural “marriage,” the state, according to the Supreme Court of Justice of Massachusetts, cannot prevent it. It must, in fact, honor the union and endow it with all the amenities that legal recognition provides.
The majority of justices who signed the 4-3 decision believes that failure to acknowledge these so-called marriages would deny equal rights to those who wish to enter into them.
The concern of these justices that the rights of a few are not trampled by the will of the majority is commendable. But their reasoning in this case stops somewhat short of thorough.
A fundamental purpose of law, both secular and spiritual, is to establish and maintain order. The law recognizes marriage in a special way because families are the foundation of orderly civilization. They are the institution that produces, nurtures and teaches the following generations, and they have had that role in every civilized society in history.
Tragically, many of us seem to be losing our appreciation of the purpose of families. This is illustrated by the number of out-of-wedlock births that we are seeing, by a recent survey indicating that more than half of our people approve of births by single mothers, and by our rising divorce rate.
It is also illustrated by our willingness to allow our reverence toward marriage to be overshadowed by our sympathy for homosexuals who wish to make a life together.
Some of them insist that their unions be exalted by the government and rewarded with the same legal advantages as marriages. In addition to giving them warm feelings about the way of life that they have chosen, legal recognition gives them certain financial benefits, such as spousal insurance coverage and federal benefits that are offered to married couples.
The Massachusetts Legislature was about to pass a law establishing same-sex “civil unions” as Vermont has done. These unions would have been marriages in every way except in name and in the gender of the participants. But when lawmakers told the Supreme Court of Justice of the civil-union plan, the four justices in the majority said that wasn’t enough. The state must call them marriages.
The court’s ruling does not affect North Carolina. The so-called marriages do not have to be recognized if the couple goes to a state where same-sex marriages are prohibited, and that includes this one.
Here, if two men or two women wish to live together, that is their own choice and the state does not and should not interfere. But its government, as the representative of the people, does not and should not be forced to officially bless decisions to violate natural law, decisions that most people regard as abhorrent and dangerous to the order of society.
Published in Editorials on February 7, 2004 11:34 PM