Four Ways that Same-Sex Marriage Will Affect You

July 10, 2013 | 4 comments

Just hours after the U.S. Supreme struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, a comedy website (which shall remain unnamed and unlinked-to) offered readers a “Guide to How the Gay Marriage Ruling Affects You,” the monotonous shtick of which was that, unless you are a homosexual who wished to marry, it doesn’t. Are you straight? Married? Religious? “This decision does not affect you in any way.”

Certainly nothing new or surprising about the assertion that “gay marriage won’t affect you.” Who among us hasn’t heard that?

What does surprise me is how folks on the political and moral Left can pretend that when it comes to sex every man is an island, while in most every other area they are so quick to see far-reaching social ripple effects from personal actions.

Think about it. Environmentalists want us to “think globally, act locally,” because, apparently, drinking from a styrofoam cup vaporizes the rain forest and eating a can of Star-Kist slaughters a family of dolphins. Others tell us to “live simply that others may simply live,” the implication being that my luxury is the distant cause of someone else’s poverty. And if former president Carter is to be believed, the Catholic Church’s failure to ordain women to the priesthood has led to all manner of economic and institutional discrimination against them.

Why is it, then, that sex is something that never goes beyond the bedroom? How can these same people, ordinarily so attuned to the interconnectedness of things, state so blithely, “This decision does not affect you in any way”?

This is a favorite challenge of same-sex marriage (SSM) advocates, first, because it does a handy end-run around the argument. Rather than inviting a needed discussion about the meaning of sex and marriage or about the role of the state in regulating them, it shuts down discussion by framing the whole question not in terms of principle but of consequences.

Secondly, because it implies that our motive is nothing more than moral busybodyism—a variation on Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as the fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

So I think it’s important, as the SSM train rolls on and its supporters become bolder, for defenders of traditional marriage to be able to offer cogent answers to that challenge. Here are four:

1. Ideas have consequences.

This is the first and most general response we might make. Culture, in which we all participate and by which we’re all affected, is the sum total of the ideas that shape it. The power of those ideas, and their shaping, is proportionate to the number and importance of the cultural categories they affect.

Sex, marriage, children, familial relationships: These things are the most pervasive cultural categories in human history. One doesn’t have to postulate great leaps of causality to see that rapid and radical changes in these areas affect everyone. Western culture as we know it is built on thousands of years of viewing marriage, sex, and family life in certain ways. To say that we can redefine those views and not change the culture is just silly, or else willfully naïve.

2. We all have to live in the world that SSM will create.

Same-sex marriage is not a mere tweak to a few lines of marriage law: It is a codified endorsement of homosexuality. Since the law is a teacher, this endorsement has the effect of confirming in their disorder people suffering from same-sex attraction and removing the stigmas that might have checked others from fully giving themselves over to it. Indeed, considering the low percentages of homosexual couples actually tying the knot in places where SSM has been legalized, and the disdain for marriage reflected in the writings of prominent gay activists and scholars, it’s not a stretch to say that this endorsement—not tax breaks or hospital visitation rights or any other practical benefit of actually getting married—is the primary goal of SSM advocacy.

All this matters because we believe people with same-sex attraction are profoundly wounded and in need of healing. When by power of law the state applauds woundedness, deepens it; when it creates conditions that will increase the numbers of wounded; when it prioritizes making the wounded into adoptive parents, giving them leadership positions in government, education, religion, and the military, and lionizing their condition in public observances, school curricula, and the media—how does this not profoundly affect life for the rest of us?

If culture is the sum of the ideas that shape it, our experience of that culture is the product of the health, virtue, and integrity of the other people who inhabit it.

3. "Error has no rights."

SSM’s definitive endorsement of homosexuality will have a thousand legal ripple effects. We will need to rewrite family law and develop new speech codes to do it. As artificial reproductive technologies mature we will have to recognize legal parenting arrangements comprising virtually any number of persons and gender combinations. While we’re at it, we’ll need some new genders, too.

You’d think that sorting through all that would be enough trouble, but the law—both in civil/criminal statutes and in the policies of organizations and employers—will also have to occupy itself with quashing dissent from the new paradigm. And that affects . . . you.

Don’t want to attend a gay pride celebration in your office? You will be fired. Don’t want to rent a room in your B&B to a homosexual couple, or bake a cake for a gay wedding? Agree to service a gay wedding but just want to say your peace about traditional marriage? You’re going to jail, or at least getting slapped with a big fine.

In my experience, more and more proponents of SSM are changing their tune on this objection, from denying that such coercion could ever happen to saying that it could—and should. Shouldn’t you be fired for being a neo-Nazi? Wouldn’t it be wrong to deny a hotel room to a mixed-race couple? Homosexuality is a civil right, and being wrong about it is not.

4. Catholicism and gay rights are incompatible.

At present the Church, and all Christians of a traditional sort, coexist in a false and uneasy truce with the sexual revolution. There has always been sin in the world, of course, and Christianity and sin are always incompatible, but increasingly our world is one of sin normalized, institutionalized, made official. Think of the almost unbearable moral contradiction baked into abortion law, for instance. And of the inescapable conclusion that what the state says about abortion falsifies Catholicism.

Same-sex marriage, I think, will magnify this tension, perhaps to a point where it can no longer be smoothed over or ignored. The state and the culture say two persons of the same sex can marry; the Church says they can’t. This condition can’t endure. The Church’s position is just too great an obstacle—an insult—to the sexual liberation project, of which homosexuality has become the popular symbol.

So, you might ask, when the state and all the force of law say that our religion is false, that it is in fact bigoted, isn’t there a teensy chance it will affect us in some way? We don’t have to make wild predictions here—we just have to look at recent precedent. Viewed in the context of the fight against the HHS mandate and the state’s accompanying argument that religious freedom is really nothing more than “freedom of worship,” it seems clear enough that the logical terminus of legalized same-sex marriage is the forced relocation of Catholics to the closet—or the catacombs.



Todd Aglialoro is the editor for Catholic Answers Press. He studied theology at Franciscan University, the University of Fribourg, and the International Theological Institute. A New York native and New England convert, Todd now lives in the San Diego area with his wife, seven children, and zero dogs.

Comments by Members

#1  theresa Eldridge - festus, Missouri

This is a great article. I am struggling with having a gay man in my RCIA classes. He claims to be "married", brings the man he falsely calls "husband" to church with their adopted child... When I am trying to grow in my faith I find it difficult to be constantly faced with such blasphemy... How am I supposed to ignore the blatant lifestyle of sin? How can he be given communion knowing the lifestyle he lives and chooses....

October 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm PST
#2  Sally Miller - Bend, Oregon

Well written article. I feel for Theresa above. She is facing head on what we all will be very soon. In school now the teens are being taught gay and heterosexual sex equally. I do believe for years gays have been banning together to gain strength and with the internet it has now become a powerful force. Opposition on most news sources are edited or censored. No one wants to say "what you are doing in the bedroom is strange" because all sex is strange if we really think about it, and some heterosexuals are pushing the limits of perversion. I think the issue that gets constantly ignored is how fragile heterosexual marriages are to start with and a society who honors romantic love and sex over what's "best for the children", which is to be raised with their biological parents who are committed to them and each other. Gays are pushing so hard to equalize that to "2 males and an adoption" that many are doing a BETTER job on parenting and marriage education just to prove themselves. ALso, you are correct about any number of persons and gender marrying soon. The front page of our paper this week described the life of polyamory which exists in the shadows of society now as homosexuality did…… but not for long. After reading that article, where two gay women were married to the father of their child (togetherness and all loving), while also leaving the nest on occasion to meet with sweethearts, I could find no more objection in principle with that arrangement than with gay marriage. It's all about forming a family with whomever you are attracted to. Yes, I do predict practicing Christians will soon be seen as freaks……. until the free love fallout happens and the pendulum swings back….. just like Rome.

December 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm PST
#3  Anonymous Freethinker - City, Federated States of Micronesia

Ok, I just wanted to make sure you understood something. In America, State and Church are to be kept separate. This means that the government cannot enact any legislation that promotes or discriminates against any religion. Think about it this way, if the government enacted a law that said women had to cover their faces in public, how would you feel? That would be a blatant promotion of Islam and discriminatory to followers of other faiths (and those who don't follow any faith). Now, before you say that legalizing gay marriage would discriminate against Christians, it won't. It really doesn't affect you in any way unless you want to marry someone of the same sex. Also, if gay marriage is legalized, that does not mean that the law is stating that your religion is false or bigoted. It simply means that the law is not promoting a particular religion. Oh, and Sally, I'm not familiar with what you are referring to about Rome. If you read this, could you enlighten me?
Thank you all for listening to what I had to say.

January 20, 2014 at 11:29 am PST
#4  A J - Exton, Pennsylvania

To the above commenter, you appear to have not read the article. If you did, rather that repeat the same argument the author debunks by providing evidence to support his view, you should have done the same. Also, your view of "State and Church are to be kept separate" is a myth. In reality, the constitution says there shall be no establishment of an official state religion as was the case under colonial Britain and still the reality to this day.

February 21, 2014 at 4:40 am PST

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