I awakened this morning exhausted but renewed in purpose and resolve. I returned home very late last night, in fact early this morning – after plane delays. I participated in an exhilarating and encouraging trip to Texas where I was engaged in a series of historic meetings between Christians deeply concerned over the course of our Nation.
We only receive the local paper, the Virginian-Pilot, on Wednesday and Sunday. The subscription was a gift from one of our grown children. I am entrenched in the news given my commitment to public policy and cultural activism, but, like most Americans, I receive it online. However, when I read the newspaper headline underneath the fold, “Attorneys, Judges Spar over Virginia Gay Marriage Ban” in my local paper, the Virginian-Pilot, I was reminded of the importance of the meetings of these last two days.
I was well aware of the event which precipitated the article, the hearing before an en banc panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter styled Bostic vs. Schaefer. The case was argued in the Federal District Court in Norfolk, Virginia earlier this year. I was present at the hearing. In February, Federal Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen took her place alongside of a growing number of Judges, State and Federal, who have decided they will no longer fulfill their entrusted role of applying and interpreting the law.
The Virginia Constitution was amended by the voters in 2006 to clarify what was always accepted as revealed by the Natural Moral Law, that marriage is what it is, a union between one man and one woman, open to children, and formative of family, the first vital cell of society. Judge Wright Allen decided she was the source of the law and accepted the arguments against defending marriage as what it is – ontologically – a union between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to children, and formative of family.
She chose even to jettison the expressed will of the people of Virginia as reflected in their constitution. She adopted to fully accept the Orwellian language – and the arguments based upon it – that homosexual and lesbian partnerships are the moral equivalent of marriage and must now be accepted as the legal equivalent of marriage. Her opinion reads like several others issued by Judges who have similarly rejected the truth and failed their office when considering this matter. It is full of high sounding rhetoric while it simply rejects both the truth and the law. The implications of the opinion will unfold in the upcoming months and the defenders of marriage must be ready.
Most Court observers, of which I am numbered as both a human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, expect this case, which is one of several others winding their way through the channels, to be accepted by the US Supreme Court and bring this matter to the nine unelected Justices to consider. There is a great division in the opinions as the same observers attempt to perform the legal equivalent of reading the tea leaves and predict the outcome. I know that the rejection of the truth about marriage will not change the truth about marriage – even if it is done from the bench.
It will simply adjust what those of us who care about the future of our Nation will do in response. The anti-marriage movement advocates a new social order which can never serve the real common good. We will not- we cannot – retreat from defending what is true and noble and good. We are in this for the long haul. Our cause is true and just. So, rather than attend another Court hearing on this matter, I decided that my attendance at the meetings in Texas were a better use of my time.
I gathered together with classical Christians from various confessions and traditions to pray, discuss, discern and prepare a joint response by standing together in solidarity together for life, marriage, family and freedom. The meeting was historic on many levels. Those in attendance came from very divergent theological streams. This was not the time for theological discussions. We know that we hold divergent positions on numerous important distinctive of doctrine and practice. However, we also know we are Christians together – living at this hour not by accident but by a providential plan of a loving and merciful God.
We prayed together – and we were bonded and banded together by the Lord. We pledged to stand in solidarity together. It was an extraordinary experience. But extraordinary times, like the ones in which we now live, calls for such response. As a Constitutional lawyer and human rights policy activist I know fully what is at stake. I know the strategy which has been undertaken by the opponents of marriage through verbal, social and legal engineering. As a Christian, steeped in theological study and Church history, I know we have faced this struggle before in the two thousand plus year history of the Christian Church.
Sadly, if one examines many main stream media reports, you would think that this ongoing story is about self identifying homosexuals and lesbians being subjected to discrimination. It is not. It is about defending marriage against a very small subset of self identifying homosexuals and lesbians who seek to change what cannot be changed, the structure of reality. They are very adeptly using the instruments of a civil government which has lost its foundation in the natural moral law to restructure the culture.
Many in what is becoming a propaganda press use Orwellian newspeak to fuel caricatures against those who defend marriage. They do not report the news – they promote this nascent Cultural Revolution which opposes marriage while purporting to expand its definition. Like propagandists of the past, they attempt to frame public perception. For example, they refer to those who actually defend marriage as being anti-marriage. They say we oppose something called ‘marriage equality’, which is a catchphrase for accepting homosexual and lesbian partnerships as the moral and legal equivalent of marriage. They reported on the Appellate hearing in Richmond on Tuesday as having been an effort to oppose this oxymoron called called “Gay marriage”.
Homosexual and lesbian partnerships are incapable of being marriages. Such partnerships can never achieve the ends of marriage. It is those who now advocate giving a moral and legal equivalency to homosexual and lesbian relationships who are actually opposing marriage. They are anti-marriage activists. The intention of the small activist group fomenting this anti-marriage movement is to reorder civil society. They invented the phrases gay marriage and marriage equality in an Orwellian act of verbal engineering. They have persuaded many in the media to use the words and phrases out of their new lexicon.
What is unfolding in the Courts is an effort which may soon result in the use of the police power of the State to compel those who defend marriage to accept the new order the anti-marriage activists are promoting or face the boot of the State in fines and penalties. The Anti-marriage activists (those who seek to make what can never be a marriage – a homosexual or lesbian partnership – to be a marriage, by pronouncement of a Court or a legislature) accuse those who defend authentic marriage of being against what they now call gay marriage in an Orwellian barrage of newspeak.
The truth is – we will not, we cannot, redefine the word marriage to include homosexual or lesbian partnerships- just as we will never call the taking of innocent human life, even life in the womb or the hospice, a right. It is always and everywhere wrong. Marriage is what it is and human life at every age and stage has dignity which must be respected and protected because there is a natural moral law which is knowable by all and must guide our common life together if we seek to build a just society and humane culture together.
To limit marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory. Homosexual couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition. To confer by governmental fiat the benefits that have been conferred in the past only to stable married couples and families to homosexual and lesbian paramours is bad public policy. To state this is not to be ‘anti-gay’; it is simply to defend marriage and the common good of society. This is a noble cause. Those who promote it are not bigots; they are sincere men and women deeply concerned about the future of our culture.
The struggle we are facing concerns a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing. We are involved in a contest over the very foundation of what constitutes a truly humane and just social order. We insist that marriage between one man and one woman, intended for life, and the family founded upon it, has been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. That is because they have. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.
We also know that Marriage is the first society into which children are meant to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. We must not be afraid to make the claim that children have a right to a mother and a father. They really do. Having affirmed that does not mean we are unaware of the brokenness of our culture and devoid of compassion. Quite to the contrary. Of course we care about the single parent family and the many broken homes which characterize this age. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary for a stable and healthy society.
Intact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order. We know that we need to be a visible, palpable reflection of this truth about marriage and family in our own lives. To live a faithful marriage is now counter-cultural. However, our convictions and claims concerning marriage are not outdated notions of a past era but provide the path to the future. Nor is our position defending marriage as between one man and one woman simply a religious position.
We insist upon the existence of a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason because we are well aware of human history and care about all men and women. This Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. It is the source for every great and authentic human and civil rights movement. The Natural Law gives us the moral norms we need to build societies and govern ourselves. It must inform our positive law or we will become lawless and devolve into anarchy.
I write as a Catholic Christian. The position of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage is crystal clear. Any professing Catholic who espouses a contrary position is in direct dissent. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church explained in 2003:
The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.
No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.
However, I am joining with Christians from across the confessional spectrum to defend marriage and the family and society founded upon it because our cause serves the common good of society.We have common roots and a common task in this urgent hour. We are emerging as a new freedom movement. It is truth which sets men, women and Nations free. A truly free society must be committed to core moral principles or it loses its freedom, even if it still mouths the word. It actually forges its own shackles while purporting to be breaking them. History books are filled with the sad stories of Nations and civilizations who no longer exist as a result of this error.
Not only did I face the newspaper headline this morning, I opened my mail to receive a complimentary copy of a promising new book from Ignatius Press entitled Non-Negotiable-Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture by Sheila Liaugminas. This is one of a growing body of such books which will help us to frame our vital work going forward. It uses the language of the Natural Moral Law which has grounded, inspired and equipped so many other great human rights causes. I will read this book thoroughly – and review it for my readers very soon.
However, what POPPED off the pages from a quick skim this morning was the brilliant use of the word dignitarian to describe those of us who are engaged in this noble and just cause, this new freedom movement. I love it. Thus, I used it in the title of this piece. We are Freedom Loving Dignitarians. Our defense of life, like our defense of marriage, is rooted in our conviction concerning human dignity and true freedom. It flows from our conviction concerning the necessity of connecting freedom and objective moral truth.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.