Redefining marriage: what of the rights of children?

Redefining marriage: what of the rights of children?

Denise Hunnell

The push to redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex couples spans the globe. Same-sex couples can be legally recognised as married in Argentina, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and South Africa. Great Britain has legislation making its way through Parliament to define marriage as including both same-sex couples and couples with a transgendered partner.

In France, a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed and to allow them to adopt children has already passed the lower house of Parliament. The French Senate is expected to approve the bill within a month.

In the United States, the judiciary is taking up the question of "What is marriage?" Same-sex "marriage" is already recognised by ten states and the District of Columbia. Two cases before the Supreme Court seek to challenge legislation that upholds marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In spite of the political and cultural momentum favouring this radical new paradigm for marriage, there is still a strong opposition in France that is supported and encouraged by Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim leaders and laity. Hundreds of thousands of French citizens rallied in Paris in January and in March to protest against the legal recognition of same-sex couples as married.

The Catholic Church's clergy and laity have been at the forefront in opposing this global perversion of the structure of marriage. Recently elected Pope Francis, while the archbishop of Buenos Aires, vigorously opposed President Cristina Kirchner and her government's move to legally recognise same-sex couples as married.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spearheads an educational initiative, Marriage: Unique for a Reason, to counter the arguments that marriage is an institution that can include same-sex couples.

On 26 March 2013, thousands of marriage supporters convened on the Mall in Washington, DC, to oppose any attempt to change the definition of marriage. While it is uncertain how much this organised protest will influence the decisions of the Supreme Court justices, it does serve to give a voice to the real purpose of marriage.

This is critically important. In much of the debate about the inclusion of same-sex couples in the definition of marriage, the emphasis has been on fairness and equality for homosexuals while the underlying purpose of marriage is lost. The March for Marriage in Washington brought the focus back to children as the primary reason for marriage

The state has no compelling interest to recognise the mutual affection of adults. The state interest in the legal recognition of marriage has been the acknowledgement of the uniqueness of the union of one man and one woman. Children born of such a union must be protected and the connection to their parents must be preserved.

While it is true that not every relationship between a man and a woman will involve children, the union of one man and one woman is the only kind of relationship that can produce children. It is biologically impossible for the union of two men or two women to procreate. That is one reason it is impossible to equate same-sex relationships with the relationship between one man and one woman.

The quest for marriage by homosexual activists did not spring forth as an isolated movement. Rather, it is a progression of the assault on marriage that has occurred over the last century. When the culture separated procreation and marriage, the door was opened for endless permutations of adult relationships.

Once marriage was perceived as merely a vehicle for adult happiness, divorce became the logical result when happiness in a relationship is diminished or absent. Commitment until parted by death has devolved into commitment until it is no longer fun.

Damon Linker argues in the secular publication The Week that the acceptance of contraception has irreversibly changed the cultural perception of marriage. He asserts that the current legal battles are just trying to catch up with what has already happened and redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is a fait accompli.

Linker is absolutely correct that the path toward acceptance of same-sex marriage began as soon as procreation was ignored or rejected as a primary purpose of marriage. When procreation is viewed as irrelevant to marriage, marriage becomes an institution solely for the benefit of adults. Children are dehumanised and become no more than marital accessories, acquired for the happiness of adults. The current battle over the inclusion of same-sex couples in marriage is made possible by the cultural failure to defend marriage against contraception, abortion, divorce and cohabitation.

Marriage renaissance

The steps down this path, however, are not irreversible if there is a reawakening to the true purpose of marriage. In order for this to become more than wishful thinking, there must be a marriage renaissance. It is time to resist all efforts to mould marriage to popular cultural norms. Those who wish to defend marriage as a unique union between one man and one woman must defend marriage against all constructs of marriage that ignore the raison d'etre of marriage, namely children. Failure to do so will remove all justification to limit the gender or even the number of adults who can be joined in a relationship that is legally identified as marriage.

Such a redefinition of marriage makes it increasingly difficult if not impossible to defend the intrinsic human dignity of children when their very existence is consigned to the whims of adults. As a matter of justice, the centrality of children to the purpose of marriage must be preserved.

Dr Denise Hunnell is a Fellow of Human Life International and a contributing editor to Human Life International's Truth and Charity Forum. Her article (here edited) was originally published in LifeSite News.

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