"no harm, no foul"
Sunday, August 10, 2003
GAY MARRIAGE, CON’T: There was a minor flap in Chicago recently about a headline in the Chicago Sun-Times that read, “Vatican launches global campaign against gays” – in the bold-faced, tabloid style that the Sun Times has adopted of late. The accompanying story was about the statement released by the Vatican which came out against gay marriage (or as they like to put it, gay “marriage”) and gay couples adopting children. The Chicago Cardinal, Francis George, in a sermon last week, lashed out against the paper, saying the headline was untrue; George also said he wrote a letter to the Pope, apologizing for the headline.

Now, one understands the worry George has here, at least one thinks one does. He doesn’t want it implied that Catholicism is hostile towards gays, or condones violence against them, or that the Catholic church hates gay people. But it still remains the fact that the Vatican is against offering certain benefits to gays because they are gay, and so is in this sense “against” gays as a class.

But it gets worse. The language of the Vatican statement on homosexual unions is extremely hostile. It talks of legislation supporting gay marriage as “the legalization of evil” and says when gays adopt children, this would mean “doing violence” to those children (because it would place them in “an environment that is not conducive to their full human development”) which would be “gravely immoral.” In a nice touch, the statement refers to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the drafters of which I imagine were not thinking of gay couples adopting children at the time. This is far from, as George says, “a statement about the nature of marriage.” It strikes me as an attack on gays.

I think it’s fine if the Catholic church wants to uphold its ideal of marriage in a religious context, and refuse to give a blessing to those unions it considers suspect, whatever they are. But this has to be separated from the bundle of civil benefits one gets if one is married, and also one’s ability to adopt (supposing that one is a fit family, which is an empirical question in any case). The quest for these is different, and ought to be treated as different, than an attack on any particular religious idea or ideal of marriage. There’s a failure to make an obvious political distinction here.

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