The Baltimore Sun published an article written by Jay Hancock titled “Legalizing same-sex marriage is sensible” on the front page of the Feb. 20 business section. The article can be read online at http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.hancock20feb20,0,7741294.column. This article confuses a number of issues to come up with a faulty conclusion. It is imperative that we voice our disagreement with articles that advocate positions that are both erroneous and potentially damaging to our society’s moral foundation.
The writer states that the ills of an intolerant society are the rationale for legalizing same-sex marriage, wrongly confusing intolerance of people with intolerance for the immoral acts their union represents. There is no dispute on the issue of true intolerance. Our church teaches that intolerance of any individual is wrong. Gays, like anyone, deserve equally humane and loving treatment by all people, their society and government. Where we disagree is in the institutionalizing of an immoral act.
Marriage was created for the sole purpose of conceiving and raising children. It is the core foundation of the family unit. Additionally, religious people of many faiths see marriage as a sacred and holy institution given to us by God. The purpose of marriage is many thousands of years old, older than the birth of Jesus Christ. To redefine marriage in a way that is no longer consistent with this definition creates many problems in our society. Once we have redefined marriage, it will either become totally diluted and just a legal arrangement for everyone or it will disappear entirely – with a corresponding loss of family life and its essential benefits.
Once the purpose of marriage disappears or is diluted, it becomes “whatever someone wants it to be to receive society’s status and benefits.” Logic would then predict that not only should same-sex marriage be approved, but what about polygamy? Relationships with relatives, animals and more will also be eligible to demand status as “married,” even though today we consider these relationships to be highly immoral and illegal. If the only judge is “will the person be disadvantaged in their society by not living in that arrangement,” we are left with a society that continues to break new ground in its deteriorating moral foundation.
The Sun’s article also makes the point that tolerance of a change to the institution of marriage is good for the economy, and the writer indicates that there are lessons in history to back this up. The writer says that “Spain’s expulsion of Muslims and Jews in the 1400s prompted a long decline.” This again shows the writer’s misperception that opposition to same-sex marriage is religious intolerance of people in other words. American expulsion of gays or any identifiable group of people would be equally immoral, wrong and damaging to our society. That is not the debate we face today; our debate is a moral one.
There are many more examples where historians believe that decay in morality was the instigator of a decline in society. To see the negative effects of declining morality in a society, we need to look no further than the Roman Empire to find a country similar to ours – innovative, powerful, economically strong, affluent and highly influential in its world. The Roman Empire was killed by a distorted definition of freedom that had no basis in moral foundation. This subsequently led to many devastating problems that we see today – such as an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a feeling of a lack of responsibility by citizens to do anything other than what they felt was right for them. When a society decides that freedom means “I can do whatever I want, and preventing that is intolerance,” society breaks down. Many disadvantaged people – the poor, sick and exploited – are the first to suffer.
If I had the chance, I would ask the writer how he would define our society’s moral foundation – how he would decide what is moral and what is immoral for our society? It is quite possible that many in our society believe our moral foundation should be “personal freedom” without seeing the complementary requirement to act responsibly and with an informed conscience – and that responsibility goes beyond “what is good for me.” That is why we must speak out and not let this critical moral issue be proclaimed to be an intolerance or economic issue.
Don Awalt is a parishioner of St. Joseph in Cockeysville. He is in the Aspirancy year of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Deacon Formation program.