The strongly held positions on both sides of the effort to redefine marriage at issue in Referendum 74 are a testament to the common desire to build a society that promotes human growth and advancement.
Advocates for including same-sex unions in the definition of marriage are understandably concerned with balancing the scales for homosexual persons who have suffered and continue to suffer from violence and reprehensive attacks that demean their human dignity.
Opponents of redefining marriage also recognize the importance of creating a supporting environment in society for everyone to live a full, happy and secure life. Yet, they have genuine concerns about what a redefinition of marriage will mean for the good of society in the long term. My hope is that by focusing on the shared aspiration of promoting human progress, we can discuss our differing viewpoints, as passionately as they are held, with both civility and clarity.
Does the new law represent progress? Proponents hold that a redefinition of marriage provides same-sex couples with equal rights. Yet, it is incontrovertible that the new law does not grant any new legal rights to same-sex couples who are already in relationships registered as domestic partnerships under state law. Such couples already have all the rights of marriage granted by our state. The only gain for these couples is that their relationships will now be called “marriages.”
But, what is lost? What is lost is any reference in the new law to marriage as that institution in society in which children are generated and nurtured in a family and learn about gender from the way it is lived by their mothers and fathers. The faithful monogamous marriage of a man and a woman will no longer be the legally established social standard by which children conceived have a mother and a father to raise them, and mothers and fathers take responsibility for the children that they create. Rather, the new law gives exclusive emphasis to a couple’s relationship, to the point that the needs and rights of children are subordinated in order to create a new legal entitlement for adults. Redefining marriage is a step backward in the progress that has been made over the past century by the international community in protecting the rights of children.
As for how this law will play out, all we need to do is look elsewhere. For instance, after the 2005 Civil Marriage Act was passed in Canada, the government replaced for civic and educational purposes in school curricula traditional family designations such as “husband” and “wife” with spouse, and “mother” and “father” with “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” But, words matter, especially words like mother and father, which have real depth and meaning. We lose a great deal when they fail to convey what fathers and mothers each bring as male and female to the critical task of generating, rearing and educating their sons and daughters.
These observations advocating the rejection of Referendum 74 are made solely out of a desire to build a society in which every human person has the rights and the freedoms to live a full, happy and secure life. Current state law already provides same sex couples with those rights and freedoms. Nothing should be done to diminish them for the coming generations.
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