Marriage Must Not Be Redefined, Oppose SB 116

A Message from the Maryland Catholic Conference

February 08, 2011

The introduction of legislation to redefine marriage in our state should be recognized for what it is – a proposal to drastically alter a social institution that derives from our human nature as men and women. Our focus as a society should be on strengthening marriage, not dismantling it altogether, especially when the harmful effects of the erosion of marriage are so apparent. Given the daunting challenge of closing the state’s budget gap, our elected officials should focus instead on the pressing need to help all Marylanders find jobs, keep their homes, and feed their families.

Maryland’s long-standing law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not an arbitrary recognition of one relationship among many possibilities. This recognition – bestowed on marriage by societies throughout human history – originates in a simple biological fact. The union of one man and one woman is the only human relationship capable of creating children and nurturing them together as father and mother.

It is that fact of nature that prompts government to grant a special status to marriage between a man and a woman. As the Maryland Court of Appeals stated in its 2007 ruling upholding Maryland’s marriage statute, “In light of the fundamental nature of procreation, … safeguarding an environment most conducive to the stable propagation and continuance of the human race is a legitimate government interest.”

Treating heterosexual and same-sex relationships differently is not unjust discrimination, and upholding the truth of marriage does not ignore the rights or the equal dignity of all human persons. Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from law the right of a child to a mother and father, and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships.

If our society is going to dismantle marriage, on what basis do we extend or limit a new definition to determine which relationships should receive special recognition from the government? The argument that we need to redefine marriage so that same-sex couples can receive benefits unravels when we consider the fact that many human relationships are based on the love and commitment of two people for one another, and that many good and generous people are raising children in nurturing environments that are different than the traditional nuclear family.

Redefining marriage is not a question of civil rights. It is clear that there are other avenues for granting certain rights and benefits to couples who are not married. Maryland has already granted many rights to domestic partnerships, such as medical decision-making, hospital visitation rights, and exemptions from real estate transfer and inheritance taxes. There are many ways to protect basic human rights; sacrificing marriage is not one of them.

Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church’s public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The Conference represents the three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

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Kathy Dempsey
Communications Director, Maryland Catholic Conference
[email protected]