Why is traditional marriage’s legal status so important? Why is the unique legal status of marriage any different from homophobia? How should people react to those with same-sex attractions? These are all questions raised in the wake of last week’s coercive attempt to deny traditional marriage its day in court. Even though the bullying succeeded with the former law firm of former Solicitor General Paul Clement, it hasn’t stopped Clement himself.
As pointed out in the two previous postings, its critics see Coca-Cola as the left’s new bully in trying to thwart a fair judicial review for the Defense of Marriage Act while Coca- Cola defends its actions based on its stated commitment to tolerance and diversity. In a word, for Coca-Cola, the defense of traditional marriage is nothing more than invidious discrimination and bigotry. And that, dear readers, is nonsense.
Homophobia is real, pervasive and gravely wrong… but the legal status of marriage ain’t it! In fact, Coca-Cola’s conclusion that homophobic hate and ignorance account for traditional marriage’s unique legal status is both absurd and dangerous. Marriage between a man and a woman has been the foundation of every successful civilization, East and West. It is supported by the cumulative wisdom of the ages. And it harmonizes with the findings of every branch of human knowledge, including history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and philosophy that identify traditional marriage’s family — consisting of a father, mother and their children — as the necessary foundation of enduring civilization. The world’s great religions all agreed.
It is not surprising, then, that law has also accorded unique status to marriage and family wherever societies have flourished. Coca-Cola’s attempt to dismiss that legal recognition as a human rights violation is abstract ideology run seriously amuck. In fact, when measured in generations rather than soundbites, the legal status of marriage is not merely right but it is also necessary.
But the left’s colossal error in opposing the unique status of traditional marriage and family must not blind us to the real, widespread evil of homophobia. Sadly, the fact that the gay community’s loudest voices are denying the legitimate legal status of marriage between a man and a woman has led to bitter accusations on both sides. But, as The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, the legitimate concerns of the faith community about homosexuality in no way justifies any homophobic bigotry. And typically, same-sex gender attraction is not willful and even some homosexual Christians experience the painful “sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross” because of “the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” The Catechism, Section 2358. In short, for millions of homosexuals, this part of their life is not “gay.”
Like all persons, married and single, people with same-sex attractions are called upon to pursue chaste, holy lives. And they are entitled to “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” This is especially true now. Supporters of traditional marriage must join in a determined commitment to combat “every sign of unjust discrimination” against persons with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism, Section 2358.
I witnessed these problems as a lawyer. For example, more than a decade ago a man (I’ll call him Pierre) was finding his life at work a living hell. Johnny, a co-worker, was creating an outrageously hostile work environment for Pierre, even instigating repeated acts of sabotage designed to get Pierre fired. While Pierre was an evangelical Christian and had neither identified himself as a homosexual to any co-workers nor been charged with making any inappropriate advances at work, Johnny was suspicious. Part of Johnny’s problem was that Pierre was in his mid-forties, living at home with his parents and had never married. But what most made Johnny dislike Pierre intensely was that Pierre, as supervisor of catered corporate receptions, always performed his work so meticulously that it became a true work of art. To Johnny, that seemed effeminate. When caught red-handed causing problems for Pierre, Johnny admitted his intense dislike for working with someone who, in his eyes, was homosexual (Johnny used a number of far more explosive words to describe Pierre).
Johnny’s employer gave him several more chances but Johnny kept making life at work so unbearable that the employer eventually had to fire him. Even though Pierre’s actual sexual preference was never established and his conduct never gave good reason to support Johnny’s conclusions, Johnny was consumed by homophobia.
All the other employees recognized Johnny’s unfairness and sided with Pierre. But some said they would have felt uncomfortable about working with Pierre if Johnny had proven his suspicions. But why? Since Pierre never did anything improper at work, that would be sheer bigotry, even if it were to turn out, for example, that Pierre was living a flamboyantly gay lifestyle outside the office. In fact, even if Pierre had confronted the issue head on when Johnny accused him and admitted having a same-sex attraction, that, alone, would have had no apparent effect on Pierre’s work or on his treatment of co-workers. Therefore, so what? They should give Pierre the respect to which he is due. Of course, the law isn’t concerned about our motives but merely about any overt acts that would create a hostile work environment. The Catechism, on the other hand, challenges us to go even further: working to conform our thinking to our good actions.
In short, same-sex marriage is just one of many gender preference issues that are dividing people in our society. And, as is so often the case, there are extreme views circulating on various sides that need to be avoided.