Getting the marriage conversation right

family black and whiteMercatorNet took the opportunity to interview William B May regarding the language surrounding redefining marriage.  William May is an advocate for not using the terms “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”.  There is only one way to describe marriage, he says, and that is that “marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

Attendees at Family Life International NZ’s Conference “Rise Up Together in the Service of Life” this coming 27th to 29th September will have the opportunity to hear William May speak first hand about “Getting the Marriage Conversation Right”.

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Getting the marriage conversation right

MercatorNet: People trying to defend marriage know that “same-sex marriage” is a contradiction in terms, nonsense in fact, but isn’t it just shorthand for referring to an issue? What’s the harm?

William B May: The only reason there is a debate about the legal definition of marriage is because of confusion about its true meaning and purpose. Without truth about marriage, people take positions based on emotion and sentimentality. To restore the truth about marriage we must witness it in a way people can understand.

The first thing to consider is that no one is really proposing to put something called “same-sex marriage” in the law. They take “a man and a woman” and replace it with “two people.” That has consequences that people are not considering. So be careful not to oppose something that is not there.

When they eliminate “a man and a woman” from marriage laws it eliminates the only civil institution that is specifically geared to unite children with their moms and dads – the sole reason for marriage being a privileged institution in the first place. That exposes the hidden agenda and the truth about what is at stake.

Opponents argue that they don’t want to change marriage, and men and woman can still get married, so what is the big deal. The problem is that men and women are not getting married, and this has created a crisis with increasing fatherlessness and associated consequences, and an increasing number of children living in poverty. Removing this child-centric institution from the law removes authority to actively promote the unique value of men and women marrying before having children. It makes it illegal for public institutions to do so and makes it legally discriminatory for anyone else.

What should we say instead of “same-sex marriage”?

Using the term “same-sex marriage” is one of the traps we fall into. It implies the issue is about participation in it by same-sex couples and makes us sound like our only motive is to oppose their aspirations. It is critical to educate people that the issue is redefinition, not participation and that redefining marriage has consequences. Redefining eliminates the only civil institution that is geared to uniting children with their moms and dads. The issue should be whether or not we need such an institution.

Why do the terms we use matter so much? Are there implications we are not seeing?

We live in a relativistic culture in which words mean different things to different people. For example when you talk about children needing a mother and father, or say that a married mother and father is good for children, that statement may be true, but different people have different understandings of what children need and what is good. This invariably leads to a debate about outcomes for children and competency in parenting, and who can do a better job, which escalates emotions. Ironically this has little to do with the meaning and purpose of marriage.

Being born into a family with mom and dad united in marriage is a human right, as the Catholic Church teaches, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child implies (in Articles 7 and 9 ). Our moms and dads are part of our identity and we carry their flesh for all of eternity. With every right there is a corresponding duty to promote respect for that right and in this case to promote civil marriage as the foundation of the family of common ancestry.

It is also important for people to be able to distinguish between a real human right, that can only be recognized by law and never created, and a claimed individual right or license. A human right applies to each and every person without exception. The human right of children to know and, as far as possible, to be loved and cared for their moms and dads is a right that can be known by both reason and our own desire for connection with the man and woman from whom we originated. This is also an experience of God’s plan for creation, but is not dependent in belief in God.

What definition of marriage do you recommend we should use in debating this issue?

“Marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.” That is what marriage is; that is what it does. The trouble is that children and family have been disconnected from marriage.

Factors include no fault divorce making it adult-centric, the separation of sex from procreation and marriage, having children becoming a life-style choice for personal fulfillment, and the increasingly accepted practice of intentionally depriving children of their moms or dads or both through assisted reproductive technology (sperm and egg donation, and surrogacy).

Considering these factors, it is difficult for people to understand marriage by discussing complementarity, procreation, motherhood and fatherhood, etc. It must be expressed in its totality. In reality, marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. It is a fact, something that the law can only recognise, not change. If the word is redefined in the law, marriage will still exist, but will be no longer recognized in law as such. It becomes discriminatory to advocate that is has any unique value to society, at least under the name of marriage.

What do you think of the term “traditional marriage”? Is it useful?

I just use the word “marriage”, but I am careful to use it in a context so people know what I mean. “Traditional marriage” communicates what we mean but nothing about its true meaning and purpose in a way people can understand. Traditional has a connotation of connection with and holding onto the past. However, marriage is about the future.

How does this work out at the ballot box? How are referendums worded?

I have felt that defining marriage between a man and a woman in law does not go far enough. The law in some way needs to imply its public interest; clarifying that its purpose is more than recognizing loving, committed relationships between men and women. Perhaps it should state something like, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognize. All public institutions must promote its unique value as the only civil institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers.”
Opponents will object because it reveals the real meaning and purpose of marriage. They argue that children raised by same-sex couples have a right to married parents, but this changes the subject because every child in this situation has lost their mom, dad or both. Arguments that this could provide stability for such children implies that marriage is merely a human creation for some sociological objective. Marriage is about the free choice of a man and woman to make themselves irreplaceable to each other in preparation to receive life as a gift. Marriage is the foundation of the communion of irreplaceability we call the family.

Opponents cause further confusion by saying marriage can’t be about procreation because not all married man and woman have children. That may be so, but every child has a mother and father and has a right, as far as possible, to be born into a family with them united in marriage. All married men and women engage in the same conjugal act, which is a commemoration and renewal of the marriage vows. Even sociologists from across the political spectrum agree that it is important to reestablish a norm for men and women to marry before having children.

How can we stay on the front foot in debates on this issue? Can we ever avoid being labeled “bigot”?

When we use the term “same-sex marriage,” it immediately tells people we are against someone and the so-called “rights” they are advocating. It’s an unfortunate tactic of our opponents to attribute motives to those defending marriage in an effort to seek sympathy, discredit, and intimidate. Avoiding the use of the term and instead focusing on what we are for will help greatly.

We can understand the sincere desire of some people to have same-sex relationships recognized, but marriage would have to be redefined in the law in a way that eliminates the only civil institution that unites kids with their moms and dads. How can anyone justify that? This issue is not about homosexuality at all. It is about whether marriage is a reality that not only unites a man and a woman with each other, but with any children born from their union.

What opponents are really proposing is that marriage be redefined in the law to be merely an institution for recognizing committed relationships for the benefit of the adults. What is the public interest in that? We love talking about other people’s sins, so it takes discipline to avoid getting drawn into a conversation about sexual ethics and personal behavior and stay focused on the reality of marriage.

Actually, the marriage redefiners seem to agree with you. They don’t use “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage” either, but talk about “marriage equality”. Why do you think that is?

Their research shows that 58% of people in the US already believe that the purpose of marriage is to recognize committed relationships for adults. So all they have to do is to say same-sex couples want to marry for the same reason anyone else does.

The current understanding of marriage is one of the factors contributing to the fact fewer people are marrying and more than half of children born to women under 30 are outside of marriage. This is a crisis that is touching almost every family. The focus must be on changing current ideas about what marriage is for the benefit of society and our own families instead of focusing on why same-sex couples don’t qualify.

I imagine that marriage redefiners don’t want to use the term “same-sex or gay marriage” because their current approach is more effective, and the terms conjure up “anti-gay” feelings.

William B May is president of the United States organization Catholics for the Common Good and played a prominent role in the Proposition 8 effort that successfully restored the definition of marriage between a man and a woman in California – since overturned by the courts. He is the author of Getting the Marriage Conversation Right, a Guide for Effective Dialogue .

Redefined marriage becomes a reality today

Same-sex couples all over New Zealand are legally marrying today as the law which redefined marriage comes into effect.

The media is abuzz with the news that 31 same-sex couples will marry today.  Images of same-sex couples dressed in traditional wedding attire are being posted on all online news sites and there is a real sense of celebration in the air by those who see this as a victory for equality.

But is this new look marriage really what marriage is all about? Is it speaking the truth of marriage?  And ultimately will the move to redefine marriage be a good step for New Zealand society?

The language couched around redefining marriage is all about feelings, love and equality.  But love is only one aspect of marriage, albeit a very important aspect.  Is love really the sole reason why societies all over the world for centuries have protected marriage between men and woman?

William B May, author of Getting the Marriage Conversation Right explains that there are two conflicting understandings of marriage in society today.  The first is that

marriage is the public recognition of a committed relationship between a man and a woman (or two adults) for their fulfillment.

This is what most people believe marriage to be now.  It is why the love and equality arguments ring true with so many people, in particular with Church-going Christians who are misguided in their understanding of sexuality and marriage.

The second definition of marriage is

marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.

This second definition is what most people would refer to as “traditional marriage”.  May goes on to say “that is what marriage is, and that is what it does.  It expresses God’s plan for creation but is not dependent on belief in God.”

Somehow, in our romantic notions of love and marriage we have forgotten this truth.

By redefining marriage, our lawmakers have eliminated the only institution that united children with their mothers and fathers.  They have said that no one in a child’s life is irreplaceable.  They have said that equality, feelings and the fulfillment of adults is more important than the stability of the natural family and the welfare of children.

But how did we get here?

Leighton Smith from Newstalk ZB had some home truths to tell Christians today on his talk back show.  He explained that Christians do not have a real understanding of what marriage is.  He reminded us that Christians have embraced certain aspects of the sexual revolution – divorce, the acceptance of cohabitation and children being tossed around from one parent to the other.  “How can you argue against the gay marriage thing?” he asked.

And he is right.

Too many Christians have embraced aspects of the sexual revolution.  Divorce and contraception and sterilization are widespread.  IVF is a commonplace treatment for couples who experience infertility.  Many Christians have brought the lie that marriage is about the fulfillment of adults.

Smorgasbord Christianity has contributed to the demise of marriage and family in society.

Faithful Christianity will build marriage and family back up again.

As William May says “The focus must now be on rebuilding a marriage culture and protecting, as far as possible, the rights of children and the best interests of society for the future.”
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William B May is the President of Catholics for the Common Good, a lay apostolate for the evagelisation of the culture based on the social teachings of the Catholic Church.  He will be speaking in New Zealand at the “Rise Up Together in the Service of Life” Conference, September 27 to 29th at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna.  His book “Getting the Marriage Conversation Right” can be purchased through Family Life Catholic Gifts.

Marriage could be redefined to include polygamy

PolygamyDo not believe that the agenda to redefine marriage will stop at including same-sex couples. Those of us who actively oppose throughout the Western World the moves to legalise same-sex “marriage”, understand that it is quite a logical conclusion, that at some point down the road, lobbying will begin for marriage of other irregular relationships – such as polygamy (otherwise known as polyamory).

Strange as it may sound now, polygamy could very well be the next step in redefining marriage.  Don’t forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the very thought of two people of the same-sex being together in a civil union or marriage seemed as far-fetched as sending a man to the moon was 500 years ago.  It just was not going to happen.  It was laughable, and dismissed.  Yet here we are, on the brink of redefining marriage to include unions of the same-sex.

As Michael Cook from MercatorNet explains below, the movement to lobby for polygamy is already there.  It is very small, but it is very real.

Taking same-sex marriage step by step

Australian activists for same-sex marriage have always insisted, that it will not lead to polygamy or polyamory. Never, ever, ever. Gay marriage is just like traditional marriage, except for the sex of the spouse. Activist Rodney Croome wrote last year that “studies show most LGBTI people want to be part of a two-person marriage, while partners in polyamorist relationships (most of which begin as heterosexual unions) say they don’t want their relationships recognised as marriages.” Former Greens leader Bob Brown described a push for polyamory as “nonsense”.

This is a crucial point for supporters. If they were to concede that same-sex marriage would ultimately lead to polygamy and more imaginative forms of marriage, they would prove that there is a slippery slope. So they are forced into vehement denials.

How odd, then, that a Polyamory Action Lobby (PAL) has been founded in Australia “to combat the image of poly people as relationship bogeymen”.

PAL is testing the waters by spruiking a public petition on Change.org, an internet site for activists. “For too long has Australia denied people the right to marry the ones they care about. We find this abhorrent. We believe that everyone should be allowed to marry their partners, and that the law should never be a barrier to love. And that’s why we demand nothing less than the full recognition of polyamorous families.”

PAL contends there is no rational reason adults should not be able to form committed relationships with more than one person. “Polyamory often isn’t a choice; if people love more than one person, they can’t help it,” says its manifesto. The argument for same-sex relationships runs in the same groove: it can’t be helped; it can’t be denied; it is wholesome and loving.

“We’re sick of being treated like the bottom of a slippery slope, the fat end of the wedge and the scary inevitable consequence of legalizing same-sex marriage,” it continues.

Continue reading Michael’s post at MercatorNet.

NZ Bishop’s Speak Out against Same-Sex Marriage

protect marriage one man and one womanDebate is heating up in New Zealand over redefining marriage to include those of the same-sex.  The “Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill” was drawn from the ballot on July 26th.  Now is the time to write to your local politicians, call them and let them know your stance on this issue.  You can also sign the Protect Marriage petition.

Last Sunday, a letter from the NZ Catholic Bishop’s was read at every Mass throughout New Zealand.  The Bishop’s have explained that marriage is between one man and one woman.  Every Catholic should uphold this teaching.  Family Life International NZ would like to thank our Bishop’s for speaking up about this so-called “social” issue which seeks to redefine and change the very heart of what marriage and family life truely is.

From the Beginning of Creation

A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand to young New Zealanders

Dear Kiwis of Generation Y

As the people who entered adulthood in this millennium you are being wooed by politicians and advertisers. Your choices will help shape our nation. One such choice is the present legislation about amending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The lobby that promoted and achieved the Civil Unions bill now say that this does not go far enough.
We would like you to consider carefully the wider implications of this major social change.

Why should you care? Marriage is a fundamental structure in our society. Every one of us was born into a family, each of us has parents. The legal status of married couples is a long-established recognition by society of how important the family unit is, most especially to the children who grow up in that family. How marriage is defined affects us all; changing that definition will have many consequences, including with respect to adoption and throughout the education system. Some consequences will be unexpected and unintended. This is no small matter, nor quibbling about words; this is an attempt to re-engineer the status and structure of family life in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Why oppose?
When Jesus was discussing marriage with his disciples he observed “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)
The reality, as Jesus observed, is that male and female pair with each other. Males and females are different and complementary, each has a significant role to play in the nurturing of children. We come from one family and we set out to make another one. Marriage is not merely a human construction, it is the legal recognition of something natural. Civil law reflects and protects human nature. Society promotes and affirms the married state for the sake of the couple and for the sake of their children. The Church considers marriage to be the first blessing from the Creator and celebrates it as a sacrament. Christians did not invent marriage; it has been part of every human society throughout history. Legislators did not invent marriage; when the laws were written they were taking account of a pre-existing reality. We address this letter to you, rather than only to church members, because of the universality of marriage.
Marriage promotes love and generates life. Love, friendship, and commitment exist in many forms, but only the bond between one man and one woman, intending to live together and hoping to have and raise children, is dignified with the name and legal status of “marriage”. The couple vow to love and honour each other and New Zealand law and custom have responded by recognising that commitment and honouring it with a unique recognition.

Is this simply a question of equal rights?
Marriage is never a universal human right. Not all persons can or should be married. While the immediate focus of the current proposal is whether a marriage must involve a man and a woman, the argument for change applies far more widely. Claiming “freedom of preference” and a universal “right to marry” would call monogamy itself into question. This denies the right to the truth about what marriage is, and about what the Church teaches on sexuality and marriage.

For the sake of married couples, their children and society as a whole, we ask you to oppose any change to the legal definition of marriage.