I’m gay and was raised Catholic. I wanted to offer a few thoughts. First, I can tell you that I never “chose” to be gay. It’s as natural as breathing for me.
Second, many people oppose Prop 8 because they feel that a child should be raised by their natural mother and father. I generally agree with that! (Unless the parents are abusive, etc.) However, Prop 8 doesn’t actually address this issue. Prop 8 did not prevent gay couples from adopting, or from conceiving a child artificially. If you really want to enforce child rearing only by natural parents, then you would need dramatically different legislation. That’s a discussion of gay *parenting* not gay *marriage*.
If we aren’t going to prevent gay couples from raising children, wouldn’t those children be best served if their parents were “married” rather than legal strangers? For example, I’ve heard of cases where Man A is the legal father of a child but is unemployed, and his partner has insurance, but the child is uninsured because there is no legal relationship to ManB. Or the partner is not allowed to make medical choices for the child if the legal parent is unavailable. I’ve also read some observations that preventing the child’s parents from marrying keeps the child from “having” two parents. In other words, if a gay couple has a civil union, then Man A “has” a partner in Man B, and Man B “has” a partner. The child “has” a father (Man A). But the child doesn’t “have” a defined and understandable relationship to Man B. Man B is just his father’s partner, but the child does not *have* Man B as his father. (Man B is the child’s father’s partner, but is nothing to the child.)
Third, it’s not obvious at first glance, but it seems to me that any *specific* child being raised by gay parents is always better off than any realistic alternative they might have had. Sure, you can say that any *given* child would be better off with their natural parents than with a gay couple. But if that were the case, then that *particular* child already *would* be with their natural parents, and no one wants to change that. However, any child adopted by gay parents would be better off than the alternative (foster care)—otherwise the adoption wouldn’t be granted for that specific child. Likewise, any child newly conceived by the parents (via surrogacy, etc) is obviously better off than their alternative reality (ie, not even being born!). So, I have no problem with believing that children are *best* off with their natural-born mother and father, but I also think there are a vast number of other arrangements (being raised by one parent, or by grandparents, or by a single straight person, etc), and one of these arrangements is being raised by loving gay parents, and they can do a fine job, too. Make a hierarchy of all possible arrangements, and “being raised by gay parents” is *not* at the bottom. Any given child should be raised by the best arrangement possible for their situation. (Sadly, of course, the optimal arrangement is not always *possible*.) Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good; as a practical matter, gay parenting is relatively good (ie, better than the alternative).
Fourth, I understand if you feel like the word “marriage” by definition means “one man and one woman.” I was certainly raised that way, and it took me quite a while to begin to think that two men could be “married.” But once I made that mental shift, I realized that it actually was a relatively small change to make. The similarities between a married gay couple and a married straight couple are *vast* (desire for companionship, financial considerations, wanting to raise a family, etc). Certainly there’s a huge range of straight marriages (how are responsibilities divided, etc). In any case, if you think that “marriage” can *only* be one man and one woman, then please consider expanding your definition to include same-sex couples. It’s really not *that big* of a change. And it has such huge implications for us. And if I may be judgemental for a moment: I think it’s the decent thing to do. The fact is there are a small percentage of people born this way, and we try our best to be good people and have happy lives without hurting anyone, just like straight people. Why deny us an institution so important? Why not *encourage* committment in society? (Besides, you’ve already made as much of a mental shift as is required. There are *already* same-sex couples married in California, and you can talk about them using the word “marriage” and no one gets confused, even if you disagree that such people are actually “married” in your eyes.)
Fifth, I understand that the position of the Catholic church is that God defined marriage, and what I’m asking for goes against that. I agree, with the clarification that I’m really talking about *civil* marriage. I have no desire to force the Church to accept same-sex marriages. That would be completely unacceptable, and fortunately we in the US have the 1st Amendment to protect our churches from that kind of state mandate. However, *civil* marriage is a different thing. (There are hundreds of state-level benefits reserved for married couples, and over a thousand federal-level benefits for married couples. Not all of these can be granted by civil unions or private contracts. For example, a same-sex couple already married in California can’t decide file with the IRS as a married couple, nor can they draw up a contract to direct that Social Security benefits from one partner shall not be taxed.) The Catholic church already has a different standard for marriage and divorce than does civil law. The Church doesn’t try to force the rest of society to live by its definition of divorce; why try to force society to live by its definition of marriage?
Whew, that’s enough for now. I hope my comments came out reasonable (as intended!). Thanks for listening.